The Best Places for Cocktails in Brussels

Pretty in pink
Pretty in pink | Courtesy of Life is Beautiful
Nana Van De Poel

Admittedly, Brussels hasn’t always been the place to find speakeasies and original cocktail bars by the dozen. It’s safe to say that Antwerp still holds onto that crown for the moment. Luckily, though, the cocktail times are changing for the capital; atmospheric venues such as La Pharmacie Anglaise and Green Lab are slowly but surely turning the mixology tide.

1. La Pharmacie Anglaise

Cocktail Bar, Belgian, Cocktails

La Pharmacie Anglaise

At La Pharmacie Anglaise on the Mont des Arts, owner Francesco Ravo has turned a gorgeous pharmacy into a mixology haven. As much curiosity cabinet as it is gentlemen’s salon, the neo-Gothic property by famed MIM-architect Paul Saintenoy is bursting with oddities you might find on an apothecary’s century-old shelves, except the bird skeletons and unspeakable items in formaldehyde are now joined by qualitative gin, mezcal, and scotch. Winding up here feels a bit like you stumbled into the luxurious lair of a mad scientist, albeit, one that serves a mean seasonal cocktail.

2. L’Archiduc

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Beer, Cocktails

LArchiduc
Courtesy of L'Archiduc

This Bourse-adjacent jazz fixture has seen the likes of Nat King Cole and Bill Evans tickle the keys of its grand piano. Ever since its beginnings as a ‘30s rendezvous place for businessmen and their secretaries, L’Archiduc’s cocktails have played their part. As the discreet booths disappeared and the spacious Art Deco establishment became a jazz Valhalla under the watchful eye of local big band director Stan Brenders, the whiskeys, bourbons, and traditional cocktails and mélanges kept flowing. Ring the doorbell for entry through the bubble doors and see the small but strong daiquiris emerge from the bar at surprisingly fair prices for such a Brussels legend.

3. Green Lab

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, Contemporary, Belgian

Green Lab
Courtesy of Green Lab

The green fairy is alive and well at Brussels’ Green Lab, a contemporary speakeasy on the posh Avenue Louise. Besides quality absinthe, the green-hued bar boasts 400 different kinds of gin and expertly infuses them with homegrown herb syrups. Their mixology joys pair up nicely with plenty of live music and late-night DJ sessions.

4. Life is Beautiful

Cocktail Bar, Tapas, Cocktails

Life is Beautiful cocktail
courtesy of Life is Beautiful

From a monthly tasting to a stint on Rue Américaine and finally to their own fully fledged, leafy bar, Harouna and Karoline were able to open Life is Beautiful in October 2016. While the master bartender rightfully takes pride in his self-concocted syrups, liqueurs, bitters, and infusions made on the spot, the warm hostess makes her way around with homemade finger food. Harouna is all too glad to share his cocktail secrets in monthly workshops held in the cozy, relaxed space.

5. La Canne à Sucré

Restaurant, Caribbean, Belgian, Cocktails

The oldest rhumerie in Brussels, and the closest you’ll get to feeling on holiday in the Caribbean, La Canne à Sucré has over 200 rum-based drinks and a delightfully kitschy interior up its sleeve. Spicy, exotic dishes tingle the need for their elaborately decorated cocktails even more, and before you know it, you’ll be walking out of the palm tree-filled place with plans of booking a flight.

6. Le Café Floréo

Bar, Cocktail Bar, Beer, Cocktails

Café Floréos dry martini
Courtesy of Café Floréo

What better to pair with Wednesday jam sessions or weekend DJ sets than a tasty frozen cocktail, Le Café Floréo must have thought, and it is, indeed, difficult to argue with that logic. The jovial, vintage-style bar is known as one of the best addresses in town for live music, but their original concoctions such as the signature “Green Lantern” (vodka, lime, melon, ginger, and fresh kiwi juice) are not to be ignored. It’s like sipping a dry martini in your living room, only a bit more boisterous and with the best of Brussels’ music scene at your fingertips.

7. Lord Byron

Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Belgian

Café Floréos dry martini
Courtesy of Café Floréo

It’s easy to see why Barry Jenkins wound up in the tucked-away artist nook Lord Byron while penning his screenplay for the 2017 Academy Award-winning Moonlight. The bohemian café off the humdrum Place de Saint-Géry, with its vintage furniture, is just the place a contemplative creative might settle down. As a rule, its Kosovar owner Bajram – hence “Byron” since no one could pronounce his name properly – keeps the music soothing and the atmosphere primed for pleasant conversation. Bajram’s Black and White Russians are above par and affordable, but when all is said and done, it’s Lord Byron’s atmosphere that should have you running to this cherished spot in downtown Brussels.

8. Hortense & Humus

Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Vegetarian, Belgian

Café Floréos dry martini
Courtesy of Café Floréo

What started as an intimate little cocktail bar underground has grown into a culinary experience that’s hard to resist. Hortense Chapter 2, mixologist Mathieu’s candle-lit and hard-to-spot speakeasy that opened in a Sablon vault in 2013, has joined forces with vegetarian chef Nicolas Decloedt’s home restaurant, Humus Botanical Gastronomy. At the beginning of 2017, the duo moved into the much lighter and sumptuous former tearoom, La Mercerie, together. Mathieu’s botanical cocktails (and mocktails) and Nicolas’s plant-based haute cuisine go together like peas in a pod, making Hortense & Humus a particularly exciting new foodie venture.

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