Alex Kratena’s Top 20 World Bars (and a few more)

He only left Artesian a few months ago, but already Alex Kratena has witnessed the best that global bartending has to offer – thanks to his ability to travel the world! Here Alex picks a few great places that he’s stopped by.

These guys will show you how hospitality is done.

I think it is important to look for something new as a bartender. I define my work as a chance to discover new ideas, and learn about all aspects of our industry. I feel there’s huge potential for inspiration outside of the bar world, but equally I’ve learned a lot by simply visiting great bars.

It’s pretty much impossible to list my Top 20 since there are way too many amazing bars, but here’s the ultimate list of places you can find me hanging, I mean learning.

I am writing this on the train from Paris, where I’ve been working for the last two days. I never miss a night out in Paris without visiting Le Syndicat. They specialise in 100% French produce. The spirit selection is incredible and cocktails are mega. Syndicat plays hip-hop only, service is friendly, the interior stunning. Ask the beautiful Marela for Drop the Beet cocktail.

Aesop meets techno

Last week I was running a takeover in Singapore and we managed to throw in a night off to visit local bars. Operation Dagger by the talented Luke Whearty is always on my list. The place looks like a cross between an Aesop store and a minimal techno club and you must drink Banana Wine and Bee Pollen Refashioned. This bar wins for its innovative approach and artful blend of modern techniques with interesting ingredients.

If you are travelling to Japan, make sure you pay a visit to Gen Yamamoto in Azabu-Juban, Tokyo. It’s a small place with a distinct aesthetic, serving a 4- or 6-course cocktail tasting menu that’s constantly in the flux of the seasons. There’s no music and it feels like going to the spa!

Talking of holidays, my friend Bar Shira from Israel has not only the coolest name ever, but also owns Imperial Craft, an insanely amazing bar just 15 metres from the beach in downtown Tel Aviv. After you’ve done some swimming, grab a little food at La Otra, dress up and then head to see Bar and his team.

The guys at this bar are killing it

Back to the city: when in NYC my fav place is Nomad. The guys at this bar are killing it, Daniel Humm’s food is to die for and, if you’re lucky, Nathan will be behind the stick. These guys will show you how hospitality is done. Nomad is great for many reasons and together with Bar Goto, my other NYC favourite they showcase that New York has the best bar food in the world.

However, if there’s one bar in the city that always over-delivers it is Employees Only. The best night to visit is a Sunday – enjoy their legendary tartare.

In Chicago, one of the most exciting restaurant scenes in the world, my favourite bar is Aviary. The cult bar from the team behind Alinea showcases what I describe as creativity on steroids. The genius of this place is not only the cocktails, but also methodology; techniques and logistics are what make it such a great success. Don’t forget to pop in to The Office, the bar on the lower floor.

Heavy metal, cocktails, vegan food

If you happen to visit San Diego go to Kindred. It has a stunning interior, heavy metal, cocktails and vegan food – a great combo indeed! Their merch is supercool, and once finished jump in a cab and head to Polite Provisions, the best neighbourhood bar ever! Great cocktails and a wonderful selection of local craft beers in a stunning setting. Make sure to order their special whisky bottling.

London is a match for any US city, and If there’s one bar that creates conversation and challenges the conventions it’s definitely White Lyan. Grab a house Negroni with Lyan passion fruit ale.

Peg + Patriot is a killer cocktail bar by Matt Whiley in Bethnal Green. Any visit to the UK capital is not complete without drinks here. It’s one of those places where you look at the menu and you’re like: 'I wanna try everything!' Since you are in the area grab a beer at Mother Kelly’s and say hi to Marcus at Sager + Wilde, his drinks and flavour combos are mega: you’re welcome!

If it’s a meeting, or just a quick espresso, Termini in London’s Soho is the place to be. Termini Negronis are dangerous and my fav is Negroni Robusto. Say hi to Roberta, Zdenko and Robin. It has a great vibe, a fantastic location and delicious drinks in hand with superb service.

Berlin is the hot city in Europe right now and even though there are a million reasons to visit, Buck and Breck must always be on the list. Berlin is hot, but there’s so much more to the German bar scene. Whilst in Frankfurt visit Parlour, when in Munich try to get to Circle by Cihan Anadologlu. Located at Heart House private members’ club it’s a tough place to get to, but worth the try: just be nice!

I love Greece, and Athens has a very exciting bar scene indeed, especially the guys at The Clumsies. Open all day it makes a perfect place to grab a coffee, date, light lunch, or late-night cocktails. Clumsies understand Greek bar culture and mix it perfectly with an international twist.

Flavours you’ve never tasted before

I spent my entire February working in Lima and my top choice in this magical city are two places: Malabar and Maido. Both are restaurants with amazing bars. Book in advance and go straight for the tasting menu with beverage pairing. They use Amazonian ingredients to create flavours you will have never tasted before.

Next week I’ll be flying to Mexico and before we head to Oaxaca I will meet some friends at Licoreria Limantour. Ask for Jose Luis and the Chiamborito cocktail. These guys put the Mexico City bar scene on the map.

Further south, hidden behind some graffiti murals on a shabby-looking house in Costa Rica Street, Buenos Aires is Tegui. This legendary restaurant with a tiny bar serves incredible cocktails using local Argentinian ingredients. Try their signature vermouth cocktail infused with herbs that grow 4000 metres-plus above sea level. It is incredible to witness the effect of altitude – and the change of attitude to cocktails in high-end restaurants around the world.