Looking for something nice and tasty now that the bars are finally open again? Well today is your day my friend! Trot Op! took off on a mission to find the best cocktail bars in Antwerp, and returned with seven entries and a slight hangover. Enjoy!
Holy guacamole Batman: the moment is finally here! After crying themselves into a fitful sleep for seven months, our Antwerp bar heroes are finally putting in shifts again. Time for a pub crawl of truly epic proportions I say. Gone are the days of bare-assed binge drinking on the couch. Yes indeed, after what most experts call a “horrid shitfest of a year” a well-coordinated bacchanal is probably the only way to give our local business owners a little breathing room. So empty those wallets, shove aside that self-respect and go on a patriotic booze fuelled rampage without equal. “Ooohooo say can you seeeeeeeee…!?” You know the rest.
“Cocktail bars are popping up all over the place in Antwerp. Twenty years ago we had to get by with lukewarm Bacardi Breezers on frat parties, now there are too many to count.”
But even with the noblest intentions, not everyone can empty two gallons of Stella a night. That’s why you have to allow yourself to get a little fancier once in a while. Use that recaptured freedom – sorry anti-vaxxers: not you clowns, please stay inside – and invite that one hottie you’ve been pining for all through the lockdown for a drink in your favourite cocktail bar. This way you can break the ice in style, try out your favourite James Bond pickup line (“I thought Christmas only came ONCE a year” hohoho!) and pour something actually decent down your throat while you’re at it. Everybody wins!
De 7 best cocktail bars in Antwerp
Cocktail bars are popping up all over the place in Antwerp. Twenty years ago we had to get by with lukewarm Bacardi Breezers on frat parties, now there are too many bars to count. Not all cocktail bars are created equal though. This article will help you find the good ones. We’ll ignore the dance bars where you can order your mojito in a bucket, and focus on places where the bartenders know what the hell they are doing instead. As a true professional, I put on my fanciest shirt and went for a discovery tour of the best cocktail bars in Antwerp. Afterwards I crawled back home. It’s a tough job, but someone had to do it.
1. Dogma Cocktails
*picture on the left by Jean Van Cleemput
Dogma Cocktails in the city centre was already featured in an old article of mine on hidden spots in Antwerp, and is one of my absolute favourites. The interior looks fantastic and seems to have time-travelled straight from the roaring twenties (we’ve actually arrived back into them by the way, so feel free to let your inner beast go). The cocktails are wild and unique. I tried one with bacon in it once and it was surprisingly tasty. While exploring the basement, you might discover a hidden speakeasy behind a fake wall. It’s as big as the bar upstairs and even cosier. Remember though: what happens in the hidden Dogma basement, stays in the hidden Dogma basement. www.dogmacocktails.be
2. Belroy’s MAS (& Belroys Bijou)
Belroy’s MAS – the greatest geniuses among you might have already deducted you can find it right across from the MAS Museum – is another favourite of mine. The location is superb: a cosy basement full of vaults allowing you to romantically vanish into the shadows. The cocktails are sublime as well, served in an icy glass and mostly made based on self-distilled liquor. Outside is a large lounge terrace looking out over the dock and some rich assholes’ yachts – yes, everyone wealthier than me is an asshole in my head. Want to spend your time in the south side of the city instead? You’ll find a quieter and slightly smaller alternative in Belroy’s Bijou. www.belroys.com
Plantage is one of the newest cocktail bars in Antwerp and can be found on the legendary Dageraadplaats. One of Dogma’s ex-bartenders is running the show here and you’ll taste it in your glass. They sell some wonderful cocktails, and you can down them on a sunny terrace. Want a savoury bite to go with your booze? Go to restaurant Tranquilo next door (they’re the same business) and get yourself some Mexican street food. Getting late and too cloudy to enjoy the stars? No worries: Dageraadplaats has its own starry sky. Electric romance, with just a push of the button – we truly live in marvellous times.
4. Cocktails at Nine
Cocktails at Nine is one of the biggest names as far as cocktail bars in Antwerp go, and can be found in a historic building with a courtyard in the shadow of the cathedral. A top location offering top level cocktails. This is a classic cocktail bar, where things are a bit fancier. The décor is stylish and feels more like the lounge bar of a five star hotel than a smoky speakeasy – it even has a fireplace. All the classics are on the menu, and are perfectly served, complemented with some in-house specials. Enjoy, and keep those ugly Bermuda shorts in the closet for another day. www.cocktailsatnine.be
5. Bar Burbure
Bar Burbure is another classic with a fancy, cosmopolitan vibe and can be found in the city’s south side. You can get great cocktails here, but there’s more than that. Both the wine and champagne list are put together very well, and those who fancy a beer can taste the famous Westvleteren. Want to go all in? Order yourself a big fat cigar and go smoke it outside with a glass of good rum, while you ponder about the quickest way of becoming a Latin-American dictator and whether or not that shiny military hat comes with the job. Viva la revolución! www.barburbure.be
6. Bar Zar
Bar Zar – also on the south side – is not a classic cocktail bar. It comes with an exotic, slightly bombastic interior and a lot of crazy, colourful cocktails. They used to even have a fish tank full of piranhas, but after they kept eating each other and two Chinese exchange students disappeared one faithful night – that last part isn’t true – they sold them and got some more peaceful fish from Malawi instead. The concept keeps evolving as well. Many of their cocktails are now based on various tea infusions for some extra flavour. They call them T-tails and that’s pretty clever.
7. Bar Tikila
Bar Tikila is a Mexican themed cocktail bar with a Mexican themed bartender (well not themed, he’s actually Mexican). This means they’re going to focus mainly on making as many cocktails as possible with Tequila. To some this is a godlike drink, to me – after a night of downing shots at age 16 – it’s a horrible physical trauma I’ve still not recovered from. I’ll never be able to drink it pure again, but I do still enjoy it in a nice cocktail. Bar Tikila is a fun bar for fun people and serves quality drinks. Feeling more like a good glass of wine instead? Go say hello to the people at Bar Brut next door. www.bar-tikila.be
Sips is the oldest cocktail bar in Antwerp, and opened up right after the new millennium started. It paved the way for all the other bars in this list and is still going strong today. Sadly, they’re renovating the place right now, so I wasn’t able to go for a visit for this article. All the classics are there, and whisky drinkers will have a blast as well: more than 100 different brands are available. Try finishing that list, I dare you.
There, that was all I had to say about cocktail bars in Antwerp. Do you agree with my little list? Did I forget your favourite (aka: De Vuile Was)? Do you work as a bartender somewhere else and want to prove me wrong? Start shaking those drinks and let me know in the comments below.