We’ve spent many weeks in Cartagena, Colombia over the course of many visits over many years. We’ve advocated for the great food and restaurants in Cartagena for years, but during our most recent to this Caribbean city and UNESCO World Heritage site we were thrilled to see that bars and bartenders are upping their game too. Rely on our city travel guide about where to drink in Cartagena to find the best bars, craft cocktails, microbrews, and more in one of Colombia’s most popular travel destinations.
You could order a beer or wine here but don’t. The award-winning cocktails (around 30,000 COP or about US$9 each) are the real draw at El Baron and there’s an extensive menu of classic cocktails and inventive reinventions to choose from plus an additional menu of themed seasonal offerings which changes a few times a year.
When we were at El Baron, the themed menu was all about flight including a cocktail called Piloto de Aventuras made with Bulleit Rye infused with thyme, vermouth, Cynar, and vanilla, garnished with a sheet of paper meant to be folded into a paper airplane. The Piloto Aerostatico was made with Don Julio blanco, cacao butter, yellow chartreuse, white vermouth, and citric acid. That whole concoction was poured over a bright blue ice cube (colored with pea flour) tableside. The color from the blue ice cube slowly infused the whole drink until it was the shade of blueberries. Delicious magic.
Of course, El Baron has a wide range of house-made bitters and infusions and a fantastic range of glassware. But El Baron also has very knowledgeable waiters and the El Baron bartenders are always up for a challenge. We asked for a cocktail made with Barsol pisco (it’s rare to see Peruvian pisco in Colombia) that wasn’t sweet and was NOT a pisco sour and the bartender whipped up a delicious little tipple made with Aperol, Barsol pisco, apple, and mint.
There are only about a dozen seats inside El Baron but there’s also a large outdoor patio in front of the bar right on picturesque and bustling Plaza Claver. If you drink up a hunger, you can also get some solid food here including sandwiches, a nice sliced meat plate, an eggplant parm plate, and more.
El Baron is, by far, our favorite bar in Cartagena. It’s the perfect combination of hip backed up by real talent and creativity which is just part of the reason El Baron took home two Golden Cock awards in the Premios Cocktail competition in Bogota in 2018.
Located on Plaza San Diego, Absenta Bar is a quirky place (one room looks like a Magritte painting) with solid cocktails and plenty of seating and air conditioning. If El Baron is full, head here.
Like beer? The historic center of Cartagena now has a Bogotá Beer Company (BBC) mini pub with quality craft brews on tap and in bottles as well as snacks, great music, and a lively crowd.
Located in the Charleston Santa Teresa Hotel, Harry’s Cartagena Bar & Restaurant was developed under the watchful eye of Colombia’s granddaddy of food, chef Harry Sasson. The restaurant’s bar was given its own classy, welcoming space off the lobby with views of Plaza de Santa Teresa and a section of the colonial wall around the city.
While not the place to go for cutting-edge cocktails, the classics are served up with panache from the talent behind this extremely well-stocked bar. Even better is the wine list which includes dozens of bottles all offered by the glass (1/4), half bottle, or full bottle and prices are extremely good starting at around 19,000 (or about US$6) for 1/4 bottles. In a city that is still strangely starved for a good wine bar, the wine offering at Harry’s Bar is very, very welcome.
It’s fair to say that Demente was at the pointy end of the bar trend in Cartagena. It opened in the Getsemani area of the city in 2015 and hit the ground running with style, service, and a great selection of rums, cocktails, wines, and beer on tap (unusual at that time). Demente remains one of our top go-to bars in Cartagena and they’ve since expanded their craft beer offerings and opened a legit pizza place behind the original location in addition to the expanded tapas menu still offered at Demente.
One bar to avoid…
You will be told that you must have sunset drinks at Cafe del Mar, a bar that’s located on the wall that encircles the historic center of Cartagena. You don’t. Yes, the bar has a stellar location. However, prices are sky-high, it’ll be packed, service is poor and the ambiance is lackluster. Instead, buy a cold beer from one of the many vendors who walk around the wall with coolers, claim a seat on the stone and coral wall (built by Spanish conquistadors to keep marauding pirates at bay) and enjoy.
Colombian craft rum
Colombia has produced domestic rum for years including Ron Medellin, Viejo Las Caldas, and Dictador. But a pair of newish distilleries are upping the rum game in Colombia.
Ron La Hechicera has won a number of prestigious international awards for its product which is a blend of rums which have been aged in white oak barrels between 12 and 21 years.
It’s a spicy rum, but in a complex and delicious chili pepper way, not in a sweet and cloying Captain Morgan’s way. It’s not the smoothest rum, but we love it for sipping and we also love the elegant bottle, but it’s got a dark inspiration. The shadowy jungle scene on the bottle was inspired by one of the founder’s time held prisoner in the jungle by FARC rebels.
Another elegant homegrown rum is Parce which has also won an impressive number of international awards since being developed by brothers with a history in the production of wine. Parce offers a rum aged for 8 years and another aged for 12 years. Both are on the sweeter and smoother end of the rum spectrum but we loved the bourbon-like profile of the 12-year-old version. Another plus? The company plants a tree for every bottle sold.
Pro rum tasting in Cartagena
Noah Matthies, who works in conjunction with El Baron, really, really loves rum. He also knows a heck of a lot about rum and he leads daily guided rum tastings (in English) in an elegant private room above the Caveletos bar in the historic center of Cartagena. During the 1.5 hour tastings, you’ll fine tune your palette and learn many fascinating facts about this distilled spirit (170,000 COP or about US$50 per person including a welcome rum cocktail; minimum of four people for a private tasting, or you can sign up and join strangers; book at [email protected]).
Continue your Cartagena trip planning with our complete city travel guide to Cartagena, Colombia which covers, hotels, restaurants, activities, and the general beauty of this city.
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