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24 hours in Zurich with Dirk Hany

24 hours in Zurich with Dirk Hany - Expert favorites

Tried-and-tested recommendations are the key to making the most of a trip to Switzerland’s lakeside metropolis. TWISPER ambassador and award-winning cocktail maker Dirk Hany, owner of cocktail den Bar am Wasser, curates the perfect 24 hours in Zurich.

24 hours in Zurich with Dirk Hany

With its gilded banks and formal dining halls, a certain conservatism has long defined Switzerland’s largest city. But amid an influx of talented young creatives, Switzerland’s mountain-backed, lakefront metropolis is being invigorated by innovative restaurant menus and indulgent bar concepts. These days, there are plenty of excellent places to enjoy 24 hours in Zurich.  “I grew up in South Africa, but my dad is Swiss and he was adamant that Zurich is the best place to learn about fine dining,” says Dirk Hany, owner of the city’s Bar am Wasser.

Dirk’s professional life encompasses accolades from the prestigious Spirited Awards and Mixology Bar Awards; a long stint as ambassador for drinks brand Pernod Ricard, which took him around the world; and jobs fronting such stellar Zurich drinking dens as Widder Bar. His original dream, however, was to be a chef. “I wanted to manage a grand culinary hotel,” he says. “But I soon realised the potential of cocktails as a liquid kitchen. Plus, bar work puts me front of house, where I can be my sociable self.”

The menus at Bar Am Wasser, a full-service, sit-down bar offering everything from amuse bouche-style aperitifs to dessert drinks, are works of art — and not just for the cocktails within. Each season’s menu is tailored to specific local flavours, creatively interpreted and designed by local artists. “People beg, borrow and steal them,” laughs Dirk. With the city’s bars newly reopened, ‘back to the roots’ is this summer’s theme. “It seemed time to revisit classic cocktails — with a twist, of course,” explains Dirk. “And it’s time to revisit Zurich’s much-missed bars and restaurants.”

Morning

Kafischnaps is a simple little coffee shop in the heart of the city, decked out with black- and-white tiles and wooden chairs. The vibe here is local: the coffee comes from a Zurich roastery, the milk from a nearby dairy and the fruit and veggies from the local outdoor market.

Brunch is a popular pastime in Zurich, so head to ROSI for ‘frühschoppen’, the German and Austrian tradition of having a late-morning get-together over a drink. Expect lots of breads and traditional pancakes, plus home-made preserves, local sausage and plenty of beer and wine.

Afternoon

Baur’s, at the Baur au Lac Hotel, is a brasserie-style restaurant with a beautiful bar section. The dining menu includes French brasserie classics — think beef filet and tartare — and heavy but delicious desserts. As it’s annexed to a five-star hotel, service here is phenomenal.

For a quick bite, try the lakeside Pumpstation. Run by a local character called Baba, who even has his own Facebook fan page, the Alpine-grill-style menu includes potato salad, kebab and grilled sausage. It’s worth a visit just for the amazing mountain views and Baba’s jokes.

Evening

Zurich has a diverse international dining scene, but when it comes first-rate Swiss dishes like fondue and raclette, you often need to head to the mountains. Kronenhalle, however, is a great spot for traditional fare, including Zürcher geschnetzeltes and rösti (potato gratin pancake). I always take visitors here, as they love to see the waiters dressed up in classic service uniform, and the paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh and Rembrandt on the walls.

Bü’s, named after the owner, is another personal favorite; I love a great host, and Bü is exactly that, arriving tableside with a sharp click of his heels. The place has a vast wine collection, so make sure to ask for the full menu rather than the daily print-out.

After hours

Zurich tends to attract a young club crowd, so I head for places like Club Bellevue, which has a slighter older clientele and plays classic house music. Klaus is another favorite; although not strictly a member’s club, it’s a place ‘for friends and friends of friends’ and entry is allowed at the bouncers’ discretion. If you make it inside, you’ll discover a wild world of dance and burlesque.

In the early hours, head to Gräbli Bar, which has attained cult status for being open around the clock.

 

Article featured in National Geographic TRAVELLER.

About the expert Hanky Panky Cocktail

Award-winning barkeeper and owner of Zurich cocktail den Bar am Wasser, Dirk Hany shares his expert recommendations for places to eat, sleep and drink in Switzerland and beyond.

Find him on TWISPER