Tag Archives: cocktails

Speaking Truthfully about Spikisi

It was the third and last stop on our Jeune Genevois cocktail-bar-hopping night. Walking down the cobble stone street to Spikisi, with a few cocktails already down the hatch, the mood was giddy: we had left Geneva and were projecting ourselves onto the late-night streets of Milano (without the mess of limbs and the clattering of voices). It seemed like Geneva might finally have the critical mass of cool bars it needs to foster a night life fit for those of us who are neither students nor bankers!

First let’s debunk the expectation that the Spikisi is a speakeasy- sadly, it is just a fun misnomer. The bar/restaurant sits on a small street behind Plainpalais and not in anyway concealed. But, when I stumbled across this place on a website advertising it as a bar, it seemed promising. From there, I perused their Facebook page, where visions of cocktails and burgers danced in my head. What a cash cow, I thought to myself: nightcap AND preventive hangover remedy in one go? Why hadn’t anyone else thought of that yet?

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The bar has that neighborhood café feel

The setting is perfectly attuned to my taste: small, warm, café style seating with a romantic twinge, but very much still feeling like a bar scene. Reggae/ska/ragga over the loudspeaker gave the place a cool and comfy vibe. My anticipation grew, despite myself: had we reached the promised-land?

I started fearing I built it up too much in my own head. I mean look at the competition: Geneva is now graced with some internationally competitive burgers thanks to Inglewood and The Hamburger Foundation, and Apothicaire still boasts my all-time favorite cocktail (and no, it’s not on the menu).  Spikisi had some tough acts to follow.

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The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

The restaurant spreads out to the basement, for more whimsical seating

Let’s get the tough part out of the way: the cocktails were downright undrinkable. The Italian owner, mustachioed and as hipster as they come, was super friendly and asked me what kind of alcohol and flavors I was into. I told him my standard: gimme something tart and tangy, not too sweet, not “tropical”, not bitter. That usually results in a gin with some kind of citrus, a cucumber and/or mint, and some signature flavor to make it stand out. In this case, he arrived with a dark orange sample for me to taste what turned out to be a Negroni, a classic Italian cocktail that to me is squarely in the “bitter” category. I declined. Second sample: the liquid was bright yellow this time. It tasted like liquified lemon cough drops; I diplomatically told him it was just too sweet. Third try: a fluorescent blue-green liquid, which I tasted and accepted because it was the least offensive so far. If memory serves, it must have been a kamikaze. Whatever it was, it did NOT match the pictures of the cocktails I saw on their FB page.

Funky menu from which decade, i don't really know

Funky menu from which decade, i don’t really know

The burger combos they proposed sounded great and spoke to the 20s-30s theme: “Frank Me!” “Al Capone” and the “Borsalino” to name a few. I chose the Metropolis, which came with mozzarella, caramelized onions, and barbecue sauce. THF and co. can rest easy, there was no competition there. The burgers were all bun, no patty. Undersalted/uderseasoned. The meat was on the dry side. My caramelized onions were tasteless (an accomplishment indeed). And the fries were simply forgettable.

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Sadly, I loved the place, but wouldn’t be able to justify going back for either the food or the drinks. It’s got a great space, cute decor, laid back vibe, and very warm and whimsical staff. Now, if they would only invest in a decent cocktail shaker behind the bar and a burger flipper in the kitchen…

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Buena Vista Cocktail Club: Good Things Come in Threes

We had just finished imbibing a couple of cocktails at Kytaly. Impressed as we were by the drinks, the second lily pad on our barhopping tour had us all hyped, and so off we hopped!

No doubt, Alirio scored himself a turkey with his latest addition to the Atelier Cocktail family. Located in the heart of UNIGE’s main watering hole strip, the Buena Vista Cocktail Club offers everything you know and love at Apothicaire and Atelier du Cocktail – plus more food offerings an extra something for the VIP.

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Ok, it was dark, and these photos are terrible.

You’ll recognize the decor/ambiance as most closely related to the Apothicaire, and the drinks menu has all your tried and true favorites. Two new things about this place: first, they built up their food choices, adding fajitas (the beef fajita is kind of like bolognese sauce wrapped in large soft flour tortilla- tasty, though not reeeaaally a fajita) tacos and an avocado salad to their usual guacamole, cheese and meat platters.  This is a definite plus in my view, because 3 cocktails and no food = harsh morning after.

The other cool thing is the “speakeasy” style lounge tucked into their basement, which, although not reaaally being a speakeasy, is a nice addition.

Again - so dark. Very terrible photos.

Again – so dark. Very terrible photos.

The room certainly has a speakeasy feel to it (if by “speakeasy” you expect dark, cozy, and located awkwardly close to the bathrooms). But, without trying to nit pick, speakeasies were created, as we all know, during prohibition, when the sale of alcohol was illegal. So there could be no bars. So the bars hid behind delis, laundromats, tea rooms, etc. Secret passwords were exchanged for entrance through bathroom doors, bookshelves and telephone booths to drink the illicit liquors, embellished with tonics, sodas and juices to mask the harsh flavors of the alcohols of the day.  So you’ll understand that hiding a bar within a bar is, well, not really a speak easy. Let’s call it a slightly smelly, dark, VIP lounge, shall we?

But a rose by any other name still smells as sweet, and this VIP lounge, as un-concealed and un-exclusive as it may be, is still a very cool and quiet place to lounge with an ever-so-delicious cocktail mixed by one of Alirio’s own.

After Kytaly and Buena Vista, it was hard to imagine how another cocktail bar might top them off.. but off we went to the third and last cocktail bar of the night: the Spikisi.

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Kytaly: A cocktail with a side of Italian restaurant

In a bizarre turn of events, I was actually in town for the long weekend of Jeune Genevois. During a full day of rare down time, I finally came to think of new bars I’d heard about in Geneva. All rested up, and dreaming of cocktails, what else could I do but go bar-hopping? There were a few that had recently come to my attention, and in the course of one night we covered three – Kytaly, the Buena Vista Cocktail Club, and the Spikisi – which I have reviewed in a three part series.

First stop, Kytaly!

The restaurant and deli showcase their mozzarella

The restaurant and deli showcase their mozzarella

Although we were clearly aiming for cocktails, we slowly discovered Kytaly had many faces, offering pizza slices to go, Italian dining a la carte, gourmet deli Italian meats and mozzarella, and of course, cocktails. Our time there was nothing short of an M.C. Escher optical illusion: if you had asked me and each of my three companions what kind of place it was, you would have gotten four different answers: pizza takeout spot, restaurant with a convenient cocktail bar where you can wait for your table, cocktail bar with not enough bar seating, etc. The debate was open!

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The pizza take out bar at the entrance

The place was empty, which, the jovial bar tender explained, was because it was their opening week. And indeed, it had that brand-spanking new feel to it, like a new car smell, or rigid pair of leather shoes.

Or was the coolness intentionally embedded in the décor? With mostly silvery grey enameled surfaces, the bar-resto has a slick contemporary vibe, with pretty stark lighting. Front stage was given to a few tables set for dinner and a pizza oven, and the backstage housed the deli and some more tables, leaving the cocktail bar squeezed into a little mezzanine in between.  Maybe this was more of a resto cum bar rather than a cocktail bar that served food after all?

Bar-height dinner tables and a selection of italian products for sale - or is it decoration?

Bar-height dinner tables and a selection of italian products for sale – or is it decoration?

We ordered a round of cocktails and were strongly encouraged by the bartender (and waiter, and manager, and…) to order some focaccia and a pizza. The cocktails were excellent, albeit on the small side: the bar tender nailed classics such as the Manhattan and a no frills version of the G&T. When asked to tweak one of their own cocktails, he was happy to do so and turned out a variation of the Kytaly Panky (bourbon, vermouth, fernet branca and campari).

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When testing a new cocktail bar, I always ask for one of the classics first, in this case, a Manhattan.

We caved to the manager’s somewhat overeager client orientation and ordered a pizza margherita to share. Again, great product, slightly smaller than a Da Paolo’s pie with a light, doughy crust, nicely sweet and sour tomato sauce and creamily melted cheese.

Snack for four or dinner for one, either way, a perfectly decent pizza

Snack for four or dinner for one, either way, a perfectly decent pizza

With both cocktails and pizzas under their belt, and a location a stone’s throw away from Apothicaire, Barbershop, Blvd du Vin and the Nonolet, there’s no reason why Kytaly shouldn’t be a hub of its own before too long. But what kind of hub will it be? A post-after work bite to eat and night cap? The place to go for a lunch time slice of pizza and a little deluxe deli shopping? Whatever floats your boat, maybe. In any case, I’ll be giving it a few weeks to see if the place gets a bit cozier, shaking off that new car smell effect and breaking into its snazzy new leather shoes.

Thirsty for more? We were, and so we hiked off to stop 2: the Buena Vista Cocktail Club.

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