The Russians are coming
News that there are now 79 billionaires in Moscow, more than any other city in the world, surprises Dwink. Granted, it’s not all dolls that go inside each other and Ladas over there these days, even so, what about Milton Keynes? Either way, Moscovites can today proudly wave wads of rubles in the faces of New Yorkans (a mere 58), who were second in the poll. So while there was a time when the only queues Muscovites experienced came out of bread shops, it seems they increasingly weave away from decent bars. And as if by magic (seriously, this is the sort of luck we here at Dwink towers rarely witness), Dwink recently wrote a feature for Drinks International, that ranked the best imbibing options back in the USSR. So here’s a list of what the Moscow bar folks over there recommend – it’s a poll with some general views from some bar people afterwards, so not reviews, but gives you a start in your search should you be heading to Moscow to meet and marry a billionaire.
Swissotel Krasnye Holmy, 52 Kosmodamiansky Embankment
Much like Charlie Sheen without the… well… sheen, this bar is swanky and high, following a bit of a city trend of a room with a view. Found on the 34th floor of Swissotel Krasnye Holmy it benefits from the touch of class Bek Narzi brings to proceedings and offers some of the best drinks in town, with a set of classics to sample along with innovative twists on the themes. Bek introduced West European expertise and ideas making this one a trend setter for past 2 years according to local media and critics. While you’ll pay a bit more than the average, the view combined with excellent drinks is well worth the extra roubles.
1 Tretyakovsky Proyezd, Teatralnaya, Lubyanka
A sign of the serious Russian commitment to a drinks revolution, which looks like it’ll have longer legs than the other one they had. Found in the more upmarket Tretyakovsky, drinks prices reflect the status of real estate, but it’s more notable for its excellent bar team who are setting the trends and standards that many other Russian bars will need to follow.
Ritz Carlton, Moscow,
Opened by another talented drinskmith Roman Milostivy this high rise imbibing icon can be found on the 11th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. A revolutionary’s stone throw away from the Kremlin, the building harks back to an elegant era of the Tsars but mixes it with some modern chic. Head bartender Mikhail Kalachev is stirring hearts and minds with his mixing skills here and framed as he is by a magnificent glass dome for views, he can’t fail but to impress the customers.
Cristal Yard Bar
1 Tretyakovsky Proyezd, Teatralnaya, Lubyanka
This is part of the Tommy D set up but a separate bar and more exclusive, so one for those in the know. We’ll say no more, nudge nudge, wink, wink. That’s to say, we didn’t get in so have no details. Either way, if you’re a billionaire and going to one, it’d be absurd not to go to the other, even if you’re falling off your stool. Amongst the team is Vasiliy Roganin who has also been raising eyebrows with bartending skills more recently.
Leninsky Prospekt 32a
Another up and up, this bar sits on the 22 floor on top of the Academy of Sciences on Gargarin Square. There’s an outdoor area although Russia’s harsh winter means this is possibly best enjoyed during only the warm summer months. And you can eat up here, the food is evidence that the Russian cuisine is another area of improvement in Moscow, but if you get dizzy when you’re high (see Charlie Sheen references) then stick to the drinks.
Ulitsa Baltschug Dom 5 , Moscow
The bar here is absurdly shiny and it’s a massive space. It’s all about the entire evening experience here, so add food and music to the drinks mix – which means if it’s brass monkeys outdoors this is a nice place to hide away, after all, who needs to see the embalmed body of Lenin when you’ve got a martini in your hand? It’s one of the more popular and certainly fashionable haunts, so expect wall to wall pretty people, a positive or negative depending on your own reflection in the mirror. For Dwink is was a distinct disadvantage.
Best of the rest
Stoleshnikov Pereulok Dom 12/2 , Moscow
A more quirky stab at the drinking experience, this place operates as a snack gaff during the day and converts into high end drinking establishment for the beautiful people in the evening.
17 Myasnitskaya Ul., Bldg. 1, Moscow
Bar mogul Dmitry Sokolov is a bit of a name in these parts and this is one of his growing empire. It’s a serious drinking den and nicely located within walking distance to the Chistiye Prudy metro.
21-23/25 Pokrovka Ul., Bldg. 1, Moscow
Another offering from Dmitry Sokolov Free Bar exhibits unusual levels of Americana, not to mention a Pornstar Martini on the menu. There are also 30 bourbons and breakfast from 5am, so you can’t argue with that.
27 1-ya Tverskaya-Yamskaya Ul., Bldg., Moscow
Dmitry Sokolov opened this place in 2004, around about the time Moscow was considering its cocktail revolution. Open all day every day the speciality on the menus seems to be a hangover cure so perhaps this is one to save for the second day in town.
3a Sadovaya-Kudrinskaya Ul., Moscow
Tiki style arrived in Moscow to mixed reviews but there’s no doubt that this place ticks the boxes in terms of the theme with a vast selection of rums and a host of tiki cocktails to boot. Rowboats around the bar double up as seating and Hawaiian tiger shrimp and tuna steak with fruit salsa make it onto the menu. Wicked.
The bar professionals
Bek has been in the industry for 10 years and worked at illustrious London venues such as the Avenue Bar at St. James’s street, the Met bar, Milk & Honey and the Harvey Nichols 5th floor bar. He now works at Moscow City Space Bar at Swissotel Krasnye Holmym and consults on cocktails through his Russian Cocktail Club.
Russian bar owners have ambitions to become world recognized. At the moment the trends are similar to London’s Lab bar in its early days, so we are a little behind but through the Russian Cocktail Club we are trying to follow latest bar trends in Europe, US and Japan.
Depending on the bar, a new generation of young and progressive customer do not drink vodka, they tend to drink softer cocktails. The majority of cocktails in Russia contain fruits, purees, sugar and syrups and cream and it’s fair to say the Russian palate prefers sweeter and softer rather then dryer, for instance a dry martini would not be appreciated by an average drinker.
But in terms of the biggest sellers you’d be looking at drinks like a Whisky cola, Irish whisky and apple clear juice, Rum and cola and then Mojito, Long island ice tea and fruity daiquiri’s.
Vodka is preferred widely by Government Politicians and older generation but there is definitely huge potential for cocktails, and the success all depends on the passion of people that lead those bars. At the moment I can only name dozen of people that are truly determined to replace fake and laid back soviet system of cocktail scenery to new progressive quality and creative industry. And if I could change anything about the industry it would be to give bartenders chance to prove, that cocktails are not created to get consumers hammered.
Xavier is veteran of the veteran of the global bar industry and has travelled extensively with his passion for cocktails and spirits. He is currently the global brand ambassador for Hendrick’s Gin and has been back and forth to Russia in recent years to test the market.
In Moscow the bars follow quite often the same template, “super premium” night club”, hotel bars, small local bars or chains but I enjoy the fact that some of them are on the same level as other top bars all around the world. I enjoy their friendly approach and warm welcome and very often the design is quite striking. Moscow bars could not be anywhere else in the world, you know you are in Moscow, somehow this both cities have fantastic bars but the scene is very different and Moscow may slightly be more up to date with the industry trend. Most of the bigger operations are very luxurious and if the back bar selection may possibly be reduce due to a very complicated import regulations, most often the money is spent in the design, it is has to be loud and strong. But this is only in Moscow. St Petersburg is big on European cuisine and restaurants are a priority while most of the bars are pub orientated where beer is heavily consumed.
Trends on drinks include classic cocktails and classic with a twist, if you go to Simachev the bartenders are amazing and you could compare as with being in one of London top best bar where regular classic will be served but where they also create their own concoctions and even if Vodka is very popular they are very comfortable mixing with gin! We launched Hendrick’s two years ago and we see some traction so quite surprisingly even in a strong vodka market consumers are interested into discovering gin, even better if they do the first step with our Cucumber Gin.
This mixed drinks legend has used his Irish charm to entertain customers in bars across the entire globe, including long stints in New York and London. He currently plies his trade with his consultancy Liquid Solutions in Amsterdam
I recently visited Russia for only the second time, although this was ten years after I was last there. It was quite a change, particularly as now there are decent bars, with bartenders. There used to be a lot of staff who tried to do everything, without so many dedicated only-behind-the-bar ‘tenders except in the larger hotels, but now you have proper bars, speedrails, bartenders, bar tools, the whole nine yards. The general feeling is also a lot more relaxed and dynamic: a decade ago it felt quite dangerous and depressing. I enjoy the fact that the bartenders are fun and Russians also know how to enjoy themselves, they’re coming around to the idea of great drinks.
Strangely, some categories of spirit, like rum, which should by rights be cheaper than others, are not: pricing in Russia can be a bit mad. My feeling was that vodka, although much loved, is not as fashionable as it once was, and great bars are turning their guests on to other spirits like gin and whiskey. Who’s to say there won’t be a rediscovery of the national drink in the future, though? Remember, gin didn’t start to become popular with bartenders or the public until the mid-1990s in the UK.
Moscow is home to some 17 million people so there’s no reason why it couldn;t become one of the world’s best cocktail cities. Bartenders opening their own places also teaches them, quicker and better than in any other way, what works and what doesn’t commercially.
Andrey Larin, head bartender, Tommy D bar
In my bar we give guests a classic cocktails and infused classics, the best selling cocktail is a whisky sour but replaces sugar with passion fruit and is called the Tommy D sour. Russians like strong and long drinks and our bar is a little alcoholic education center.
Max Rokhman, head bartender City Space, and member of Russian Cocktail Club
Russia still has only a few truly outstanding bars, but those bartenders who really love this work started to create their own philosophy, they realise more and more thatwhen it comes to drinks the bartender is an architect, designer, artist, painter, poet, psychologyst… Most of russian customers like mojito, caipirihna, long island, mix drinks…i mean very popular cocktails and well known things. But bartenders play very big part in chose of customers’ drink.
Polina Sergeeva, bar manager at Tommy D and Russian Cocktail Club Project Manager
I’ve noticed customers and bartenders are recently developing their knowledge about bars and drinks. Party style bars will always be popular with music and dancing. If we’re talking about design, we can say that Russian people like everything signature. I mean designers bars and new style designs, so everything fashionable.