A Cocktail Scene Grows in Bruges

There’s very little about Bruges that isn’t like a fairytale: The cobblestone lanes laced with canals, the beautifully preserved medieval buildings, the cozy ancient pubs. But finding a decent cocktail in this otherwise perfect town wasn’t always so easy until a few years ago, when a wave of craft cocktail bars began popping up along its historic streets. That’s due in large part to the Bruges Gin Society, a trio of local gin fanatics who made it their mission to introduce new and interesting brands of the spirit to local bars — and help them create innovative drink menus. Here’s where to find the best of Bruges’ burgeoning cocktail scene.

When it opened in 2012, Groot Vlaenderen (Vlamingstraat 94; 32/50-68-43-56; grootvlaenderen.be) became the city’s first true high-end cocktail bar, serving sophisticated drinks in a swanky, lounge-like setting. The gin menu is lengthy, at around 100 bottles — ideal for crafting a martini or G&T just as you like it — and there’s also a daily list of specialty seasonal cocktails.

The modern, airy Nomad Kitchen + Bar (Het Zand 12; 32/50-73-64-88; nomadbrugge.be), which stands for “no ordinary meals and drinks,” boasts a small but creative international gin and tonic menu that includes: Inverroche gin with Fitch & Leeds tonic (both from South Africa); Spanish Santamania gin (made with tempranillo grapes) mixed with German-made Thomas Henry tonic, and citrusy Black Swan gin (distilled in Bruges) with Fever Tree Mediterranean tonic.

Nomad Kitchen + Bar

With more than 300 gins available at the Brugse Gin Club (Jozef Suvéestraat 19; 32/472-62-82-43; brugseginclub.be) — helpfully divided into categories such as Floral, Dry and Citrusy — you could spend weeks here and never taste the same brand twice. There are gins from around the world, from rare aged Blind Tiger Liquid Gold to Copenhagen Orange Gin to Italian Aduro gin made with flowers and botanicals from the Dolomites. Bonus: Take home a sample of your favorite in 10- and 15-centiliter pharmacy bottles.

A recent arrival on the cocktail scene is BAR ’N (Sint-Amandsstraat 2; 32/473-94-17-46), located centrally just off the main market square. Its quirky contemporary vibe — wood-lined walls, a Moroccan-tiled bar, pendant lighting and a signature giant stuffed cow head — meshes nicely with the adventurous cocktails. All drinks are crafted using fresh herbs and spices — a favorite is the gin with house-made basil syrup. 

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