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Rotterdam is the 2nd largest city in the Netherlands. Most visitors make it to Amsterdam & don’t venture beyond the city, but Rotterdam is perhaps the modern Netherlands at its realest. It’s a bit more rough around the edges, but with vibrant culture & nightlife and plenty of interesting areas to explore. As a port city, Rotterdam has beckoned cultures from around the world. One of the highlights of the city is a rich drinking scene filled with unique cocktail bars. While there are plenty of great cocktail bars in Rotterdam, here are five of the best.
Cool cocktail bars in Rotterdam
Dr. is a medical-themed speakeasy located in Rotterdam’s Scheepvaartkwartier. As with any doctor’s office, you’ll need to make an appointment.
After making your appointment, you’ll receive instructions on where to find the Dr.’s office. They will also remind you of their rules. There’s nothing too surprising here, as long as you’re able to follow the Golden Rule, respect the staff & the fellow patrons, and be fine with putting away your phone for an evening. You won’t be getting any photos to show off on Instagram here. At first that might be a bit of a shock, but once you get over it, you’re in for a treat.
There’s something to be said for spending some time without your electronic devices. Dr. encourages patients to converse with each other, and the pharmacists filling the prescriptions are also happy to talk about their craft while you’re sitting in front of them at the bar. Whether it’s discussions about the ingredients, the bar itself, or even other recommendations for Rotterdam, you’ll leave Dr. with a sense of their commitment to quality. Every drink is made with knowledge & care, right down to the details of ice & garnish placement.
When I visited, the theme of Dr. was tarot. After starting with the recommended punch made from gin, elderflower, & peach, I then had several of that season’s concoctions. My first was a powerful rye whiskey cocktail with black sesame syrup & orange bitters. The second was an eye-opening Irish whiskey, Cuban coffee liqueur, almond, walnut, & ice cream concoction that was a creamy dessert in a glass. My third cocktail was gin and coffee liqueur again, along with mango spice cordial. Finally, I went on an adventure with a vodka & coconut-based cocktail that was inspired by the peanut butter & jelly sandwich. As you can tell, the cocktails at Dr. are not your standard drinks.
The themed cocktail menus change every 3-4 months, but some favorites will return. Order one of these Dr. classic remedies, and you’ll receive a card for your collection. Collect all 30 for a very special reward for dedicated patients.
Many times, a speakeasy cocktail bar will end up being stuffy & pretentious due to its sense of exclusivity. That’s not the case at all with Dr. in Rotterdam. Instead, you’ll feel as if you’ve befriended some great bartenders who are happy to share their art. It’s the cure for whatever ails you.
Address: C’mon, really? 😀
The hotel was formerly the home of the offices of the famous Holland America cruise line. It was from this port where travelers departed on ships for the United States. Those days are long in the past, but NY Basement & the Hotel New York now evoke that bygone era.
NY Basement is a beautiful Art Deco cocktail bar & restaurant that serves classic cocktails with modern twists. It’s the perfect place for a classy date when you’re in a fancy mood, a true throwback to the Roaring 20’s.
While it feels much older, NY Basement has only been open for a few years. The friendly bartender told me that the basement could have been turned into a swimming pool in order to get the hotel a 5-star rating, but they actually didn’t want 5 stars because then it would be too exclusive. It’s that notion of inclusivity that permeates the bar. While the decor does evoke wealth, the warm service & adventurous menu keep things from becoming stuffy.
My first cocktail was the Professor’s Coffee, a nice hot cocktail that also came with a bit of a fire show courtesy of the bartender, who told me more about the building, hotel, & the neighborhood while also recommending other cocktail bars in Rotterdam that I should try.
For my second cocktail, I opted for the William’s Swizzle, a lovely rum, mezcal, & mango tiki drink. While NY Basement does do classic cocktails, they also don’t shy away from showing off their creativity.
The towering skyscrapers of Kop van Zuid are iconic landmarks in Rotterdam, but if you’re in the area, be sure to also head underground to NY Basement.
Address: Koninginnenhoofd 1, 3072 AD Rotterdam, Netherlands (map)
The Rumah wasn’t on my radar until it was mentioned to me by the bartender at NY Basement, who recommended the new bar that had been recently been opened by Daryl Lieuw-On, one of his former colleagues and the winner of 2017’s Best Bartender in the Netherlands award by Entree.
While the name of the bar seems like an accented-pronunciation of the word “rumor”, or perhaps an inspiration from their rum focus, The Rumah also comes from the Indonesian word for “home.” And The Rumah is indeed a home. Rather than a cocktail bar, they refer to themselves as a cocktail pub – a lively, diverse, welcoming community hub that’s on the more relaxed side of life.
The Rumah is another great cocktail spot where you can sit at the bar & chat with bartenders who are passionate about their craft. While listening to some great music by Jimi Hendrix & Bob Dylan, I sipped a couple of cocktails.
The New Century was my first drink. Next was the Bula Wai, made with Plantation Fiji 2009 rum, Banana shrub, saline solution, & Thomas Henry grapefruit soda. They had added it to the menu of The Rumah just a few days before.
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Bula Wai🔥 It’s always exciting when you create a new cocktail. Especially in The Rumah, because we had no clue what our guests might like or not. This drink worked out just the way we wanted. With the addition of a little bit of salt, we managed to hit all of the tastebuds. Defenitely gonna be on the menu for forever! • Plantation Fiji 2009/Banana shrub/Saline solution/Thomas Henry grapefruit soda. • 📸by: @51northphotography #therumah #therumahrotterdam #rumahsignature #plantationrum #Fiji #fijirum #Bulawai #thomashenry
The Rumah is the sort of place that other bartenders hang out in on nights off, which is the highest compliment you can pay to a bar. While I’m not a bartender, I was welcomed in their group sampling of a few new syrups they had just concocted, including one that had a surprisingly spicy kick to it. Everyone got a good laugh out of my initial reaction to that one, but I could easily see how it would be fun to incorporate into a drink. Part of the joy of a great cocktail bar like The Rumah is seeing how well different ingredients can be used in the hands of experts.
Address: Oude Binnenweg 110C, 3012 JG Rotterdam, Netherlands (map)
Botanero is a slice of Latin America that’s been brought over to Rotterdam. Their huge selection of spirits is mezcal & tequila-focused, while the food menu includes tacos, ceviche, tostadas, and steak. While the food might be inspired from across the Atlantic, most of the ingredients are local from the Netherlands.
Each drink comes with a botanero, which is a small snack. This is a tradition that should spread to every cocktail bar.
While Botanero offers classic cocktails, even those classics get a relevant twist to fit the theme with homemade ingredients. I had a rum old fashioned that also included mezcal, and I also had some ceviche.
Botanero isn’t some kitschy Mexican theme bar; its attention-to-detail when it comes to both its drinks & food makes Botanero one of the best cocktail bars in Rotterdam.
Address: Mariniersweg 55, 3011 NE Rotterdam, Netherlands (map)
Spikizi Bar is a cocktail bar with a bit of everything. It leans towards being a modern tiki bar, but veers just enough away from that to still cover a full range of classic cocktails along with their own specials & signature creations.
Of the bars on this list, Spikizi is perhaps the most boisterous, but the lively trendiness is backed by quality cocktails.
I had the Creolo, a tall tiki drink that combined many of my favorite flavors, including pineapple-infused dark rum, amaretto, caramel, ginger, pineapple juice, and lime.
As more & more bars & restaurants move away from using plastic straws, Spikizi had my favorite alternative so far: a straw made from pasta. Dr. did the same for drinks that needed them. The pasta straw worked well while not contributing any negative flavors to my delightful tiki cocktail.
Address: Zwarte Paardenstraat 91a, 3012 VK Rotterdam, Netherlands (map)
Long a crossroads of travelers & cultures, modern Rotterdam is filled with unique cocktail bars that are some of the best in the world. If the city is making a name as being the “coolest” city in the Netherlands, Rotterdam’s cocktail bars are leading the way.
Looking for craft beer in Rotterdam? You’re covered. Interested in taking a food or drink tour of Rotterdam? Here are some options:
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