Best Date-Night Bar
It's hip (not achingly so) and happening (without trying). In idle moments when you yearn for unexpected pleasures or a great night out, this is the sort of bar you'd want to be taken on a date. The barkeep's your NBF, the hotel's signature cocktail is right up your street and, hey, there are some pretty nice bedrooms just upstairs if things go particularly well…
Winner: Maison de la Luz, New Orleans
Our judges say ‘Just being at Maison de la Luz’s Bar Marilou made us hot under the collar. Exquisite cocktails such as Dangerous Liaisons and Red Devil are reflected in its lipstick-hued and tiger-print interiors. Don’t forget to prod your nearest bookcase – we did so and found ourselves in a romantic snug where drinks were ordered in the most surprising way!’
Hôtel Monte Cristo, Paris
Bar 1802 (named for Dumas’ birth year) will make you feel like you’ve been whisked from Hôtel Monte Cristo on a trade wind because its rum collection (with 500 types, more than 2,000 bottles and exclusive house-aged pours) almost rivals the Caribbean in spicy, clear-to-dark spirits. This, the largest rum bar in Europe, nods to Dumas’ ancestors: rum distillers in the Dominican Republic. And ocean-blue seats, lush vegetation, Persian rugs and Mediterranean tiling speak of exotic climes, with an irresistible French accent.
The Bloomsbury, London
The Bloomsbury's Coral Room is indeed Pantone-colour-of-2019 coral, with a razzle-dazzle string of Murano-glass chandeliers and glowing golden bar, by decree of star stylist Martin Brudnizki. Quintessential Britishness and Bloomsbury Set loucheness merrily meet here: the largest selection of English sparkling wines can be uncorked for your pleasure and bee’s knee’s cocktails are by turns botanical, fruity and richly bitter. Bask in the bar’s glow, rest Venus-like on a velvet shell couch and settle in until 1am last orders on weekends
Chapter Roma, Rome
The groomed industrial chic of Chapter Roma's bar gives fanfare to the neighbourhood’s smithing tradition – time-worn stone and metal accents gruffly converse with suave sofas, neat parquet and cheeky Seletti rugs. Roman and Californian street artists (Alice Pasquini, the Cyrcle collective) have wildly gesticulated over the walls, bringing colour and cool with lavish murals. Multilingual snippets and glass clinks skitter across the arched ceilings and drinks are as dapper as you’d hope: yours is a Negroni, but the Tuscan gin’s worth a try too.
The Murray, Hong Kong
If you want a well-feathered nest with a bird’s eye view to crow about and an exquisitely plumed crowd – and have a high tolerance for bird puns – you’ll coo over the Murray’s 25th-floor bar Popinjays. Named for the cockatoos sociably flocking together along Garden Road, here humans follow suit, gathering for cocktails muddled with tropical fruits and exotic fixings – some in parrot-shaped vessels. But, whimsical glassware won’t divert you from the view: the come-one-come-all terrace overlooks the Peak, skyscrapers and the harbour.
And here's another tried and tested date-night gem: our winner from 2018…
Best date-night bar award criteria
Is this the place to see and be seen? Does it attract A-list clients or under-the-radar tastemakers? Is it a word-of-mouth legend or celebrated icon? Maybe its location is new, exciting or unexpected.
Killer cocktails are customised and made with a well-edited spirit selection or home-spun infusions; if there's a wine list, it's knowledgably sourced and presented; beer is craft and draught; and all the trimmings (from bar snacks to bar stools) are carefully considered.
This is a bar run with flair and dedication: staff know their stuff, the mixologist is fearless and masterful, the soundtrack is spun with love. The passion should be palpable.
Does it radiate romance? Is there a buzz in the air? Do people flock from far and wide to step through the hotel door? Does the bar boast scene-setting design that gets you in the mood? A big-name DJ, musicians, performers of some kind? Even if your date ditches you, would you be happy drinking here alone?