I tried four different cocktail bars in Saint Petersburg, all ones that were recommended and supposedly good, three were complete duds, one, Apotheke Bar, was a home run.
I found the front door of the Apotheke Bar after a little searching and found it locked, Google promised me it opened at 8pm so I pondered and pondered and eventually noticed a button, pressed said button and heard a voice in Russian, I apologized for my no Russian and the door buzzed and let me in.
The bar is small and wooden, a horseshoe that holds maybe 12 people. Bar, walls and bar all the same wood.
There was only one other patron when I entered, a guy with an unplaceable accent, I overheard him telling the bartender that he was on the night train to Moscow that night and needed a drink or two to help him sleep. We started talking and playing a fun game of Where Did He Get That Accent, he said he was German but had been around.
Me “You spent a lot of time in America”
Him “Yes, a lot”
Me “And not New York or New Jersey”
Me “And not California”
Me “Ok, let’s go Philadelphia”
Him “Not bad, Pittsburg”
Turns out he’s German but had spent a lot of time in Pittsburg as a teen and also in Holland and the UK, explains the unique idiolect.
He was travelling alone, a similar route and similar path as me, we chatted a bit between us and the bartender (who told me his name, THREE TIMES, dammit). Eventually two younger Russian ladies came in and the four of us had a great evening trading stories.
I went back the next night and it was just myself and the two bartenders, I still can’t remember the head bartender’s name but he was awesome and sweet and a sort of a Russian Beck. That’s him in the top photo background. He knew what a Casino was too.
The other bartender was a Georgian Jew, Illyc (Alec), as goofy and silly as the head bartender was soft and calm, again a really, really nice evening, Russian lessons, history lessons, cocktail lessons, a great feeling walking to the train to Moscow afterwards.
I’m too tired to go through my full ranking system right now…. so Apotheke gets a… 35, sure.