Bar in mind

Bengaluru’s intimate bar scene is a treasure trove waiting to be explored, one cocktail at a time
Bar in mind

BENGALURU: In recent times, Bengaluru has seen the rise of destination cocktail dens, hidden speakeasies, and friendly wine bars that offer more than just drinks – they offer experiences and a unique glimpse into the city’s evolving nightlife scene. Whether you’re savouring a glass of fine wine or immersing yourself in the mystique of a speakeasy, one thing is certain – Bengaluru’s intimate bar scene is a treasure trove waiting to be explored, one cocktail at a time.

Traversing through the corridors of a hotel kitchen, you step into ZLB 23, and find yourself transported to a bygone era of mystery and intrigue. Tucked away in the heart of The Leela Palace, this Kyoto-styled speakeasy pays homage to the Prohibition era. With its hidden entrance, vintage decor, and theatrical concoctions, ZLB 23 offers more than just drinks – from fabled food to prohibition cocktails, and rhythmic live jazz music – each sip and bite tells a story buried in time. Hosting acclaimed bars such as Handshake, Paradiso, Himkok, and Vesper, among others, this 59-seater establishment promises an unforgettable night out with a symphony of flavours and melodies.

For those in search of a more contemporary drinking experience, Spirit Forward provides a thoughtfully-arranged environment tailored for discerning individuals. Led by Arijit Bose, this friendly bar focuses on showcasing the character of spirits and reimagining classic cocktails. Accommodating up to 50 guests, Spirit Forward offers an opportunity to indulge in premium spirits, including well-sourced agave varieties and local craft selections, without breaking the bank. From inventive concoctions like the Milf and Cookies to the Southern Star, each drink on the one-page menu is an invitation to embark on a flavourful adventure. The bartenders at Spirit Forward play a pivotal role in shaping the overall experience, infusing the environment with their flair, warm hospitality, and occasional musical interludes while expertly stirring your favourite cocktail.

Nestled in the heart of Bengaluru’s iconic MG Road, LUPA emerges as a culinary odyssey, seamlessly fusing traditional European flavours with contemporary innovations within its captivating outdoor area and expansive indoor dining space. Yet, the true gem lies 12-feet below ground – the country’s first below-ground, temperature-controlled wine cellar. Constructed with stone, terracotta, and teak, this cellar, accommodating 12 individuals, is nestled beneath a glass-house accessible via a winding staircase. It houses nearly two thousand wine bottles and features an exclusive tasting zone available by appointment only. LUPA’s meticulous attention to detail underscores its serious commitment to wine culture, boasting 138 labels and 89 varieties, with many offered by the glass.

For those seeking an elegant and whimsical atmosphere, The Drawing Room provides the perfect setting for friends to gather. Nestled in Indiranagar, this space features verdant hues, lush greenery, and plush lounge seating, all designed to inspire connection and creativity. As sunlight streams through the windows, The Drawing Room transforms into an intimate enclave where guests can enjoy trend-setting cocktails, hearty small plates, and upbeat tunes. Signature drinks like Through the Looking Glass and Raspberry Foam are conversation starters, making this 60-seater enclave a must-visit for cocktail enthusiasts.

In the vibrant neighbourhood of Indiranagar, SOKA emerges as a unique artistic sanctuary. Helmed by So(mbir) and Ka(poli) – you catch the drift – SOKA transcends the typical bar experience; it embodies a welcoming gathering place infused with a cozy house party vibe, serving an array of innovative cocktails and exquisite small plates. Each drink on the menu, from the imaginative Made in Heaven to the daring Sakkath Martini, unfolds as a narrative awaiting indulgence. The 10-meter bar kitchen allows for culinary experimentation presenting dishes that reimagine traditional Indian flavours with a modern twist. The artistic journey extends to the décor curated by Siddharth Kerkar, featuring a prominent cocoon lamp as its centrepiece, emblematic of metamorphosis within this intimate 38-seat locale.

Nestled within the Courtyard, Wine In Progress (WIP) redefines the wine bar experience with its delightful offerings. Spearheaded by a team of industry experts, Arijit Bose, chef Karan Upmanyu, Tarini, and Akhila Srinivas, WIP aims to encapsulate Bengaluru’s essence in every pour. Overlooking the charming courtyard, this intimate 12-seat veranda bar offers a personalised experience reminiscent of a soirée in a friend’s backyard, yet elevated with a refined touch. With a focus on showcasing a diverse selection of wines and creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere, WIP invites guests to savour and celebrate, one sip at a time – effortlessly, unpretentiously, and hospitably throughout every season.

(The writer is a Bengaluru-based hospitality professional, food lover, and travel enthusiast)

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