Any bartender worth their salt can mix a decent Manhattan or gin and tonic. But watering holes that serve up an unparalleled atmosphere are much more rare. Quartz scoured the globe for one-of-a-kind bars and found these 10 establishments that belong on any cocktail lover’s bucket list.
Entering this Swiss bar is like stepping into the belly of an alien beast. The vaulted ceilings are lined with vertebrae, and instead of sitting on standard bar stools, patrons are cradled by exoskeletons. It’s all on theme: The bar is part of a museum dedicated to surrealist artist H.R. Giger, who designed the namesake otherworldly creature in Alien. The Chateau St. Germain is nestled in the medieval cheese town of Gruyères, but you’ll feel like you’re on an entirely different planet.
What to drink: Alien Blood (green vodka and Bailey’s)
Six stories underground in Paris’s 2nd arrondissement, Silencio is a semi-private club created by film director David Lynch. Drawing inspiration from the salons and literary circles of the early 20th century, the space—built in 1883—serves as a hub for fashion designers, artists, musicians and other creative types. Silencio’s atmospheric alcoves include a cozy art library, gold leaf-covered tunnel, and a performance stage featuring a reflective dance floor. After midnight, the doors open to nonmembers. If you can get past the bouncer, dance until the early morning to music spun by resident DJs and surprise guests.
What to drink: Ask for a custom concoction. If you’re stuck for inspiration, consider the Skinny—a drink described by the New York Times as containing mint, cucumber, line, elderflower syrup and Perrier
If you’re looking for a sensual evening, stop by this Shibuya bar—a showroom for hundreds of vibrators, with overtly erotic decor. The 3,000 yen ($26) cover for 90 minutes in the bar includes two drinks, but entrance is limited to women and couples only. Don the provided gloves and you can handle all the merchandise you like to see what tickles your fancy before placing an order with the online store.
What to drink: An Orgasm (Amaretto, Kahlúa and Bailey’s) would be appropriate
Patrons of this bar at the Per Aquum Niyama resort have the ultimate view of the Indian Ocean—because they are in it. Parrotfish and moray eels glide past the windows of Subsix, submerged 20 feet underwater and reachable only by high-speed boat. Anemone-shaped chairs flank the clam-inspired bar, where you can truly drink like fish.
What to drink: The Swing ‘n’ Swim (lemony gin, rum and pink grapefruit)
The world’s first bar made entirely of ice is located in this small Swedish town about 125 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The Icebar is built anew every year, as is the Icehotel Jukkasjärvi, where accommodations are fashioned out of ice and snow. Bar guests receive thermal capes so they can stay as cozy as possible while sitting on ice chairs draped with reindeer skins. It builds character!
What to drink: Absolut on the rocks
Modjadjiskloof, South Africa
A baobab tree’s trunk can hold up to 100,000 liters of water to sustain itself through dry seasons. And one particular baobab in Limpopo Province also holds plenty of alcohol. The Sunland Baobab tree is thousands of years old and possesses the widest trunk in the world—47 meters (154 feet) in circumference. Baobab trunks tend to hollow out after the 1,000-year mark, so in 1933, owners of the property opened up a pub inside the tree—complete with darts and Hobbit-style benches.
What to drink: A Castle lager
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Built inside a 10,000-year-old cave, this bar is named for mythical Mayan sprites that are small, mischievous and often invisible. After a few of the bar’s molecular cocktails and a stroll through the cave, which lights up as you explore, you’ll be feeling a little impish yourself.
What to drink: The Oaxaca (Mezcal, tequila with orange and mango molecules)
United Nations, New York
This bar is essentially a seventh U.N. council, open for deal-making (and occasional heartbreaking) in the second floor of the conference building. The lounge was redesigned in 2012, a gift from the Netherlands to the UN led by designer Hella Jongerius and architect Rem Koolhaas. Its colorful interior includes some of the space’s original Knoll club chairs and Eames lounge chairs. Access is restricted to those who have a badge—but should you be able to get in, the networking is unrivaled.
What to drink: Whatever Antonio is having
Los Angeles, California
In the early days of the automobile, business owners commissioned unusual buildings to stand out on the roadside. The mimetic architecture trend so emblematic of midcentury California is embodied in this whiskey-barrel-shaped taproom, built in 1941. The barrel housed a flamenco dinner theater before closing down and standing empty for three decades. The bar reopened as Idle Hour in 2015, a win for preservationists and anyone with a hankering for the retro North Hollywood bar scene.
What to drink: An Old Fashioned
For people who are never at home, the Addisons sure are hospitable—and they have nice taste. This bar, styled like a spacious Beverly Hills mansion, will appeal to anyone who prefers house parties over big nights out at the club. The music is mostly top 40 hits; the clientele largely over 25. If you don’t feel like dancing, you can get down with some board games or vintage arcade consoles. Belly up to the kitchen bar, or relax on the back patio.
What to drink: Anything you like—just don’t spill it on the sofa