… In the Land of the Lounge Lizards

Searching for a Bar That has the Power to Bring Us To Our Knees - And Like It

The Game: Lounge Crawl.
The Objective:  To rate a host of lounges in the inner districts of Vienna.
The Rules: One cocktail per contestant per lounge. No cocktail can be purchased twice by the same contestant, and copy-cat orders are discouraged.  Contestants must continue the crawl until the majority can no longer walk straight or are crawling on all fours.  Any contestant that gives up by going home or stops drinking forfeits.

The Objective: To rate a host of lounges in the inner districts of Vienna | Photo: Creative Commons

We arrive at our first target shortly after nine on a brisk Friday in October:  The Onyx Bar situated in the Haas Haus at the very heart of Vienna is a stylish lounge bar with a spectacular view of St. Stephens cathedral.  We hang up our jackets, accept the out-stretched menus and are directed to the bar.  No free tables at the moment.  A waitress comes along and takes our order.  The girls get a Cosmo and a Mango Daquiri, the guys order a White Russian and a Manhattan respectively. I get a Cape Codder, having vague memories that this was a pleasant experience.

A table frees up and moments later we are seated and a second waitress comes along. Would we repeat our order? After dutifully reciting our choices, we chill and chat for a bit, feeling cool and basking in the modern Turkish/Magrebhi fusion surroundings encircled by floor to ceiling windows.  The waitress swings by to take our order a third time, and the Dj starts spinning pleasant, un-memorable tunes.

Our drinks finally arrive and the party can get started at last. We enjoy our first sips and the group gets livelier as the alcohol seeps in. Contentedly leaning back in my cushioned chair, I lazily observe the other guests.

My step lightened by the alcohol, and my wallet by the 49 Euro check (not including tips), we walk down Kärtner Strasse toward the Sky Bar.  Perched at the top of Steffl, Vienna’s priciest department store, the Sky Bar is supposed to have a commanding view of the inner city – but we don’t stay to find out.  Once inside, we quickly realise the place is an irretrievable tourist trap.  The beautifully decked out saloon is full to the brim of jovial Americans, smiling Japanese and loud Spaniards.

The chances of getting a table are slimmer than none, so we launch an exit strategy and head towards the lounge at Le Meridien.  Word on the street is that this is an excellent establishment for the blissfully cool and the ever trying.

Which is why I’m quite disappointed by what the place actually looks like.  Not that it’s ugly, per se, only badly planned.  It’s just that the tables are ridiculously small, the chairs cool-looking, but uncomfortable, and the arrangement is haphazard at best.  On each side of the entrance, deep dimly lit wings are lined with soft benches of upholstered leather.  We manage to shanghai the best seats, which are actually quite nice, situated in a semi-private booth as far away from the door as possible.

My initial disappointment swept away by a ridiculously beautiful woman sitting by the bar, I am reeled back to reality by the stern looks of our equally ravishing companions. So I push my eyes gently back into my head, as the waiter heads over to take our order.

In my celebratory mood, I make my first mistake of the evening and order a Planter’s Punch. Any drinks containing roughly 3-5 different types of alcohol, depending on the recipe, mixed with sweet juices are never a good idea.  One of my equally exuberant friends makes a similar faux pas and orders a Mai Tai. The girls, still lightly miffed at our ogling of the beautiful creature at the bar, order a Gimlet and a Mao Lychee Vodka.  Not enticed by any of the tropical cocktails, the ‘sensible’ one of us orders an Amaretto Sour.

Our five cocktails and a bowl of nuts taking up all of the three tiny tables dedicated to our seating area, the check, which came out to exactly 40 Euro (still not including tips), has to be signed with the support of my back.

Now on the way to being rightfully impaired by our respective blends of morning misery, we unanimously decide that a change of scenery and pace is in order, and get cabs to Langegasse in the 8th.
Omar’s Absinth Lounge and Bar holds so much promise in name alone that unless we step into an “Aladdin-esque” scene of belly dancers serving cups of the green fairy liqueur to the gentle whining of Oriental music, we are bound to be disappointed. And we are, a little bit. Mostly because Omar’s Absinth Lounge and Bar is nothing more than a bar.  It’s nice, it’s cozy, it serves more types of Absinth than I knew existed – but it’s not a lounge.  It simply does not qualify for the term.

Nevertheless we decide to soldier on and try some of the drinks.  Since we are doing cocktails, our eyes quickly settle on the long list of absinth mixes.  Only one option really stands out:  ‘Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon’ was aptly named.  We order five of the devil’s brew, a concoction of Hemingway’s favorite brand of Absinth mixed with Champagne.

Things go a little fuzzy after this, but we manage to pay our bill of 42 Euros and exit gracefully and make our way back to the First District. At the door of S-Club, we are turned away. Funnily enough, not for being too drunk, but rather for not being well dressed enough. But instead of waiting patiently for the manager and hostess, whom we know, we try a new tack of flashing platinum plastic at the gorilla in the monkey suit.  When this proves unsuccessful, a new strategy of insulting the doorman emerges, which of course guarantees us no entry.

So we move on to Bandini’s on Mahlerstrasse.  It’s a very nice, but tiny little lounge bar, where none of us can recall what we had to drink or how much it cost.

We effectively end the crawl with a visit to the classic Redroom, in the basement of Comida, a luscious lounge that would probably be one of the coolest clubs in Vienna, if it weren’t so small.

I had a Gin Fizz, the guy on my left had a James Bond Martini (Shaken, not stirred), the guy on my right a Caipirinha and the ladies had a Cosmo and a Manhattan, a repeat, but it was too late to care. By now, all the beats were smooth, the alcohol smoother and the next morning’s pounding headache rightfully deserved.

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