Prague is the historic capital of Bohemia and today that Bohemian spirit is flourishing in an urban sub-culture that connects the city’s mixologists with sophisticated cocktail lovers in some wonderful speakeasies. Just like Prohibition era Chicago, the entrances to these bars look like every other door on the street. There are no tables on the pavement or windows full of party revelers and definitely no gaudy neon signs, but if you know the right people and the right door to knock on, then Prague will really give you a night to remember. Taking a few hours out from the recent Cocktail World Championships, we took a film crew to interview one or two of Prague’s champion mixologists and capture them in action mixing their favourite cocktails.
First up was the Hemingway Bar and an opportunity to catch up with an old friend and finalist at this year’s Giffard West Cup, Katerina Kluchovà. Named after Ernest Hemingway and inspired by his love of cocktails, the Hemingway Bar sits behind a modest entrance Karolíny Světlé 26, Praha 1 and that opens into a small hallway and an unpresupposing stairway that leads, in stark contrast, to a very warm, snug and inviting bar on the first floor. In keeping with the great writer’s favourite drinks the bar boasts over 200 varieties of rum, fine champagnes and the most extensive range of absinthe in the Czech Republic. While it was tempting to opt for the rum tasting tour, the desire to try one of Katerina’s own creations was compelling. If you enjoy rum based cocktails then Katerina’s original Éte Parisien, with its subtle mix of sweet and sharp flavours, is a must try.
Éte Parisien by Katerina Kluchovà
Short drink—method: shaker
1.5 cl Abricot du Roussillon Giffard Premium Liqueur
4 cl Clément white rum
0.5 cl Giffard Macadamia nut Syrup
3 cl fresh limejuice
3 cl fresh mandarin juice
0.5 g dried egg
Garnish: orange peel, golden lemon grass, black olive
Next we were off to one of Prague’s newest speakeasies, the cocktail artists’ Parlour. Founded by Martin Tomasek the bar has only been open for a few months but it is one of the most talked about on the Prague cocktail scene. The Parlour’s Facebook page rather than its website is its main digital presence and it showcases some marvelous videos on how to make sublime cocktails. We were surprised to learn that one of the runaway success stories of 2013 is the very simple and non-alcoholic, Cucumber Lemonade. It is as simple as that, Giffard Cucumber Syrup mixed with lemonade and served over ice. It is so refreshing that word quickly spread across Prague and now the city consumes more Giffard Cucumber Syrup than rest of Europe combined. Once, you have slaked your thirst, the mix of new and traditional cocktails will tempt you to something stronger. If you only have time for one, go for the Saffron Sour.
Our final stop took us away from Speakeasies and into the Bartida Degustation Bar and Shop. As an importer and supplier to many of Prague’s finest bars, Bartida is not hidden behind an anonymous door and while it is openly on display right in the heart of Prague’s historic centre, it is tucked away down what can only be described as Prague’s answer to Diagon Alley. The shop and bar are open to the public and as you might imagine from a specialist importer, the range of rare gins, rums, spirits and syrups is breathtaking. Everything a cocktail lover could ever wish for!