India Gate is a huge arched war memorial that stands in the center of Delhi, India’s capital city. Because Delhi enjoys hot weather pretty much all year round, a visit to one of its famous monuments can be thirsty work. It’s a good thing, then, that in the streets surrounding India Gate there are a bunch of great bars where you can cool your heels and wet your whistle.
Named in honor of the café-owning lead character from the film Casablanca, Rick’s is a lounge bar adjoining the lobby of The Taj Mahal Hotel. Elegant, warmly lit and filled with plush sofas, it’s an ideal spot for a relaxed weeknight drink or a livelier weekend one. Behind the bar, an impressive range of single malt whiskey is arranged along six shelves. There’s also a long wine list and a host of signature cocktails. Try a Blushing Tenshi, a quirky mix of vanilla vodka, Cointreau, crème de banana, wasabi, and grapefruit juice.
White Waters Café occupies the top two floors of a building just north of India Gate. The main dining room is super trendy, with whitewashed walls, a high ceiling, and wooden staircases twisting overhead like an MC Escher painting. There are two terraces, one off the main room and another on the roof, overlooking the first. During the week, it’s a cool spot to catch a bite to eat. At weekends, crowds of young Delhiites descend (or rather, ascend) on the place, drawn by the cold beer and funky music. A particularly good place to celebrate a birthday.
Pictures of golfers adorn the wood-paneled walls of the Golf Bar at the ITC Maurya Hotel, making the place seem a bit like a country club. Perhaps this is deliberate; after all, the ITC Maurya is only a short walk from Southern Ridge forest, a slice of rugged greenery right in the middle of Delhi. Deliberate or not, the Golf Bar achieves the sophistication of a country club, but without the exclusivity. Staff is friendly and the drinks are reasonably priced. A wide variety of beer, wine, and cocktails are available, but if you’ve spent the day in the hot streets of Delhi, your best bet is a glass (or two) of chilled sangria.
InSomnia is a snazzy art deco bar to the south of India Gate. The staff here strive to create an atmosphere for unwinding in. The music usually starts off mellow before livening up midway through the evening and segueing into danceable stuff by eleven. Cocktails are zingy and fruit-filled – try the tamarind martini. The wine selection is on display just off the bar in a little recess like a walk-in wardrobe, and customers are invited to browse at their leisure. Finger food is also available.
Lutyens Cocktail House is one of the newest additions to Delhi’s bar scene. Décor-wise, this place is a throwback to the British Raj, with highly polished teakwood floors and colonial-style furniture. Originally a restaurant when it opened in April 2015, Lutyens now boasts an extensive range of cocktails made with spirits that are infused in-house. Try the Citronus, made with mandarin juice, mace-infused vodka, and lemongrass, or the Apple Cigar, made with smoked whiskey, clove bitters and apple juice. Classy and creative, Lutyens has been attracting lots of attention after top Indian cricketer Suresh Raina chose it as the venue for his pre-wedding cocktail party.
Situated just north of India Gate, The Beer Café specializes in, well, beer. The owners have managed to gather together a vast selection of brands from all over the world. Unsurprisingly, the majority are European, but China, Thailand, Mexico, Japan and the USA are all represented on the menu. There is even a handful from India. The preponderance of Belgian beers means that your choices aren’t limited to different types of lager: there’s pale ale, Trappist, wheat beer, fruit beer and a whole lot more. The space is trendy and modern, and there’s often live music on weekends.
QBA is a double-decker place with a restaurant on the ground floor and a lounge bar up top. There’s a good selection of beer, wine, and spirits, plus fruity virgin cocktails for those who don’t drink. Filled with comfy sofas and low tables, the lounge manages to feel cozy and calm despite all the activity in the restaurant down below. The main draw of this place, though, is its rooftop terrace. Head here in the late afternoon and bag a space on one of the wicker sofas. Then sit back, drink in hand, and watch the sun set behind the New Delhi skyline.
The ultra-snazzy Nero really lives up to its name, at least as far as interior design is concerned – think glossy black walls, black marble floors, and black leather furniture. Yet somehow, it still manages to feel spacious and bright. Favored by city slickers from Delhi’s nearby financial center, the vibe at Nero is one of laid-back elegance. Champagne cocktails are a house specialty and they do excellent tapas too. Try the Cajun-spiced fish fingers or the ricotta and olive nuggets.
Club Bar is part of the luxurious Oberoi Hotel, which stands to the south of India gate, opposite Delhi’s National Zoological Park. Furnished with armchairs, lit by table lamps and decorated with trinkets and vases of flowers, this place is a lounge bar in the fullest sense. There is even a grand piano in the corner. Like many of Delhi’s hotel bars, there’s a staggering selection of whiskeys and other spirits. Ask the snappily-dressed bartender to recommend something for you. Or, better still, get him to mix you up a cocktail.
Of all the watering holes on our list, f Bar and Lounge is definitely the one to head for if dancing is your thing. During the week, it’s an upbeat spot to have a cocktail and catch up with friends. On the weekends, the main lights are turned down and the music is turned up. Some of India’s best DJs have played here. Popular with tourists and Delhiites alike, f Bar is small enough that there’s always an atmosphere but big and well-managed enough for it to never feel oppressively crowded. Its menu features a handful of signature cocktails, including one made of strawberry tea and sparkling wine, as well as all the usual favorites.