Destinations

No Menu Needed at Prague's Mysterious, Magical Underground Bar 'Parlour'

Glassware at Parlour.
The glassware at Parlour is decades old and some of it exceedingly rare. (Photo: Parlour)

When our driver dropped us off at Prague’s Parlour, located on a dark street just beyond Wenceslas Square, we were sure he had made a mistake. There was no bar to be seen and no nightlife stirring, just some abandoned construction clutter and a blanket of humid air. Determined to find this bewitching cocktail bar our friend had urged us to visit, we paced up and down for a good ten minutes until we found ourselves exactly where we’d started. Perhaps it was a bit of good luck — or more likely thirsty tourist delirium temporarily subsiding — that we caught a glimpse of the bar’s soft, flickering light at our feet.

Through a double wooden door and down a flight of creaky steps, we finally found ourselves in Parlour’s tiny, underground chamber. A moony sort of melancholy jazz filled the candlelit room, coming from a record player and intended for two bartenders and a couple of Prague locals distracted in deep conversation in the corner.

Behind the bar was a stoic mixologist and his counterpart, a woman playing the part of a spiritual mystic. We had, at first, made the mistake of asking the bartender, “how this works,” and his honest, deadpan response was, “I make the drinks.” With that, we quickly learned that while he made the drinks, his counterpart was the channel through which you ordered. Wherever patrons are — at the bar, under the window, or nestled against a bookshelf — she quietly gides over and pensively leans in with unwavering eye contact.

After settling in, she came to us and asked a series of questions, a process that felt surprisingly intimate and almost therapy-room intense. If you’re not prepared for this, you may find it weird or uncomfortable, but if you free yourself from social constructs and play along, you’ll enjoy the experience.

Prague Parlour

Maybe you’re feeling sad and you want to encourage tears, or maybe you’re feeling jubilant and want to prolong the high. Maybe you’re craving something that’s sweet with a bit of warmth that lingers at the back of your throat, or maybe you want something that’s equal parts chilled and smoky. Maybe you want a drink that embodies an experience you had today, or maybe you’d like to sip on something that reminds you of someone you met long ago. And if you walk in unaware of how you’re feeling, unsure of what flavors will sate your palate, or completely indifferent, that’s OK, too, because Parlour will figure it out for you.

I wasn’t quite sure what to ask for, but knew I wanted my cocktail to have some heat. “Spicy like cinnamon, or spicy like peppers?” she asked, never looking away. The latter. “How spicy would you like it, from one to five?” she asked again. “Maybe a one or a two?” I asked back. She half-smiled. “Do you want it sweet, or citrusy?” “Definitely fruity,” I responded.

She returned to the bar to relay her findings to the mixologist. While he made both our drinks, we found a spot to sit and watched him work. He was methodical, pulling several bottles from the small but stocked shelves behind him, reaching for miscellaneous utensils as if he were a doctor working on a patient. Once finished, he poured the contents into an ornate, vintage crystal glass.

(Jakub Ondříšek, one of the founders of Parlour, later explained to Tales that all the bar’s glasses are at least 60 years old, and that some are extraordinarily rare, including a few made by famous Czech designer Ladislav Sutnar. Parlour co-founder Martin Tomášek was the mixologist working the night we visited.)

Prague Parlour

From this glass, the “mystic” dipped a silver spoon and drizzled the contents on the space above her thumb. She brought her hand to her lips to taste, thought about it for a second, and then carried the glass over to our table. It was perfect: a mixture of freshly scooped passion fruit, ginger still wet from being sliced, chile-infused gin and mangalore. It was a thoughtful and bizarre concoction, and exactly what I didn’t know I wanted.

We enjoyed several drinks each over the course of the next few hours, happy to be tucked underground in Parlour’s cocoon-like vault. Having sipped on cocktails around the globe, even visiting some of the world’s most noted establishments, few experiences have compared to the one I had at Parlour. It offered a perfect balance of organic and intentional ambience, elicited feelings of contentment even in a wildly unfamiliar city, facilitated easy conversation between friends, and delivered tastes that didn’t just soothe taste buds, but also the soul.

Parlour is located in Prague, Czech Republic at Krakovská 15.

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