Dam Drinking Guide: Amsterdam Cocktail Bars & Breweries

I make no secret of the fact that half the time I can barely remember what I ate for dessert – or even if I ate dessert at all. My penchant for all things alcoholic replaces any kind of a sweet tooth I may once have had; and if I do indulge in something sweet, there’s a good chance that the booze will completely obliterate the memory. Mr Foodie and I are collectively known as “the little couple who can drink”, because while we’re by far the smallest in stature among our friendship group, we are always the last ones standing at the bar. All this is background, though. My general point is: I’m qualified (possibly over-qualified) in the business of drinking in general, and drinking in Amsterdam’s cocktail bars and breweries in particular.  

Before we get started on my guide to the best cocktail bars and breweries in Amsterdam, a quick note about where to buy spirits and beer in the Netherlands. Drinks are always heavy to carry, so ordering them for home delivery is often the better bet. For online wine orders, try Colaris.nl, which carries a wide selection of wines at different price points as well as Vivino top-rated wines and some lovely gift packages. If your love of booze extends to cocktails, online liquor store Topdrinks.nl sells every spirit imaginable, including all your favourite brands. And finally, Jopenbier.nl is your go-to for Dutch craft beer.

Looking for more than beer and cocktails in Amsterdam? Download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide:

Best Cocktail Bars in Amsterdam

A decade or two ago, you could barely find more than a weak cosmopolitan or an overly sweet mojito in Amsterdam. Nowadays, however, all sorts of bars are doing cocktails – and doing them pretty well. These are my current favourites…

Bar Oldenhof

Think vintage jazz bar meets literary meeting place meets mountain hunting lodge. Bar Oldenhof is best summed up by the word “old-fashioned”. Old-fashioned drinks: a huge selection of Scottish whiskies is on offer, and several grown-up cocktails in the same vein. Old-fashioned armchairs that make you want to read a newspaper while sporting your best slippers. And old-fashioned service: they close the bar when more than 25 people show up to ensure they can give their full attention to all their guests.

Hiding in Plain Sight

Hiding in Plain Sight is in the style of an old-school American speakeasy, but then with giant windows covering two walls – making it the most ill-concealed “secret” bar ever. But we’re happy about that. The bar staff are extremely knowledgeable, and the drinks are all themed according to type. One of my absolute favourites.

Tales & Spirits

This back-alley bar and restaurant serves some of the most creative cocktails in the city. I get Tales & Spirits’ “Smoke & Mirrors” every time I visit: it comes on a shiny, silver-mirrored platter, topped with a glass dome filled with smoke. The waiter lifts the dome (’80s-restaurant style) and the smoke infuses both into the drink and right up your nose. It’s a sipper of a cocktail and I can only really deal with one per evening, but it’s totally worth it for the experience. Other favourites include the “Little Miss Troubles” (because who can resist a name like that?) and the “Fallen Lady” – in honour of the bar’s red-light neighbours of the night.

Old-fashioned (foreground); spicy Paloma (background)

Flying Dutchmen Cocktails

The brainchild of award-winning mixologist Tess Posthumus and top bartender Timo Janse, Flying Dutchmen is a slightly hard-to-find cocktail bar in the Canal Belt. The menu is split according to drinks that require you to walk, run or fly (not literally), and the flavour matrix on the back plots each cocktail according to its sweetness, bitterness, and so on. As a result, my husband and I tried the Brandy Crusta and Santa Marta, both of which we loved for their bitter notes, smooth alcohol content, and citrus kick.


A hidden gem just off the Leidseplein, NJOY has you doing what it says on the tin. The bar staff know their Lillet from their lychee syrup, and you feel like you’ve discovered a funky little haven of cool among the Argentinian steakhouses and dodgy night spots. They make an absolutely killer cosmopolitan – it even comes with a warning that two is your max!

Door 74

Causing more than a stir (possibly a shake?) when it opened, Door 74 is Amsterdam’s original hidden speakeasy. It’s exclusive, but only in the sense that you have to know where it is, and you have to book. There’s no entrance fee, but drinks aren’t cheap. They are, however, bloody lovely. And this is one of the few bars in Amsterdam where you can get dressed up New-York style without feeling silly.

Best Hotel Bars in Amsterdam

Hotel bars and restaurants completely fell out of fashion in the 90s, but of late they’ve been making a comeback. It’s a welcome development, because some of Amsterdam’s hotels are absolutely beautiful – plus they tend to have more space than many of the city’s regular venues that can be a little too cosy at times. Here are a few of my favourite hotel bars – even if you’re not staying the night, you’re very welcome to pop in for a drink.

The definition of off-the-beaten-path, the Kevin Bacon Bar is adjacent to the weirdly awesome Hotel Not Hotel. As you sip your Kevin Bacon Old Fashioned (made with bourbon infused with bacon – what’s not to like?), you can gaze out at the camper van or the tent sitting slap bang in the middle of the hotel building. But enough about the crazy hotel: the bar staff do a great job mixing up the perfect martini, and generally charming everyone who walks in. Try the “Pear-shaped Scotsman” or the “Lime Leaf Lemongrass Martini” for Asian-spiced, aromatic drinks that pair perfectly with the bar’s Thai food menu.

Kevin Bacon Bar Amsterdam
The Pear-shaped Scotsman, from Kevin Bacon Bar

On the slightly more formal side, Pulitzer’s Bar at the Pulitzer Hotel, Amstel Bar at the Amstel Hotel and Taiko Bar at the Conservatorium Hotel all offer some excellent drinks by expert mixologists – but with a price tag to match.

For stunning interior design while you sip your cocktail, try Bluespoon at the Andaz Hotel – designed by Marcel Wanders himself. If the view outside is more your thing, be sure to check out the SkyLounge on the top floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton near Centraal Station. With views across the city, this rooftop bar is best enjoyed in summer.

For a slightly more casual night out (but with drinks that are just as good), try Super Lyan at the Kimpton de Witt Hotel. Or while away an afternoon or evening at Lotti’s – the laidback bar at the Hoxton Hotel.

Looking for more than beer and cocktails in Amsterdam? Download my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide:

Best Breweries and Beer Cafés in Amsterdam

The Netherlands has always been known for its beer – big names like Heineken and Amstel all came from the Dutch capital. But in recent years, the country’s craft beer scene has come on in leaps and bounds as well.

Brouwerij Troost

Troost brews its beers right there in the brewery (you can see all the huge metal vats behind the bar as you sip your beer) so you can’t get any fresher. My personal favourite is the “Amber Ale”, but fans of a bitter IPA, a fresh white beer, or an autumnal bock beer won’t be disappointed either. Oh, and they do burgers. And as we all know, beer and burgers are a match made in hoppy heaven. Now with three locations in Amsterdam.

In de Wildeman

Classic never goes out of style. In de Wildeman is a traditional biercafe with an amazing selection of local and international beers. A haven for the real beer fan. They serve 18 beers on tap and a further assortment of 250 beers by the bottle.

Proeflokaal Arendsnest

Any visitor to Amsterdam should visit this temple to Dutch beers. They only have beers from the Netherlands at this tasting room but you’ll be amazed at the variety. Proeflokaal Arendsnest has around 50 beers on tap and more than 100 varieties in bottle. I love the uniformed staff and gleaming copper pipes at this elegant bar.

Beer and bitterballen: a match made in hoppy heaven

Oedipus Brewing

An innovative young brewery located in Amsterdam Noord, Oedipus Brewing is the place to be on weekends and for their many special events. These folk combine their love for beer with their enthusiasm for music, food and fun. Although you can find their beers all over town, the brewery is the place to go for special seasonal beers you can’t taste anywhere else.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ

Housed under an original windmill in Amsterdam Oost, Brouwerij ‘t IJ serves its own-brewed beers and various lekkere hapjes (including IJwit beer and my favourite sheep’s cheese from Dikhove in Ransdorp) in the afternoon and early evening.

Brouwerij de Prael

In the heart of the Red Light District, de Prael brewery was set up to employ people suffering from psychiatric problems. In the proeflokaal (tasting room), you can taste the beers named after famous Dutch singers – there’s one still in the Red Light District and another in de Pijp.


Dark and musty, this original beer bar down an alleyway off the Spuistraat demands that you drink out of one of those funny test-tube-shaped glasses in a wooden stand. The beer’s called Kwak and you’ll spill it everywhere, but it’s just sort of tradition. You’ll understand when you go there, I promise. Gollem has several locations nowadays, but the oldest one on the Raamsteeg is my favourite.

Prefer wine? Read my roundup of Amsterdam’s best wine bars.


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