If you love exploring different bars each time you visit a new city, you’ll know that it’s the small things that really make you fall in love with a venue. Here are seven key features of a great bar:
1. Quality Barstools
If I’m unlucky enough to start experiencing back problems when I get older, I’m almost certain they will be the result of spending countless days and nights in my younger years hunched over on poor quality bar stools. Unless you’re at a foam party benidorm, you’re going to care what sort of seat you’re going to be spending hours sitting on. Wobbly, heavy, clunky and devoid of any lumbar support; at many bars, I’d rather remain standing all night than try to awkwardly perch myself on some of the worse excuses for seats known to man. However, there are surprisingly some excellent barstools around, with the stools in DBGB Kitchen & Bar, East Village, New York, leading the way. There are even some stools that provide storage areas, so you don’t have put up with the inconvenience of having your coat hanging on a tiny hook and rubbing past your legs all night.
2. The Bar
You will be surprised how many bars now consider the actual bar in their venue as somewhat of an afterthought. You can’t just install a wooden block at around elbow level and call the area a bar. Whether the bar is made from rich rare oak or stylish space-age material, I need to have plenty of room for my elbows, food, and drink, but not so much room that things are out of reach.
3. Drinks List
I can’t tell you how many times in the last five years I have entered an establishment and requested a drinks menu from the bartender only to have him signal to an illegible chalkboard located on the other side of the venue. Do you know how hard it is to read badly written chalkboards in dimly-lit environments? Fortunately, there are some great bars, such as The Pony Bar in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, that actually hand out stylish drinks menus.
Too many bars still don’t have proper menus that they can hand to patrons at the counter. One bar in Boston does not have a single menu anywhere in their establishment. I understand that beer taps are regularly changed and any sizeable liquor or wine collection can be difficult to keep up-to-date. However, you can buy a laser printer for £50 (less than the price of three cocktails in some venues), so there’s not really any excuse for bars not to have any menus.
Vodka Soda? Shaker pint. Bud Light? Shaker pint. Rum and Coke? Shaker pint. G&T? Shaker pint. Don’t tell me it’s not a similar story in bars near your home town. Look, I don’t want to be a glassware snob, but having the right glassware for serving different types of drinks can make a world of difference.
The minute you start taking notice of ice cubes at bars, you really know you’re becoming pretentious. But, what should I say, the ice cubes do matter. The size, shape, and cleanliness of the ice in your drinks truly affect their taste. The last thing you want is a drink containing ice machine mush piles that turn your drink into a disgusting tasting slush. The Gin Joint, located in Charleston, South Carolina has some of the most impressive ice. They use an industrial ice machine that creates those massive blocks designed for ice sculpting. The blocks are broken down using sledgehammers to create crystal-clear, slow-melting cubes and spheres that provide the perfect addition to any cocktail.
Finally, if you tend to spend lots of time drinking in bars, you’re also going to be spending lots of time visiting bar bathrooms and trying not to touch any of the contaminated surfaces. Stinky, dirty, often tiny, and frequently lacking hand soap and toilet roll, bar restrooms can almost make you want to avoid drinking in public establishments ever again. That is, of course, until you come across a bar bathroom like the one found at Den Dyver in Belgium. The bathroom has a self-contained self-cleaning toilet with a range of high-tech gadgets you won’t know you need until you experience them.