Bar and Books
I like the drink. One might assume that this is due to my University of California, Santa Barbara “upbringing” and time spent in Isla Vista. Others might presume it was my grandfather’s influence. Papa never traveled without his “happy hour” bag, containing his favored liquors. Like many grandkids, we would race out to their car when they drove up the driveway. We wouldn’t fight over any gifts they brought us from their last adventure but for the honor of carrying the olive green faux-leather booze bag into the house. All the while, Papa would breathlessly watch us waddled back to the house, bottles clanking, struggling to carry the bag weighing half of what we did.
I love nuance in flavor, texture and scents. I do not limit myself to only alcohol in this respect; while enjoying a variety of cheeses is a nice experience, the end result of a good day’s wine tasting can be just as enjoyable. It was with this in mind that I planned a trip to the highlands of Scotland over the Christmas holiday to enjoy some whisky tasting. Sure, 90% of the distilleries around Inverness were closed for the holiday seasons, but with my newfound and amateur enjoyment of scotch whisky, I was excited. The days would be short and the weather downright freezing. It was a small sacrifice to make for the opportunity to tour a distillery and sample their wares. Again, I was excited.
That is to say, I was excited until we were informed minutes before boarding our flight from London to Inverness that the Scottish airport would be closed due to weather. For a week. I have been known to be a stressed-out, angry, and all around bitchy traveler. I like to think that I have toned this down after more travel experience under my belt. Luckily, I only felt deep disappointment this time. What could we do? It was no one’s fault but my own in hoping for Santa-Barbara-wine-country-weather, at 56º N latitude, in the latter part of December.
Later in my trip to the British Isles, I once again thought that I would have the opportunity to tour a whiskey distillery and sample the selection while visiting Bushmills in Northern Ireland. Disappointment was my to be my fate; Bushmills, too, was closed for the holiday season.
Why can’t I travel like a normal person? Snowboarding in the winter and boozing it up in the summer.
Fast-forward to the present. My wife read about a bar in Prague called Bar & Books, located steps away from Old Town Square behind Tyn Church. Founded in NYC, it moved overseas to Central Europe and now has two locations in Prague. Their menu offers a variety of Scotch, Irish, American, Japanese, and even Indian whiskies, as well as cocktails, wine, cigars and a light fare menu for nibbling. Additionally, Bar & Books offers whisky flights. Flights to make up for the tasting experiences that just weren’t meant to be. Flights for my disappointed soul.
Of the first impressions were the deep ruby toned walls, plush leather seating and exceptionally warm and refined service. While my wife ordered a uniquely formulated whiskey sour (with a float of Malbec) I took my time in selecting the whiskies for my Combo Flight. This option afforded me my choice of three “premium” and three “super premium” whiskies at 2 cL pours each. As a budget-minded amateur, I generally don’t have the monetary fortitude to opt for a high end Macallan at a restaurant or a bottle of Yamazaki to try out the Japanese production; I tend to go with what I know I will enjoy. For my first time comparing whiskeys, I chose a variety of single malts from Lowland, Speyside, Highland and Islay; from a Glenmorangie Astar 100 proof to my ol’ standby, the ever-peaty Laphroig 10 year.
For those amateur whisk(e)y enthusiasts who like a bit of water or ice with their wee dram, never fear the disapproving scowl of a surly or purist bartender. With each flight or pour of whisky the servers provide a side of water and ice for the guest to prepare their drink as they desire.
For the walk back to the hotel through the dark and narrow alleyways of Prague, there is nothing quite like the warming sensation of a romantic evening over a bit of the uisge beatha. The water of life. Warming both to the face in a biting wind and to sooth the soul after settling a hefty tab.
Oh! Lest I forget to remind you, dear readers, that Tuesday is Whisky Night at Bar & Books providing discounts on their entire whisky menu.
Bar & Books Prague – Týnská
Týnská 19, Prague 1
Tel.: +420 224 815 122
Daily – 17:00 to 04:00