The worst bar in the world.
There are some brilliant bars in the world. And there are some ghastly ones. Then there’s the worst of the lot
I’VE just been to the worst bar in the world. Over the years, I’ve been to some shockers, so why was this the worst? Only an assessment of my drinking past can shed light on the truth.
THE PRETENTIOUS COCKTAIL BAR
Australia has some of the best bars and bartenders in the world. Even so, there are barkeeps that you fear to ask for advice on what to drink. Don’t think that your choice will impress them either. That Red Hook or Boulevardier you ordered will still be greeted by the haughty mixologist as if you had asked for a generic bourbon and cola.
I could deal with this if it didn’t take 45 minutes to make each drink, and the garnishes didn’t need to be massaged, twisted, scorched or trampled on by a herd of teeny musk ox.
THE COCKTAILS ON TAP BAR
While I appreciate the romance of barrel-aged cocktails or individual bottles of your favourite tipple served in ice buckets, I think we can do without Negroni on tap and Cosmos made in bulk in a factory out by the airport. If I’d wanted something quick I’d have ordered a gin and soda, and let you put some spanked dill in it to make you feel like you were still practising your craft.
THE COVER CHARGE BAR
No fancy nuts? No band? No aperitivo snacks? Then I say no charge! Isn’t the money I’ll pay for drinks ample rental for this bar stool?
THE PSYCHOPATHIC OWNER BAR
These can take many forms: the racist little-englander who runs that quaint pub on the village green, the tattoosleeved hipster who’s doing you a favour by taking your money. But these pale beside the pub owner I worked with who had once tried to saw his twin brother’s head off with a broken beer glass. Ah, good times.
THE DULL HOTEL BAR
Don’t get me wrong, there are some truly wonderful bars in hotels around the world. From New York rooftops and LA poolsides to the home away from home feel of the always pumping bar at The Vineyard in Cape Town, the Sydney quayside views at Pier One and the impeccable cocktails at the American Bar in London’s Savoy. Make mine a Corpse Reviver #2 please. And in some Muslim countries, of course, the hotel is the only place where you can drink.
But at their worst, they are sad places full of lonely, corporate road warriors drinking by themselves and the occasional dead-eyed woman. These bars are particularly sad if there’s live music. The Sumatran jazz trio playing bad but jaunty versions of Celine Dion hits on the 50th floor of a Shanghai five-star was a low point for me.
THE CRIMINAL BAR
At least at a hotel bar you are unlikely to get shot in the face. When I lived in Bermondsey, deep in that part of the East End notorious for illegal dog fights, hardened criminals and even harder coppers, my local had a strict “no guns” policy for both police and crims. Still, it’s amazing the damage that can be done with an ashtray.
THE DOCKSIDE ALLEY BAR
If there is one place worse than shabby, low-life bars round major railway stations, it is their dockside counterparts. These are the sorts of venues where film noir private eyes might go to garner information by breaking fingers and sweet talking dames who are down on their luck.
In reality, though, there’s no such romance about a bar where the clientele carry knives never intended for cutting tricky nautical knots. I’ve had to run away from a few of these.
THE WORST BAR IN THE WORLD
It was my last night in Tokyo and spirits were high. On the surface, this corner bar looked great. Modern exterior, a heavy door that needs two to swing it open and the promise of a dozen craft beers on tap. What made it the worst bar in the world wasn’t a clientele of heavily tattooed yakuza picking their nails with katanas or a dead rat in the dunny (other places, other times), but the total absence of anything resembling hospitality or atmosphere.
The room sucked life from all who entered. The decor was aiming for cool and minimalist but instead got sterile and soulless. It was empty too – just a table of three nursing long-flat ales.
Then there were the rules, rules that even in the hottest bars would be indefensible. No big tables. No phones. No loud conversation. No seat for the friend who’d just joined us until she bought a drink. Oh, and that no phone rule also extended to using your phone to take photos. The final straw, however, was the ban on loud laughing. What other kind of laughing is there?
We hastily consumed our $20 beers and relocated to an empty, one-man cocktail bar over the road where a bartender in a crisp white jacket and nifty bow tie mixed classic drinks served in diamond-etched glasses.
We made our own music, he made a healthy profit and together we turned a bar disaster into a success.
GETTING CRAFTY Slowly prepared drinks in beakers can leave one cold.