When winter bites, there’s only one thing for it, retreat indoors to a cosy bar that offers the ultimate cold remedy: warming drinks, welcoming faces and hearty tunes. That’s a holy trinity to keep the chills at bay.
Even when the secret’s out, secret bars still harbor a frisson of fun. Especially when they’re as deliciously decadent as this LA speakeasy. And, yes, you have to know where to look to find it. Actually (spoiler alert) it’s hidden behind a big oak door at Coles, a downtown stalwart. Occupying an ex storage room, The Varnish is a cosy hideaway, perfect for escaping the world awhile. Expect fantastic cocktails, personal service and an immaculate selection of winter-warming spirits on that gleaming back bar.
Winter warmer: Pineapple Daiquiri – dark rum, pineapple, lime, sugar
118 East 6th Street, Downtown Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90014, United States
COLD ROOM, MONTREAL
Cold by name, convivial by nature, Montreal’s Coldroom is custom-made to chase away those chilly Québécois winters. Let’s face it, they know about retreating from the elements here. It’s a refreshingly unpretentious place – exposed brick walls and vintage light bulbs give the joint a warm, womb-like vibe. It hides behind an unmarked door, but finding it (with the help of a friendly local) is half the fun. And the superb cocktails make it worth the hunt. Look for the door that looks a bit like the door to a freezer. The clue’s in the name, see?
Winter warmer: Hot buttered rum: Appleton, butter, and hot water
Rue Saint Vincent, Montréal, QC H2Y 1G8, Canada
BODEGA DE LA ARDOSA, MADRID
Travel back in time to soak up the ambience of a genuine survivor from Spain’s 19th century past. That’s the real deal at the wood-panelled and wonderful Bodega de la Ardosa. Shelves reach heavenwards, groaning under the weight of hearty Riojas and home-made vermouth (a real favorite in Madrid). The tapas are fantastic, the crowd animated and welcoming, and the fine Spanish beer keeps flowing. What, really, more do you need? If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it. Oh, and the Chueca district has plenty more fab bars where this came from!
Winter warmer: Ham croquettes with a glass of Rioja
Calle de Colón 13, 28004 Madrid, Spain
You need to know two important things: 1) Chile’s wine has never tasted better, and 2) Santiago’s bar scene has never been sharper. But these two facts together and ask yourself: why are you not enjoying a glass or two at BocaNariz? Yes, it’s summer down in the southern hemisphere, but sometimes all the snow in the world can’t compete with a cosy Latin American bodega, and a fine glass of Cabernet Franc. So if northern winters make you pine for southern warmth, head to the trendy Lastarria neighborhood, pull up a stool, and keep the chills at bay awhile.
Winter warmer: Order a glass of Carménère, Chile’s signature, spicy red grape
José Victorino Lastarria 276, Santiago, Chile
In a city as restless and fast-moving as the Icelandic capital, it says something that Reykjavik’s intimate and low-fi bolt-hole, Kaffibarrin, has stood the test of time – serving warming mugs of Glögg, winter-baiting shots of Black Death (the local firewater) and frothy craft ales to a loyal crowd. By night, condensation-soaked windows give off an ethereal glow, thanks to the candle-light and ruddy-faced crowds within. A back-room churns out tunes guaranteed to have your blood pumping. By the end of the night, if you’ve not made best-friends with everyone in the bar, consider investing in better deodorant.
Winter warmer: Black Death. Of course. Just go easy out there
Bergstaðastræti 1, Reykjavik, Iceland
GOUPIL LE FOL, BRUSSELS
We know Belgium didn’t, technically, have speakeasies. But if it had, they’d have looked a lot like Goupil Le Fol. Satisfyingly snug, candle-lit, low-ceilinged and lush, there’s something of the boudoir about this utterly captivating little bar. Strange objects are scattered around, giving the feeling that a flea-market has crash-landed into someone’s secret drinking den. Hurricane lamps, guilded mirrors, faded portraits and fabulous drinks. It’s what winters in Brussels were made for.
Winter warmer: Speculoos liqueur – a sweet, gingery aperitif, served over crushed ice.
Rue de la Violettte 2, Brussels, Belgium