Fold away the paper umbrella and ditch the cherry on a stick, Rotterdam’s cocktail scene is in the midst of a veritable shakeup as rooftop terraces, intimate local haunts and stylishly themed venues all fizz with ice cold originality. But where to sip first? Here are the 10 best cocktail bars in Rotterdam.
Step aside Manhattan, this is how rooftop cocktail bars are done. Take the Groot Handelsgebouw service elevator to the eighth floor and exit into the bustle of the kitchen. Don’t fret – you’re in the right place. As bar staff flit past in signature Jasna Rokegem dresses, join the al fresco beau monde for a cabana cocktail among the greenery of the Suicide Club’s (thesuicideclub.nl) rooftop. With vistas right across the city, drinkers should feel on top of the world.
A barman preparing a cocktail at the Suicide Club © Paul Fitzpatrick / Lonely Planet
Like America’s Prohibition-era speakeasies, this clandestine bar is only open to those in the know. Dripping in crystal glass decadence and with a luxurious rosewood bar, bartenders in white apothecary attire create medicinal concoctions to ease ailments of all kinds, including melancholy, heartbreak or simply thirst. The Dr.’s (drrotterdam.com) menu switches regularly, but get past the introductory punch and you’ll be prescribed a maximum of three great cocktails.
The Stirr (thestirr.nl) is an award-winning drinking den that mixes the past and the present as exposed brick and darkly varnished saloon bar stools side next to diamond cage lights and DJs spinning vinyl. There isn’t a cocktail menu, but the barmen – who have an assemblage of whiskers so epic, many of their moustache designs went out of fashion with the penny-farthing – will shoot you a few questions and shake up a drink to suit your mood.
Step back in time to the Roaring Twenties when men were gentlemen, women were ladies and highballs were really, really strong. Every detail of this cocktail bar-cum-restaurant is authentic, right down to the bartenders’ black tie outfits and the swing era jazz. Mainly serving drinks that were in vogue a century ago, if the old-fashioned brews start getting the better of you, NY Basement (nybasement.nl) also has a first-class food menu too.
Just some of the cocktail ingredients available at NY Basement © Paul Fitzpatrick / Lonely Planet
If you like your cocktails with a view, this is the place to come. Situated on the seventh floor of the iconic De Rotterdam skyscraper, the NHow bar (nhow-rotterdam.com) is the perfect spot to sit back, sip and stare at the sparkling vistas over the Erasmus Bridge. With raw concrete pillars and a steel grate ceiling, the bar takes an urbane slant on an industrial theme. Try a get a table on the terrace and order their signature This is nHow cocktail with St. Louis cherry beer, fresh lime juice, mint and strawberry coulis.
Not officially a cocktail bar, but with over 100 different types of gin and tonic, the knowledgeable staff at candle-lit Ballroom (ballroomrotterdam.nl) certainly know how to mix a mean drink or two. If you’re having a hard time choosing, bartenders can advise and surprise, but do your best to get a seat in the charming garden where walls of creeping greenery and low-hanging lightbulbs dangle above the shiny checkerboard floor. The food is remarkably sophisticated too and features the best meatballs in town.
Ballroom offers over 100 different kinds of gin and tonic © Paul Fitzpatrick / Lonely Planet
Situated at the base of the Witte Huis, the oldest skyscraper in Europe, Noah (noahrotterdam.nl) acknowledges its historic location by thinking up respectful twists on stonewall classics like their fiery barrel-aged Mai Tai, which mixes Clement Terre Caraïbe and Appleton VX rums with Orgeat syrup, lime juice and dry orange. The more adventurous should try The Pig, a bourbon brew with Maple syrup and a bacon aroma. DJs liven up weekend proceedings, spinning funk, R&B and disco from a small enclave in the exposed brick wall.
With scuffed tables, creaking leather sofas, slowly flickering candles and a mismatched collection of upside down photography, this cosy bar invites drinkers to do some serious chilling. But cosiness hasn’t led to complacency and LaBru’s (facebook.com/CafeLaBru) mixologists offer an array of classic cocktails. Try the dry martini special, mixed 007-style. Live jazz acts play each Wednesday.
Level (levelrotterdam.nl) is one of the oldest cocktail bars in Rotterdam. Despite its age it still serves some of the most innovative concoctions in the city. All the classics are expertly prepared, but it’s bar originals like the rum-packed Devil that steal the show. Expect a vibrant atmosphere and a young crowd.
Some quirky art at Level © Paul Fitzpatrick / Lonely Planet