An Expert Mixologist on Where To Get the Best Cocktails in Istanbul
Kevin Patnode is an award-winning mixologist | Courtesy of Kevin J Patnode Jr
When the sun goes down in Istanbul, expert mixologists come out to play. Expect them to be shaking and stirring unique blends, such as salted-caramel vodka with spicy ginger tonic, at bars across the city. Here are the best places to sip on your next cocktail in Istanbul, according to leading mixology expert Kevin Patnode.
Nights out in Istanbul offer a rich variety of crafty cocktails in venues ranging from fancy rooftop bars to low-key speakeasies. In recent years, the city has seen the growth of an extensive selection of renowned bars dedicated to the fine art of cocktail making, where skilled mixologists create delicious seasonal recipes with fresh ingredients. Kevin Patnode, an award-winning mixologist, narrows down his favourite places to get a cocktail in the city.
Geyik Coffee Roastery and Cocktail Bar
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Coffee Shop, Turkish, $$$
Centrally located in the hip Cihangir area of Beyoğlu, Geyik gets so busy that patrons of the bar spill onto the main street almost every night. A third-wave coffee shop by day, this venue turns into one of the city’s best cocktail bars by night, starting at 5pm. As one of the first cocktail bars in the city, Geyik is now a town classic. Patnode recommends trying the classic cocktail options here. “I might be biased, because I helped create the cocktail menu,” says Patnode, “but I think they do the best whiskey sour in town.” Other classic options to be enjoyed here include their unique takes on the old-fashioned and mojito cocktails.
Joker No:19 is a small and acclaimed bar right in the middle of Beşiktaş, one of the city’s busiest and most dense neighbourhoods. “Most people in the city think this busy beer hall is mostly for rowdy college kids, but they have one of the best cocktail lists in the city,” says Patnode. The bar staff here are well-trained and knowledgeable cocktail aficionados who are happy to make suggestions on what to order. If you’re on a budget, one of the main perks of this venue is their relatively budget-friendly prices. Patode recommends going for one of their signature house cocktails, which include Mule 19 (their interpretation of the classic Moscow mule), made with salted caramel vodka, pineapple juice, sweet and sour sauce and spicy ginger tonic.
A modern Turkish and Middle Eastern meze (tapas) restaurant located in the historic Pera district, Aheste’s delicious cocktails should get as much recognition as their delicious food options. The restaurant offers special wine and cocktail pairings with their tasting menu, with cocktails ranging from classics like the negroni and the Moscow mule to downright experimental options like the Pera, prepared with beetroot, egg whites and chocolate flakes. Aheste’s convenient location and intimate setting (think tables set close together with wooden chairs and exposed brick walls) make it a popular choice with customers looking for a quick cocktail fix. “I always enjoy stopping by after work before it’s busy, when the kitchen opens at 6.30pm,” says Patnode.
A haven for foodies, this famous fine-dining restaurant located at the top of the Marmara Pera Hotel is also a great place to grab a cocktail. Mikla’s chic rooftop bar offers panoramic views of Istanbul’s skyline. Here, you can enjoy cocktails prepared with local herbs and tinctures, which lure in cocktail enthusiasts from across Istanbul. “In the warmer months you must try one of their signature cocktails, or a gin and tonic garnished with herbs they grow themselves, and watch the sunset,” says Patnode.
Found in the popular neighborhood of Moda on Istanbul’s Anatolian side, Mathilda’s Cocktail Bar and Kitchen conducts cocktail workshops for those looking for a unique way to spend an evening. Their cocktail menu, created by accomplished mixologist Vedat Akar, consists of nine signature cocktails, infused with ingredients like kumquats, wasabi and dry fig. A must-try cocktail is the No:3, made with vodka, cherry sour and white chocolate. “The friendly staff are always ready to make something bespoke according to your tastes, your mood and the season,” says Patnode.
Kaia in Bebek is a speakeasy inspired by izakayas (Japanese pubs). This venue serves Japanese food and top-notch cocktails, according to Patnode, who recommends trying one of their signature cocktails and lists the Taurus Highball, prepared with whiskey and coconut soda, among his favourites. Kaia has an intimate vibe that’s perfect for date night, and the quirky decoration, which includes spray-painted walls, retro space-themed stickers and dimly lit round tables, stays true to the Japanese izakaya theme.