The 7 Best Cocktail Bars Budapest

It's only been a decade since Budapest's craft cocktail movement set in motion, yet dark cocktail dens and bow tie-wearing bartenders seem to be all the rage across town. Discerning drinkers can sip both expertly prepared classics and contemporary concoctions, some of them made with local Hungarian liquors. The only downside? Price points aren't exactly wallet-friendly.

#1 Boutiq Bar

Hiding on a side street near the city center, Boutiq Bar is an upscale cocktail bar that pioneered Budapest's craft cocktail movement under the helm of energetic owner Zoltán Nagy. Maroon-colored walls and dim lighting project speakeasy vibes into the snug, two-story space. Each bartender has to go through a rigorous training process before being permitted behind the bar; they serve the drinks with a laser-like focus and a bit of theatrics.

#2 Hotsy Totsy Bar

Hotsy Totsy is a dim, below-ground cocktail bar within Budapest's party district. Instead of a fixed menu, bartenders prepare bespoke drinks based on customers' taste preferences. For example, if you tell them you like Fernet-Branca, the Italian amaro, they’ll offer a Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet) without a moment’s hesitation, perhaps along with a complimentary shot of Fernet’s Menta line.

#3 High Note Sky Bar

High Note Sky Bar offers some of the most impressive rooftop views in Budapest. To get to the bar, you'll need to walk through the polished lobby of the five-star Aria boutique hotel and take the elevator to the top floor. The panorama is truly stunning: the Liberty Statue, the Buda Castle, and the St. Stephen’s Basilica all appear within arm’s reach, which in case of the church is practically true.

#4 Black Swan

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.

#5 WARMUP Bar

WARMUP is a small craft cocktail bar in Budapest’s party district best known for operating without a fixed menu; instead, customers have to put themselves in the hands of the bartenders. You give them a few hints, and they take care of the rest. Do you enjoy rum with a spicy kick? A Dark 'n' Stormy it is. Are you a Negroni fan but don't mind a little creativity? They'll swap the gin for silky Unicum Riserva, a local liqueur. You can also simply just utter a few flavors like "sweet," "sour," or "dry," and you're unlikely to be disappointed by what they put out before you.

#6 Tuk Tuk Bar

Tuk Tuk is a tiny cocktail bar nestled on the ground floor of the Casati boutique hotel. Being on a quiet street just outside Budapest's party district, Tuk Tuk is a perfect hideaway from the hustle and bustle a few blocks away. Old photos and heavy crimson drapes evoke the hedonistic culture of the 1920s Shanghai inside this dark drinking den.

#7 Good Spirit Bar

While Budapest's party district has long been teeming with specialized cocktail bars, downtown didn't have much to offer when it came to discerning drinking joints. Good Spirit Bar, which opened in 2017 on a quiet cobblestoned street, finally filled the void in the city center's lackluster bar landscape. Half cocktail bar, half whisky bar: the bartenders here can just as well serve you an excellently prepared Negroni as a rare Japanese single malt from the literally hundreds of bottles on the shelves. There's an actual store inside in case you'd like to stack up on premium bottles. Being in downtown, Good Spirit draws mainly tourists, especially a slightly older crowd compared with the bars in the Jewish Quarter's party district.

Rankings are based on a combination of food/drink, atmosphere, service, and price. The author visits all restaurants incognito and pays for his own meals and drinks.