The last nine months have been a bit wild. I’ve fully enjoyed getting out of my basement office with a once-a-month road trip. Seeing the world pass by from my car as I made my way to Nashville, Duluth, Colorado, and Chicago. Recently, a friend invited me to Aruba during her month-long stay in December 2020. I couldn’t pass it up. On the breezy, 6-mile wide island of Aruba, there’s sun, sand, and lots of cacti. (Definitely the opposite of my basement.) You’ll also find bars, mostly beach-front, slinging all the tropical drinks. Some of them are really good, turning out crowd favorites like Hurricanes, Mai Tais, and Piña Coladas. If that’s your thing, I would definitely recommend Moomba Beach and Rum Reef. But I was looking for something unique. Enter the 1.5 year old speakeasy, Apotek Speakeasy (formerly known as Apotheek), the only craft cocktail bar in Aruba.
Originally posted in December 2020 and updated in June 2021 with help from the bar owner.
Apotek Speakeasy: What’s a Craft Bar in Aruba?
As someone obsessed with “craft cocktails” I realize some people might wonder what that actually means. Apotek offers a perfect example of “craft” in action. You won’t find any pre-made mixers here. Not only do they fresh squeeze their juices and create delicious homemade syrups, but they also create bespoke drinks. All you need to do is tell the bartender what spirit you want and the flavor profile you’re into, and they will create a drink, just for you. And, as I experienced, they don’t hold back to make your dream cocktail a reality. Nothing simple here. Although, if you asked, I’m sure they would be happy to wow you with a three-ingredient cocktail.
While other bars in Aruba certainly use fresh juices and make their own syrups, the focus is more on volume and ease than crafting individual works of “drink art” and flavor. And, to be fair, there are several restaurants and hotels in Aruba that certainly serve craft cocktails, but that’s not their singular focus. If you are looking for great cocktails, along with a delicious meal, I would definitely recommend AZIA.
The Drinks at Apotek Speakeasy
Morse Code (left): Diplomatico Planas Rum, pineapple, lime, strawberry
Smoke & Mirror (right): Montelobos Mezcal, blackberries, pineapple, lime, pumpkin syrup
The drinks we had were so good. If you are looking for a bar in Aruba, you need to put this place at the top of your list. Watching our bartender, Nelson, create our drinks with enthusiasm and flair was a treat. Based on the ingredients, you knew what your drink was going to taste like, but it surprised me how consistent everything was. I’m sure you’ve had the experience of ordering one drink that’s good and then the rest fall flat. This was not our experience with Apotek. The menu was diverse and the bar was well-stocked. We could’ve been there all week experiencing new flavors.
Prescriptions at Apotek
Apotheek is Dutch for apothecary. This translation is evident in the concept of the decor and the menu. (This playful connection to pharmacies freaked out the local health officials a bit, hence the change in name to the bar.) When you walk into the bar, the full menu is displayed on the wall. The menu also offers the “Doctors Orders” and the “Intravenous Therapy”. Both allow you to choose your spirit(s) and whether you’d like your remedy to be sweet, sour, bitter, or perfectly balanced. The difference between the two, in case you wondered, is the range of spirits. The IV option allows for premium liquor to be used. They also refer to their cocktails as “remedies” to go along with their theme.
I ordered an Intravenous remedy. My specifications were bourbon and perfectly balanced. I was treated to this deliciously smoked creation. It was made with Woodford Reserve, dragon fruit, lime juice, vanilla syrup, lavender bitters, and cherry wood smoke. The bartender was nice enough to write the recipe down for me. I’m looking forward to finding all the ingredients and trying to create it at home.
When You Visit this Bar in Aruba
You’ll find this bar tucked inside a historic building in downtown Oranjestad, Aruba. This is the main downtown area of the island. Unlike most speakeasies, this one is not hard to spot as the main bar is on street level. There is a small, private VIP lounge at the bottom of a set of stairs once you are inside. While you won’t need a code word, you will definitely want to make a reservation to ensure you can grab a seat. When you arrive at the door, just ring the fancy looking doorbell box to be let inside. The bar is open Tuesday through Saturday from 6-11pm. I hope you find your way to this incredible bar in Aruba. If you do, drop me a comment, I would love to hear about your visit!