Sometimes I wonder where all the good, classical bars have left; the kind of bars we know from James Bond movies, where people come to relax, where bartenders mix excellent cocktails according to the book, and where one feels at ease immediately. Between all the clubs, pubs, cafes, and trendy bars for trendy people (or at least those who think they are), finding a good quality bar is like searching for a needle in a haystack.
Still, there are a few things, which characterize a good, classical bar.
Bars can be both modern or rather vintage style. Nevertheless, bars usually have a long bar, which allows you to sit directly at the bar with other people. Additionally, there are a few tables and seats, allowing you to sit down as a group. Some bars have a number of areas, or corners, where you can stand around.
The music should not be too soft, but also not too loud. You should be able to communicate with the people you sit next or opposite to, but you should not be able to hear all conversations from all tables. The music style will most likely be popular and clubbing music for modern bars, and oldies, or even jazz or blues in very vintage style bars.
Being able to smoke should be part of any typical and classical bar. Although many cities and countries have adopted non-smoking policies, smoking a cigarette, or even a cigar, makes part of the ambient of a bar. Good bars might be a little bit smokey, but never too much; there needs to be a good ventilation system.
4. The menu
Good bars have very extensive menus, anything from good wines, to single malt whiskeys, Cognac, Brandy, cocktails, shots, long drinks, and non-alcoholic beverages. The choice should be good for each category. For example, the menu should include various brands of single malt whiskeys, and different ages per brand. It is not unusual for menus to be up to 50 pages long.
5. The service
Traditional bars offer excellent service. Each drink is served with a little snack or some salted nuts. Ashtrays are replaced ever ten or twenty minutes, and the service personnel will immediately offer you a light if they see you are searching for your lighter. The service personnel understands, that people are willing to spend more in a classical bar than in a cafe or pub, and that beverages generally cost more. Their mission is to offer the best service possible.
6. The role of the bartender
The bartender has a very special role in classical bars. Not only should he (or she, but mostly bartenders tend to be men) be up-to-date about all the drinks, the whiskeys, the cognacs, cocktails and shooters, how they are made, and where they come from.
The bartender needs to be a good conversational partner. A classical bar is often a haven for people coming there alone, both men and women, after a busy day, looking for a place to enjoy the music, a drink, and to relax. A good bartender will be able to have a small chat with his guests, but he is also responsible for bringing guests into a conversation with each other, especially men and women. This is a special gift, which very few people possess today.
Good, classical bars are often hard to find, between all the modern hotspots in big cities. They are often considered to be ‘out’, or a place for old men. But bars can be beautiful, where you can enjoy the atmosphere, the excellent service, and much more in a relaxing setting. At some places, bars are experiencing a revival, with classic jazz and blues being played live.