Croatia has been amazing, and to finish off two wonderfully relaxing weeks in Zagreb, we decided we had at least go out for one night and see how the cocktails stood up against what we have seen elsewhere. We had been speaking with a few locals but had to nail down just one bar as we have a lot of drinking and traveling coming up, so we decided on Aperitivo.
After a little reading, we were confident in our choice that this was the best cocktail bar in Zagreb though it certainly had some competition. Our opinion somewhat wavered as we walked up to the venue though as the entrance seems like more of a casual pub atmosphere with a covered outdoor patio and live music. Not that either of these things is an issue but with everyone sitting out front with a beer or glass of wine it didn’t seem like we were walking into a classy cocktail establishment.
We looked at each other and decided to take a chance still, and walked past the artists who were set up at the entrance through to the main room. As we entered the main room we immediately relaxed and made our way to the beautiful bar and were greeted by Ivan Mandarić, who was to take care of us for the remainder of the evening.
The menu was well constructed and I loved the “Women of Art” theme on their current menu so we had to try at least one of their signature cocktails. I told Ivan I like dry, boozy cocktails and he nailed it with his recommendations of their Renoir cocktail. The sugar and coffee liqueur balanced the scotch and sweet vermouth deliciously and then finishing with the chocolate bitters just really made it perfect. Served over a large ice cube to keep it chilled it was perfect.
Natalie, on the other hand, couldn’t make up her mind so he asked a few questions and made something off the cuff. Natalie’s main point was that she wanted something sour and embracing this Ivan went straight to work and mixed up a Metaxa Sour. It was delicious, I can’t remember what else was in there but I know it was unique, not just your run of the mill sour.
For my next cocktail Ivan didn’t even offer me the menu back he asked me if I was open to something unique and I was all for it. He obviously had an idea of what I loved after my first cocktail and was working on something for their next menu he wanted me to try out. He obviously has an affinity for Metaxa because I noticed him grab straight for that bottle again and he heard no complaint from me, I love unique ingredients like the Greek “brandy”. Naturally, it had to be boozy so I noticed him add some peach and coffee liqueurs to the mixing glass and some bitters from a nondescript bottle. The end result was great, the peach liqueur was very forward with subtle notes from the coffee liqueur lingering at the end.
Natalie went off menu again as we were now more than sufficiently convinced of Ivan’s skills and after spotting a bottle of Calvados on the extensive back bar all she could think of was the calvados Daiquiri she had back at L’Antiquaire in Lyon. Obviously, she wanted Ivan to put his own spin on it and he was more than happy to do so. The blend of calvados, house-made pink peppercorn syrup, sugar syrup, lemon juice, maraschino liqueur, and grapefruit bitters was phenomenal and the only thing that could have made it better was a great garnish. Somehow Ivan read her mind and had a miniature picked apple for just the occasion topped with an edible flower; ridiculousness!
This is definitely our favorite bar in Zagreb, Croatia. Though in saying that, it was actually the only bar we visited during our time here, so if you’re visiting the city for a boozy escape I would recommend reading this great article from 2foodtrippers.com if you want to plan ahead. Alternatively, make your way into Aperitivo and sit at the bar. While you’re there talk to the staff about where they recommend, this is usually how we find the best spots in a city and most of the time they will send you to better, more unique bars that aren’t overhyped and plastered all over the internet.