Still in town? Here's where you should drink in Vedado and Playa
First, we wish you all a Happy New Year, we hope that 2017 will be filled with wonderful projects — and great Cuban cocktails!
To help you with the latter goal, the BarNews team kickstarts the year with the second part of our best ‘newish' Havana bars feature. After spending time on the great spots in Old and Central Havana, we turn our attention towards Vedado and other neighbourhoods that may not strike such a chord with tourists as the colonial area, but probably offer a mucho more authentic Cuban experience. Here are our three choices for your upcoming Havana trip.
Fabrica de Arte Cubano / El Cocinero
FAC, as it is commonly known, is probably the highest profile spot to have opened in the last few years in Havana: it’s drawn rave reviews from the international press and is a compulsory stop for any arty tourist. Located in an old olive oil factory and masterminded by Cuban musician X-Alfonso, the multi-space, multi-floor venue houses exhibitions of the brightest local artists, performances, concerts… You name it, they do it. FAC has obviously become a magnet for hip young Cubans who come to enjoy the shows… and the drinks: the place offers many bars — the one outside by the stunning mango-tree being a favorite. Drinks are hit and miss, but a simple aguardiente Caipirinha or a Mojito always hit the mark. Right next to FAC, you’ll also find El Cocinero, a very much in-demand restaurant and bar — you really need to book in advance. The food’s great and the bar’s not bad either — although the drinks tend to look backward rather than forward. El Cocinero is also a genuine people-watching spot as all the celebrities that come to Havana seem to end up there! All in all, FAC and El Cocinero promote current Cuban culture, and that’s something that we’d celebrate even if the food and drinks weren’t good. Go, we say, go!
Calle 26, between 11 and 13. +53 78 32 23 55.
The last few years have seen a flurry of grand houses from the Playa district turned into stunning paladares. We could have picked quite a few but we decided to opt for Espacios, as we found it to be consistently good. Various rooms of the mansions are accessible, each with its own atmosphere (hence the name, insisting on a variety of spaces), but the real star of the show is the garden at the back. Some call it a beer garden and indeed it’s not a bad spot to enjoy a Cristal, but it’s also perfect for a fresh Daiquiri after a long day of sightseeing or before a party-filled evening. Out there, you can also watch over the cooks grilling meat or baking a pizza in their outdoor oven. As is now growing more usual throughout Havana, Espacios offers a good selection of spirits but rum remains the star of the show. Finally, it also provides a great opportunity to discover from the inside the noble houses of Miramar, usually only admired from the outside.
513, Calle 10. +53 72 02 29 21
It’s easy to be critical of Sarao’s. First, it looks completely out of place in a rather traditional area of Vedado, with its white façade and fluorescent lights. Second, its door policy might strike us as being a tad too elitist. Third, once inside, it seems they’re trying a bit too hard for the Miami-look. But it pays to go beyond the appearances. If you’re looking for a party, Sarao’s really finds its groove at night and is mostly patronized by Cubans. The music might be a little bit too international in its outlook for out-of-country visitors, but there’s a real atmosphere in there and that’s something you have to respect. It’s not Sarao’s only good points, though: its bar program is also noteworthy. As we’ve mentioned before, spirits availability has never been as good in Cuba, and Sarao’s has one of the most striking selection in town. They stock some excellent booze and they also know how to mix it up. If you’re bored with classics Cuban cocktails (we wonder why, but, eh, everything can happen), the bartenders here will be happy to mix you a perfect Rob Roy or an Old Fashioned. Alternatively, ask for a Natural Daiquiri, served up: here, they work with fresh juices and, of course, the best Cuban rum. At night, the staff obviously prefers to offer bottle service so if, for you, cocktails take precedence over fiesta, get there a little earlier. And forget about initial misgivings.
Calle 17, corner Calle E. +53 78 32 04 33