DRY IN MORE ways than one and governed under sharia law, Dubai isn’t the most obvious of drinking destinations. Yet, somehow, a bar scene has propagated between the loopholes of society. Tourism is the big revenue stream here, ever since Sheikh Mohammed transitioned the Emirate’s economy away from dwindling oil reserves (Abu Dhabi is where the real oil money is). And what do tourists want? Aside from sun, sand and insanely luxurious hotels, they want alcohol. It’s a deal breaker and the Emeriti knew it. That said, alcohol is still very restricted – bars might exist but they don’t exactly shout “2-for-1 cocktails” from the rooftops, which is actually a positive.
Standalone bars don’t really exist, so a bar tour in Dubai is really a hotel tour, with a few restaurants thrown in for good measure.
It’s different, but there are high quality hospitality experiences to be had. Of the dozen or so bars that get it right, these three stood out during our last visit.
Gate Village 06, DIFC, PO Box 506620, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Zuma is home to Frenchman Jimmy Barrat who, even within the Japanese restaurant group’s globalised concept, has managed to make his Dubai venue his own. This is now also the flagship of the group. Unusually for Dubai (bartenders tend to come and go) Barrat has been behind the stick for nine years. His back bar-come-central station is evidence of an erosion of the chain mentality. He has a mechanical cocktail shaker, a solera system and a Martini bar. Elaborate drinks in high volume is something to behold and few do it better than Zuma Dubai. This place has a bouncy feel with high-energy music and a buoyant, baying crowd. Locals and the Academy of The World’s 50 Best Bars see this as Dubai’s best cocktail bar, and it’s hard to argue in contradiction.