Just around the corner from the acclaimed Jugendstil fanfare of Alberta iela, there’s a mixology bar churning out creations equally as embellished as the surrounding Art Nouveau district’s flowery facades. The specialty menu is full of imaginative recipes and pristine executions of any pre-Prohibition classic you may fancy, and that’s why we’ll be the first to cross our hearts and hope to die – Bar XIII is slingin’ some of the best drinks in Riga.
Opening their doors about two years ago, the concept centers around crafted cocktails from the bar and froufrou finger foods and miniature mains from the kitchen. We weren’t expecting the latter, and were thus unable to indulge due to an impending dinner reservation in old town. Cold smoked salmon tartar with quail egg or forest mushrooms in truffle butter sure would have been nice…you win some, you lose some. But enough lamenting. We went for great drinks and that’s exactly what we got.
The head bartender and his team shape the ever-evolving cocktail list with ideas refined over the course of months, even years, but always leaving room for the surprises afforded by experimentations on the fly. There’s a bit of flash and bang employed in the presentation, but it’s no gimmick. Where other bars might use the guise of ostentatious shaking and stirring to mask mediocre drinks, the Bar XIII staff know that after the ooh’s and ah’s subside, the proof is in the pudding.
Take their ‘Drunk Healer’ for example. First, fresh pine needles are lit on fire and then left to smoke and smolder under an overturned tumbler. Then the remaining concoction of rum and fresh apple and lime juices is shaken together. Once properly mixed, the medley is poured over a branded ice cube and introduced to the lingering earthen sensation of smoked pine already inside the glass. It was surely tangy and sweet enough for warm weather, but the coolness of the pine made it just as nice in the briskness of mid-March.
There are lots of bars in Riga. And thanks to novelties like being located at the top of a skyscraper or mixing in the locally produced Riga Black Balsam, they’re all intent on convincing you that they’ve got something special to offer. Of the few in Riga that deserve the hype, Bar XIII is undoubtedly one.
Strēlnieku iela 1A, Rīga
Fri & Sat
Sun & Mon