With craft cocktails flowing and Latin jazz music lighting up the atmosphere, the bar scene in Havana is everything you hoped it would be. Drink rum like Hemingway in the infamous El Floridita or sink an ice-cold beer at a rare Cuban brewpub. It may not equal the Barbary Coast spirit of pre-revolutionary days, but Havana’s bar scene is hopping. Age-old touristy venues still keep the Hemingway spirit alive with classic daiquiris and mojitos, but Cubans’ pent-up entrepreneurial savvy popped the cork a decade ago. Today, the sizzling hot city is awash with bars – from hidden hole-in-the-wall jazz clubs to suave rooftop venues. Here’s our pick of the best and most affordable bars in Havana, Cuba.
Explore the coastline beyond Havana in style by chartering a yacht through SamBoat.
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The panoramic views over Plaza Vieja would be reason enough to sip at Azúcar – but then, there’s the chic Miami vibe of this second-floor, high-ceilinged colonial manse turned lounge-bar-restaurant. Take a pew on the upstairs terrace where French windows are thrown open to reveal Havana’s finest square below. At night, the tunes turn edgier, the volume cranks up and the baristas really get in the groove with their signature maracuya daiquiris and piña coladas, among other crafty cocktails.
Hands down the sexiest rooftop bar in Havana, El Surtidor combines the most elegant ambiance with showstopping views. Crowning the luxurious Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski and overlooking Parque Central and Habana Vieja, this is the place to be for sunset. A sensational rooftop infinity pool enhances the tiered-deck setting. Freshen up with a signature mango piña colada – or settle into a comfy lounge sofa and savor a fine cigar with a superb añejo rum.
The gentrification sweeping Habana Vieja has reached the derelict southern section and is now home to Jesús María 20. For the finest bar and top craft cocktails, check out this casual, colorful-as-Crayola rooftop bar above its namesake restaurant. Amy Winehouse hits and walls splashed with fab graffiti art enhance the über-hip New York vibe. Feeling fruity? Try the tamarind margarita or a daiquiri teeming with maracuya seeds – plus the inventive gin and tonics are among the best in town.
As a whole, Cuba hasn’t evolved a beer lover’s culture. Choices are generally limited to two ho-hum national brews – Cristal and Bucanero – and a fistful of imported brews. Hopheads, however, can relish three distinct Austrian-style draught suds – light, amber and dark – at this state-run microbrewery. Factoria Plaza Vieja is housed in a rehabbed 18th-century structure with tables spilling onto cobbled Plaza Vieja. Add to the fun by ordering a three-liter dispensa – a tall glass cylinder chilled by ice – with a serve-yourself faucet.
Usher got married atop La Guarida – the most iconic paladar in town – Madonna threw her birthday bash here and Beyoncé and Rihanna each made fuel stops when they called on Havana. Dine here on some of the best Cuban-fusion cuisines in the city, then climb the winding staircase to the alfresco rooftop Mirador Bar – with its knock-‘em-dead 360º views of the capital. Award-winning mixologists whip up unique rum cocktails, including a must-try signature Negroni Habanero.
Part of, but separate from, the Fábrica de Arte Cubano – Havana’s always-packed, multi-venue nightclub – El Cocinero offers a more laid-back but still swinging vibe. The entire complex occupies a renovated former cooking oil factory. A winding staircase inside towering industrial chimney augers up to the boss rooftop bar – where smooth tunes, great tapas and a menu of more than 30 spirit-forward cocktails await. On balmy nights, there’s no better venue for pre-gaming before hitting FAC.
Churchill, Redford, Schwarzenegger and Fidel all smoked cigars at this iconic patio-shaded outdoor bar, inside the Hotel Nacional in Vedado. There’s no finer place to sink into a plump wicker lounge chair and luxuriate in a premium puro and rum to the sounds of live son and salsa. The garden views extend over the Atlantic – and the kaleidoscopic social scene may include quinceañera and/or model shoots, plus an endless stream of famous Cubans and international A-listers passing through.
Just down the hill from the Hotel Nacional, El Gato Tuerto is among Havana’s oldest nightclubs. Before the Revolution, it was the place to enjoy live fílin music. It still is – though today’s menu spans slow-tempo bolero to fast-paced Cuban jazz, 70s Motown and modern rap. Dim-lit, hazy with cigar smoke and packed with loyal regulars of a certain age, it gets going around 11pm – but get here early to snag a seat. The long-time house drink is the flaming orgasmo. Enjoy.
This is an updated rewrite of an article originally by Jack Guy.
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