Venture into Copenhagen’s vibrant and fun bars
By Virginia Miller
The beautiful and enchanting waterside city of Copenhagen, Denmark, can, on the food side, hunker down under the shadow of the great restaurant, Noma, which seems to determine the trends and menu-styles citywide. Thankfully, this is not so in the case of the city’s bars. Admittedly, the cocktail scene may not be as extensive as other bar-gems such as London, Tokyo or New York, or as consistently high quality as San Francisco, but it is certainly vibrant, fun and wide-ranging, and takes eager visitors on a journey through historic dives and into cocktail havens.
Here’s our pick of some of Copenhagen’s must-visit bars for lovers of gin cocktails and beyond:
Vesterbrogade 72B, 1620 Copenhagen, Denmark
One of Copenhagen’s best, Lidkoeb is housed in a three-storey, 1886 building in a courtyard off a parking lot. Really three bars in one. Opened by Adeline and Rasmus Shepherd-Lomborg in 2012, the outdoor garden patio offers food, while the ground floor bar is sunny, inviting and bright with colourful tiles, wood booths and a fireplace. Upstairs is a roomy space available for private parties, open Fridays and Saturdays. The top floor attic is a whisky bar under slanted roof, with booths draped in fur throws and dark woods, creating a cosy vibe. Downstairs boasts boozy shakes and an array of gin cocktails, like a gin/aquavit Hyggelig Martini to rotating drinks like Tyve Tyve (gin, cocoa nib-infused Lillet, lemon, carrot and parsnip juice).
Valkendorfsgade 11 1151 Copenhagen, Denmark
It’s hard to find a bar with a more communal spirit than Balderdash. Housed in a 1732 building, the basement fireplace warms up long Scandinavian winters, as does owner Geoffrey Canilao’s spirits collection (from whisky to Japanese gins and Bay Area small batch spirits, where he previously lived). You won’t struggle to make friends with fellow imbibers in the upstairs bar. You can reserve the disco ball-lit private nook, or grab a table in that well-stocked basement. Canilao’s cocktails are classy and interesting, whether a silky Banana & Tonic, clarified Hemingway Daiquiri, or gin-based Mushroom Alexander (Brandy Alexander twist). Look for gin in seasonal creations, like To Pimp a Butterfly, mixing gin and bubbles with a seaweed rhubarb shrub and elderflower.
Niels Hemmingsens Gade 32 1153 Copenhagen, Denmark
Open in 2012 by Swedish brothers, Michael and Andreas Nilsson (who came from bars like Milk & Honey in London or Salon 39, K-Bar and Brass Monkey in Copenhagen), Strøm means “power” in Danish. It may no longer be Copenhagen’s cocktail cutting edge, but as a local pioneer it remains one of the city’s most reliable cocktail havens, an Art Deco escape, under low ceilings with a wrap-around bar, communal vibe and friendly bartenders. With a relaxed elegance, classic cocktails dominate a menu grouped by spirits, with a gin section that might include a gin mojito, a gin and tonic cooled with Campari ice balls or a house creation like Strøm Club (gin, beetroot, absinthe, lemon, orange flower water, egg white), exuding a Ramos Gin Fizz floral smoothness.
Stenosgade 1 1616 Copenhagen, Denmark
One of Copenhagen’s destination cocktail bars, Curfew feels like Old Hollywood with its classic film and Prohibition-era photography, extensive vintage barware and bottles, all collected by owner Humberto Marques. Under black and white photographs of Lauren Bacall or Laurel and Hardy, cosy up on velvet couches or stools and order some of the city’s most exquisite cocktails. Marques’ cocktail and history knowledge — as well as his Portuguese roots — show in the barware, homemade liqueurs, bitters, syrups and beautiful blue and white bar tiles from Portugal. Changing cocktails cover the world in flavours and spirits, while house signatures include Tang Old Fashioneds and Marques’ dreamy Eucalyptus Martini, a favourite since 2009, combining Tanqueray No. Ten gin, lime, Cointreau, eucalyptus and egg white.
One of Copenhagen’s best bars — for cocktails, design and spirits — Duck and Cover is a mid-century style showcase of Danish design from the 1950s-60s. Located in the cool Vesterbro ‘hood, the bar is sleek with wood panelling, mid-century leather chairs and lamps. Knowledgeable bartenders guide you through rare local spirits, seasonal twists on classic cocktails or inspired house drinks. Rotating drinks are balanced and delicious, whether a Whisky Vanilla Flip or aquavit and dill shrub-based Dill-icious. Look for gin in bitter refreshers like Alfort (gin, Suze, grapefruit, tonic). “Duck and cover”, refers to seeking shelter and owner, Kasper Riewe Henriksen’s bar is an idyllic haven for seeking shelter with a drink.
August Bournonvilles Passage 1, 1055 Copenhagen, Denmark
Brønnum’s cocktails can unfortunately run a bit unbalanced — often too sweet in our recent visit — but the over 125-year-old space is one of Copenhagen’s most gorgeous bars, exuding a Parisian vibe. Street-side tables, out front in a cobblestone alley evoke romance, as does the hidden garden patio and lush, six-room bar glowing with chandeliers and velour chairs. Move from the Oval Room to the intimate Salon on a typically dark Scandinavian night, or smoke Cuban cigars while sipping Champagne in the garden or out front during the blessed late light of summer. Brønnum does right by an Irish coffee, while cocktails on the ever-changing menu include creations like a Winter Cobbler, featuring Plymouth Sloe Gin, Cognac, port and red wine, cherry, orange, lemon balm and spices. Opened by Rasmus and Adeline Shepard-Lomborg of Ruby and Lidkoeb, Brønnum could, with tighter drink execution, stand alongside those two as one of the city’s great bars.
1203 Copenhagen, Denmark
Ruby was opened in 2007 by bar entrepreneurs Rasmus and Adeline Shepard-Lomborg (also of Lidkoeb) in a 1740 townhouse on Nybrogade 10. Ruby ushered in Copenhagen’s cocktail renaissance and set the standard for the Scandinavian cocktail scene in general. Behind an unmarked door, an elegant front bar gives way to multiple intimate spaces in which to linger with a drink, whether in massive booths, leather chairs or under chandeliers in a covered atrium. Cocktails on the changing menu are among Copenhagen’s best, including the likes of an Emerald Martini (gin, aquavit, Mancino Bianco vermouth, parsley dust), properly exhibiting the cool, vibrant flavours of Scandinavia.
2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
Paloma Vermut is an all-day café and vermouth bar in Nørrebro, opened in 2018 by the Barking Dog crew. It feels like the kind of enoteca bar/cafe one finds in Italy or Spain, but with Danish pastries, breakfasts, third wave coffee and specials like lemon curd pie. Paloma exudes Mediterranean spirit, serving anchovies and vermouth in a welcoming space, that offers sidewalk seating in nicer weather. Housed in a former butcher’s shop, this chill European café invites casual day-drinking, Palomas, vermouth and charcuterie. You can mix and match gin with vermouths as you wish, while their Bloody Mary features gin with vermouth, Worcestershire, Cholula Mexican hot sauce, celery and tomato juice.
Rastløs – Akvavit Bar Copenhagen
Vi.Er Akvavit, Ravnsborg Tværgade 72200 Copenhagen, Denmark
A tiny gem of a bar, Rastløs is the world’s first aquavit bar, opening in the hip Nørrebro neighborhood in mid-2018. While it’s not about gin, aquavit’s sisterly kinship with gin — often exhibiting the more savoury side with botanicals like dill, cumin, caraway and anise in a clear spirit — and its crucial place in Scandinavian culture, makes Rastløs one of Copenhagen’s destination-worthy bars. Founder Frederick-Sebastian Krause is the creator of Vi.Er.Akvavit. Krause envisioned a bar to showcase not only his aquavits but the wide range of the category, highlighted in a few thoughtful cocktails alongside craft beers. You won’t find any spirit but aquavit in this little bar, but drinks are often gin cocktail recipes updated for aquavit’s
The Barking Dog
Sankt Hans Gade 19, 2200 Copenhagen, Denmark
The Barking Dog is one of Copenhagen’s most welcoming bars with comfy nooks, engaged staff and a modern pub feel, lined with agave spirits, red banquettes, black and white floor tiles and mezcal posters. Drinks will please the cocktail geek as well as any casual drinker, with thoughtful but easy-drinking cocktails. Conversation and lingering are encouraged by friendly staff and music blessedly kept at a reasonable volume. The smart, playful drink menu runs heavy on classics, highballs and the aforementioned agave spirits (tequila, mezcal), but gin plays prominent in changing offerings like a “Negroni and Tonic”, Aviations or Titanic Negronis aged in half-glass, half-wood.