The best new places for a cocktail in Havana

Cocktail hour in Havana is something of a misnomer since it is always time for a cocktail somewhere, at least once we have got past breakfast time. Nowhere immortalizes this tradition more than El Floridita with its life-size statue of Papa Hemingway sipping his customary daiquiri. Earlier in the day, he would take in a mojito at La Bodeguita del Medio. Today both places are packed with camera-touting tourists and, while still fun and full of atmosphere, you will meet few regular ‘normal’ Cubans there. The recently re-opened Sloppy Joe’s has been done fabulously well and is worth stopping by, as is the sublime terrace of the iconic Hotel Nacional. All of these places, however, still hark back to Havana’s past. For a glimpse of the future, we have selected some of the recently opened bars and clubs where you can still get a great cocktail but are more likely to be listening to a jazz-fusion house mix than Buena Vista Social Club.

Bohemio Bar
Calle 21 #1065 e/ 12 y 14, Vedado
(+53) 7-833-6918

Bar Bohemio is more of a Bohemian-style café than bar, owned and managed by ex-ballerinas from the National Ballet Company. This is an extremely comfortable and warm place with great music, which makes it a perfect spot to meet up with friends for (calm) drinks. There is a large patio terrace outside and nice space inside the spacious Vedado mansion.

Casa Miglis
Lealtad #120 e/ Ánimas y Lagunas, Centro Habana
(+53) 7- 864-1486 www.casamiglis.com

Something of an oasis in Centro Habana, little is given away by the regular entrance, but as soon as you walk into the restaurant you get an idea why this took Mr. Miglis over a year to renovate this building to fit his dream of opening Cuba’s first experiment in Swedish cuisine. The ceilings are high, the decoration minimalist but with that attention to detail of Swedish heritage—the pike fish, the fern, the chairs high up above the bar. The finishing is superb, the lines all so very clean. This has a very small bar, which is a good place just to drop in for a mojito.

El Cocinero
Calle 26 e/ 11 y 13, Vedado
El Cocinero opened in February 2013 and has instantly become a smash hit. Located underneath the imposing brick chimney of the same name (which used to be a vegetable oil factory), this bar/restaurant is reached via three flights of circular stairs, which go up vertiginously lighthouse-style. It is worth the effort to reach the sunken roof, which has ample space for drinks and food. This place has a renovated industrial space look, good music, nice décor and has attracted a mixed crowd of affluent young Cubans, expatriates, as well as families for dinner. Try the mango daiquiri in season—superb.

Esencia Habana
Calle B, e/ Línea y Calzada, Vedado
(+53) 7-836-3031

There is a good vibe here when it fills up later in the evening with an interesting clientele of mostly Cuban twenty-somethings. This is the place they come when they have clocked off their shift at a nearby paladar. The music is good and the décor modern if a little generic if you have ever been in an Irish pub reaching for old-world authenticity—it works ok here since it is one of a kind. Real attention is put into cocktail making here. If you’re brave ask for the Indio Special.

El Litoral
Malecón #161 e/ K y L, Vedado
(+53) 7-830-2201

Entering the spacious and well-decorated restaurant, you quickly understand why it took the owners 18 months to finish the renovations to this beautiful mansion. This was definitely time well spent to make each of the several eating areas and bar a real delight. The ceilings are high but this is a modern finish with tasteful and elegant furniture, lights and tableware, which have been carefully put together. There are a few tables outside where you can watch the world go by on the busy Malecón. This is a place to try something different.

Madrigal
Calle 17 #302 (altos) e/ 2 y 4, Vedado
(+53) 7-831-2433

Café Madrigal is the sort of place that Hemingway would have liked in his Paris phase—intellectual, intense, artistic. A gathering point, a meeting place. After a whole year of repairs and transformations to the original structure (which dates back to 1919), Rafael Rosales opened Café Madrigal. While the bare brick walls reveal the work of masons who materialized the architecture of the emerging El Vedado in the early 20th century, they disclose also the story of Rosales’s life through art and images, pictures and artefacts. Stick to something simple here—a mojito should do the trick.

O’Reilly 304
O’Reilly e/ Habana y Aguiar, Habana Vieja
5-264-4725

It is easy to miss O’Reilly 304 since the sign is discrete. Don’t make the mistake of asking someone for directions though since it is located at number 304 on O’Reilly Street. This is one of a new wave of places helping to transform eating and dining in Old Havana. Once inside, you realize how well they have used the space on a split-level restaurant, which prepares an excellent and reasonably limited menu (love the tacos). If you’re not hungry but cocktail hour calls, you should try the excellent gin and tonic here.

Somavilla Bar
15 y H, Vedado
Somavilla is catering to a young and hip crowd. This opened in August 2013 with a bang as the location for the first presentation of American DJ Derek Turcios in Havana. The bar itself is spacious but still intimate, located in a Vedado duplex. It is also non-smoking, which is a real relief. Good service and a place to get well-made and inexpensive cocktails.

Sangri-La
Ave. 21 e/ 36 y 42, Miramar
(+53) 5-264-8343

Located in the basement of a Miramar mansion up on 21st Avenue (& 42nd street), don’t be put off by the exterior—this is more akin to a Cuban yuppie bar than a working man’s club. This is the Havana Farándula. Sangri-La is a little more unpredictable than the others and is probably the most interactive with more of an open-plan setup encouraging more mixing.


  • Starbien

    Starbien  LH 5+

    Located in a sleepy residential neighbourhood of Vedado in a two storey colonial house, Starbien has an update and modern feel, which seems a little out of sync with the neighbourhood. Upstairs there …

    La Zorra y el Cuervo

    La Zorra y el Cuervo  LH 5

    Probably the most well known venue for jazz in Havana, the ‘Fox & Crow’ offers an intimate environment in this basement venue notably marked by a red English telephone box at its entrance. Top jaz …

    El Cocinero

    El Cocinero  LH 5+

    El Cocinero opened in February 2013 and has instantly become a smash hit. Located underneath the imposing brick chimney of the same name (which used to be a vegetable oil factory), this bar/restaurant …

    Bertolt Brecht Café Teatro

    Bertolt Brecht Café Teatro  LH 5

    The Teatro Bertolt Brecht has a number of attractions including No Se Lo Digas a Nadie (Don’t tell anyone!) nights which features some of the best contemporary Cuban musicians in an MTV’s unplugged sc …

    Sangri-la

    Sangri-la  LH 5

    Sangri-La was the first in the new wave of bars to open in the summer of 2012 and is still going strong. This is located in the basement of a Miramar mansion up on 21st Avenue (&42nd street) which …

    La Fontana

    La Fontana  LH 5

    The basement bar at La Fontana used to offer a comfortable (albeit invariably smoky) place to drink the night away. In early 2012 ago this bar was closed and a major renovation undertaken, which has r …

    Humboldt 52

    Humboldt 52  LH 5

    Opened in May 2013, the hot staff, comfortable setting, and welcoming vibe at this, Havana’s first full-time, openly-gay bar, make for a fun night out, regardless of orientation. There’s plenty of sea …

    TaBARish

    TaBARish  LH 5

    Best for:  A comfortable place to chat / hang out with your friends. Great service. Don’t Miss: The homemade Russian soup – just like Matushka makes it.

    Casa Miglis

    Casa Miglis  LH 5

    Little is given away by the regular entrance, but as soon as you walk into the restaurant you get an idea why this took Mr Miglis over a year to renovate this building to fit his dream of opening Cuba …

    Havana Libre Hotel – Salon Turquino

    Havana Libre Hotel – Salon Turquino  LH 4

    Definitely a place for posh spice. This is certainly the best view in Havana to watch a cabaret show (there is often a popular band and disco following the show). The room is on the 26th floor of the …

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