A bar is so much more than a purveyor of drinks. It’s a vibe. A safe space to sequester yourself from life’s harsh realities that await beyond its walls. The finalists for the Bar category in this year’s Surface Travel Awards didn’t squander the opportunity to play with atmosphere. While the aesthetics offer vastly different visions of what a drinking den can be, they unify around a core truth: Environment matters as much as what’s in the glass.
Trending: Daring Bar Design
The best new cocktail spots include a below-earth horticulturist's dream, an eerie moonlight chapel, and the first-ever bar that doubles as an observatory.By Gabriel Bell September 06, 2019
SKY, Baa Atoll, Maldives
What surely has to be the world’s first observatory cocktail bar hybrid, SKY at the Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas—a series of timber suites atop a network of raised platforms overlooking a glittering blue bay—is all about looking up. Inside what seems to be a planetarium turret, warm local woods form a circular alter around the bartender, while the LED-laced ceiling draws a map of the constellations overhead. Outside, guests can soak in the real thing in the ash-dome observatory equipped with a research–grade telescope, or do it the old-fashioned way from one of the interconnected daybeds that form a massive crescent-shape. With any luck, the in-house astronomer will be on-site pointing out the night sky’s biggest attractions. Skykihavahmaldives.com
Citrus Club, Charleston, SC
Blessed with top-floor views of Charleston and the waters beyond, this collaboration between the Studio Dewberry and Workstead offers a tropical take on the classic hotel club bar that benefits from beautiful mahoganies, modern interventions on midcentury furniture—Eero Saarinen executive chairs have been re-skinned with white vinyl, for instance—and a deep respect for the brutalist former federal building it rests atop. Filled with Southern charm and a cheeky touch or two like the neon signage in the shape of a fruit slice, it’s a welcoming rooftop post for a well-spun daiquiri. Thedewberrycharleston.com
Moon Club, Prague, Czech Republic
Here we have the first of three spots that seem to suggest a strange new trend in bar design: eeriness. FormaFatal and Machar & Teichman paired on this cool-toned, multistoried space housed in an erstwhile bank building whose arches, side cells, and flooring reflect Prague’s past while the amalgam of custom pendant and chandelier lighting, patinaed walls, and velvet furniture are very much of the now. Overall, it’s a club and bar that is wonderfully moody and, like its namesake, turns brilliant when the sun sets and the moonlight pours through the soaring glass skylight. Moonclub.cz
XYZ Lounge Bar, Ghent, Belgium
What Didier Fiúza Faustino has created here is something almost beyond description. The pink paneled walls of this multipurpose, multi-roomed lounge suggest the interior of a ship straight from a ’70s sci-fi space opera, while the angled hall, adorned with a long, thin skylight, brings to mind ancient temple or tomb. Side areas offer Faustino’s daring furniture along with new forms, new tones, and new discoveries, all of them challenging, artistically alien, and unforgettable. Zebrastraat.be
Undercote, New York City
Beneath the top-tier Korean boîte Cote in the Flatiron District comes this journey into the underworld courtesy of MNDPC. Dark tones, subdued lighting, and concrete textures suggest something hewn from New York’s granite bedrock, while shafts of brightness arrive through clever windowed galleries that host wild green fauna. The overall effect is that of being pleasantly buried in the earth, though this burrow is laced with ambient beats and stockpiled with barman Sondre Kasin’s plant-based concoctions. Cotenyc.com
See the rest of our Surface Travel Awards 2019 finalists.