Though once Bohemia was a country, the term Bohemian comes instead from the roving French Romani gypsies that were thought to have entered France through Bohemia in the 15th century. Not only was Bohemia known for its religious freedoms, but the people who came from it encompassed a lifestyle beyond the normal social conventions. They were thought of as spiritual and artistic, liberal with thoughts and love and utterly undisturbed by other people’s opinions.
In a stuffy early 19th century society, this life of freedom was attractive to the young and constrained, the politically and artistically minded and those who would otherwise be known as social deviants. Many associate this sort of Bohemian with the film ‘Moulin Rouge!’ and though it is a tragic tale, there is more that appeals than unrequited love. The life beyond the social bounds and frankly faded opulence of the Monmarte’s theatrical epicentre have continued to enthral people since the film’s release, with Moulin Rouge Tickets being an intrinsic part of any trip to Paris.
Cocktail bars have been especially adept at creating a bohemian fantasy, serving up classic prohibition cocktails in an air of 20’s deviancy, or imitating more earthy aspects of the early bohemians. Across the globe, there are scattered pockets of paradise that enfold you into a judgment free embrace of indulgence and excess. We have found a few of these fantastical bars that ease you back into a nostalgic past.
Lulu White – Paris
Named after the infamous Madame of New Orleans who ran the most notorious brothel in Storyville, Lulu White brings a sultry slice of the Deep South into spitting distance of the Moulin Rouge. Though Lulu White may seem more brash than bohemian, its absolute adoration to absinthe makes it a perfect bohemian snug and a wonderful end to any night time Paris tour. The green fairy that causes such devotion in the film ‘The Moulin Rouge’ was well-loved among Parisian artists and writers, making it a staple of the Bohemian lifestyle and therefore many of Lulu White’s cocktails.
Cuchi Cuchi- Boston
Combining old Hollywood glamour with sense of the eccentric, Cuchi Cuchi is a fabulous restaurant that has honed its cocktail selection to perfection. The sense of style is carried throughout, from the eclectic interior to the dress of the servers. With fresh modern twists on classic cocktails as well as a few Cuchi Cuchi originals, whether you are enjoying a meal of its small plates, or just a drink at the bar, you will be transported to an alternate reality.
Though knee-deep in cocktail and bar awards, The Nightjar refuses to sit on its laurels as it creates an ever more daring cocktail menu that is at odds with its old school atmosphere of class and refined extravagance. The opulence necessary to any speak easy, masks the cutting edge flavours being produced in the cluttered nest of bottles that hold so much promise after an evening at a London show. Including plankton and insects combined with the UK’s largest collection of French and Swiss Absinthes, The Nightjar is a wonderful escape from any busy day in the city.
A Pardoia – Lisbon
A beautiful fusion of luxury and antique clutter, A Parodia (The Parody) is one of Lisbon’s best kept secret bars. The old antique shop feel has never left the bar, and with old magazines and vintage matchboxes on the walls, the bar delights with spectacular classic cocktails as well as an expansive menu of (unsurprisingly) port. This bar has been around for 40 odd years and still maintains an old fashioned way of doing things, though with friendly and helpful hosts it continues to delight those who stumble upon it.
Lillie’s – New York
Named after the lustrous Lillie Langtry, this Victorian-style bar in New York honours her memory of bucking Victorian trends. At home with every strata of society, from presidents to poets, Lillie Langtry was an iconic of bohemian ideals within an accepted society structure. Lillie’s bar in New York not only combines an enormous marble bar with antique wooden carvings but an atmosphere that encourages an uninhibited attitude especially after an exhausting day shopping in New York. With a seasonal and classic cocktail menu, Lillie’s is satiate any nostalgic desire for old world elegance.
NOLA – London
Another New Orleans inspired bar, NOLA is all about light, colour and elegance and the perfect finale to a London River Thames dinner cruise. The cocktail menu is made up of New Orleans classics and original NOLA creations inspired by the city. Seasonally inspired, the setting and the drinks almost scream the high drama of Mardi Gras that the city is so famous for. Though currently closed for renovation, NOLA will reopen imminently and continue to delight.
Puff - Vienna
This brothel turned bar is ruthless with its past, choosing to fuse it with the future in a way not seen in any of the other bars on this list. Puff is dominated by a theatre style light, the bar is set centre stage and this is truly where the magic happens. The rooms of the brothel have been left with their history intact, but bottles dangle catching light on the glass and add a futuristic element to the décor. The cocktails are daring and delightful and are arguably the best in the city.
Experimental Cocktail Club – Paris
Mere moments from The Louvre, this cocktail club has seen its fair share of fame and awards. It is all about the in-house cocktails as well as the music while the décor resembles a country house chic as opposed to elegant excess, lurching from exposed beams to mirrored tables and cut glass. While France has been slow to join the cocktail conversion, The Experimental Cocktail Club brings all of New York’s metropolitan attitude and mixologist skill into play in such a glorious setting, a wonderful place for drinks before dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant.
Jerry Thomas – Rome
This speak easy is incredibly intimate, a tiny room means reservations are necessary, and as a members only club, it refrains from being touristy despite its proximity to Campo de Fiori. An unmarked door needs a password to enter and there are rules for the tiny space, including no photos with flash, no talk of politics and no questioning the bar tender. For all that it has the best cocktails in the city, and will make anything off menu as long as it doesn’t include vodka. The Jerry Thomas Project is a must visit if you are in the eternal city and in need of something more than wine after a long day on your feet after a walking tour of Rome.
El Jardin Secreto- Madrid
El Jardin Secreto seeks to create a fairy realm that leaves the technology, stress and bustle of day to day life outside of the blue door. Inside every corner and piece of furniture has something to delight and transfix you. Along with soothing music and a tranquil atmosphere, you are lured into serenity before alcohol even passes your lips.
Bar Bosc des les Fades – Barcelona
This may be one of the oddest bars on the list, as a waxwork museum and cocktail bar with a woodland and fairy theme, it feels as if you have passed into a set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A high standard of beverage and an unusual setting means Bar Bosc des les Fades is a setting you have to see for yourself even if it is just for a single drink before dinner. Curious faces peep between the branches and though that may be off putting after a few, initially it is charming.
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