Even among the numerous speakeasy-themed cocktail dens in Budapest, Black Swan tops the list for being the darkest and most exclusive. It’s one of those uppity places where heavy red drapes block the view from outside and whose private room draws the local elite — if you enjoy an upscale experience, it will be right up your alley.

Black Swan has some of the widest drink selections in Budapest as evidenced by the bartenders having to use a sliding ladder to retrieve bottles from the top shelves. Apart from all signature cocktails, there's a dozen or so bespoke concoctions including a truffle Negroni and a Red Bull-laced “Energie Daiquiri.” I've experienced some inconsistency across the cocktail bartenders—depending on who prepares your drink, you may be in for a perfectly layered Gin-Gin Mule or an indistinct Penicillin.

The fact that Black Swan decided to locate in the party district, which for long was known for its low-priced ruin bars rather than upscale cocktail joints, further anchors the neighborhood's status as the across-the-board center of Budapest's nighlife.

We visit all places incognito, pay for our own meals and drinks, and write independent reviews.