It's small and smoky but the Žižkov bar's cocktails rival those of much more expensive establishments

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

"Alcohol is like love. The first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you take the girl's clothes off."

Phillip Marlowe (as written by Raymond Chandler)

After a nice Greek dinner in Prague's Žižkov district, we decided to take a leisurely walk home on a pleasant summer evening.

It was unspoken, but we both knew there would be a stop for refreshments on the way. The question of where was all that remained.

V takes a certain pride on being an expert on the bars and little-known hideaways of Malá Strana. She loves playing the guide.

"Oh, you don't know about this place? I used to drop in here from time to time," she'll say coyly.

But for her, Žižkov is something of a blank slate. So, when I told her I'd take her to a well-known cocktail bar in the area, she was both mystified and intrigued.

"You've never heard of Hapu?" I asked.

I enjoyed the moment. The tables had turned.

Of course, Hapu is no big secret. I'd seen it mentioned in The New York Times, an airline's inflight magazine, and on the World's Best Bars website.

Graffiti covers the wall outside. The English language dominates the subterranean, smoky room inside. It's a big expat hangout.

The thing is, Hapu is no big cocktail bar. It is something of a neighborhood joint, quite small, just one room. There are two worn old couches, and just a handful of tables and chairs.

Anyone who doesn't score some of this prime real estate will consume their drinks standing up. There are not even stools at the bar. Space is tight.

Which is why we received many a jealous glance as we luxuriated on the comfy corner couch. We got to the bar just after 8pm and luckily scored the sweet spot.

The menu is on a double-sided laminated sheet. The list is not as extensive as some of the cocktail bars in the center, but I always found those tomes to be overly complex anyway. This is not a super-fancy, elite-crowd bar like Tretter's Cocktail Bar.

Hapu is the anti-Tretter's. A number of articles and guides refer to it as a "cocktail dive." Also, the prices are far different, with most major cocktails averaging around 100 CZK. Similar drinks in the center often go for 160 CZK.

Hapu has a reputation for mixing good cocktails. We had some good ones, but not all were so impressive.

Since we did not have dessert with our dinners, both of us were in the mood for dessert-like drinks. I had a White Russian. It came in a larger-than-average glass and was made with a very thick cream. It was also pretty strong. It was very good.

V got a strawberry colada. She thought it was OK. I liked it a little more than she did. But neither the strawberry nor the coconut flavors really stood out. It was a little on the dull side.

For the next round, I had an excellent gin gimlet. It was served in a martini glass of very generous proportions. Not too tart, not too sweet, but it also packed quite a wallop. Good.

V had a frozen margarita with no salt. She didn't like it so much, and I agreed. They are very good at crushing ice into a fine, shape-holding mountain of slush. But there was too much of the ice and not enough lime or even sweetness to it. It was like a SnoCone that had some of the flavor sucked out of it.

For the final round, I decided to keep things simple. I needed a caffeine jolt, so I ordered a Cuba Libre. It comes in a very large glass. It's hardly the most sophisticated mixed drink on the planet, but I've had more than a few bad versions in my life.

This one was good. It was strong, but not too strong. The best part was that the bartender went very heavy on the lime juice. It had a very satisfying sweet-and-sour tang.

Things get a little hazy at this point, but V's last drink was a Sunrise, which is different than a Tequila Sunrise. The waitress made sure we knew the difference.

The Sunrise comes in a martini glass, the same that the gimlet came in, I think, and has tequila, grenadine, and... I forget the rest. It was very sweet, but good.

And so, our night came to a close. The crowd had thickened up half-way through our session, but by the time we left, it was pretty thin again. I think it was before 11pm. Still, as we gave up our couch, a few well-placed people moved in to take our spot.

On the whole, we very much enjoyed our "dessert" at Hapu, our long talk, and the rest of our walk home.

I told V that if she ever needs another guided tour of Žižkov, she knows where to find me.


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