Drinking In… Istanbul
"It’s our culture to spend hours with friends on a night out, starting with a meal of mezzes and Raki and ending at sunrise, still dancing or sharing laughs."
Just returning from a 48-hour fly by visit to Istanbul, I can attest, summer nights sizzle in Istanbul, Turkey. Breezy patios, Turkish hip-hop and tequila shot vendors entertain the eyes and ears along the winding cobblestone streets of the Asmali Mescid neighborhood bursting with the TGIF buzz.
“There is an energy about going out in Istanbul. It’s our culture to spend hours with friends on a night out, starting with a meal of mezzes and Raki and ending at sunrise, still dancing or sharing laughs,” says Erk Erkaya of Locally Istanbul.
Our night began with Istanbul’s off-the-beaten path expert Erk Erkaya as our nightlife guide, at Mikla’s rooftop bar in the Marmara Pera Hotel. It was sleek and set the tone of things to come: beautiful people, great music and Istanbul intrigue.
When the bartender recommended the Cosmo as their signature cocktail, I knew Istanbul was less about mixology and more about enjoying the moment. Even if I didn’t get my celery-infused-bourbon-liquid-nitrogen cocktail topped with tomato shrub foam, I was more than happy to toast my night out in Istanbul with a perfectly made Cosmo.
Still on the search for a mixologist in Istanbul, I asked Erkaya if there were any bars we could visit that were doing some crazy cocktail concoctions beyond Cosmos and Mojitos. His bright blue eyes widened and he proudly said, “Tektekçi! It’s the best shot bar in town, probably over a 100 shots on menu, and it is always a packed. It's a popular spot as taking shots before the clubs is just part of our weekend ritual.”
Shots? That’s not usually my drinking style, but I figured I should trust the nightlife guru. We rounded the corner into an alley packed with people. Did we discover a rave on the way to the bar? Nope, this was Tektekçi, where taking shots is like an Olympic sport. Clusters of people huddled around trays of shots in every color of the rainbow. Finagling our way through the crowd outside the door was a feat, but we finally managed to make it inside the shoebox-sized bar. Bartenders were throwing liquid into the tiny glasses frantically but skillfully like artist Pollack would have if he were a bartender.
I asked a girl nearby for some shot advice. “Just how many shots do you take on average when you come to Tektekçi?” She giggled, tossed her chin down so her choppy bangs fell down over her eyes and said, “Seven is my lucky number. Seven is to make sure you have a good night.”
Seven? This may be the end of my night out in Istanbul. Luckily, the ten shots were more like spiked fruit punch rather than a punch in the gut.
In the mood to groove, Erkaya took us to Lokal, aptly named as it is a favorite club with locals. The main floor features house music, but as we kept climbing, the second floor was pop and the third floor – all '80s. According to Erkaya, the party can always be found here on the weekends. For a glitzy celebrity-centric club experience, Hakan Gurger of the uber-lux Guides of Istanbul, says Reina is the best in Istanbul.
When I had my fill of dancing to "Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun" on the third floor, my friend and I parted ways with our trusty guide (which I highly recommend hiring as it is tricky to get around unless you speak Turkish, in fact, we got lost without him on the way back to our hotel) and headed to Balkon.
The maze of stairs and elevators you have to scale to get to the rooftop is worth it to enjoy a beer or a mixed drink with a heady but chill crowd, ranging from hipsters to students.
For a chic-historic stay, check out any of the three The House Hotels located throughout Istanbul. My favorite for the party scene and stunning views of the sea is the House Hotel Bosphorous. But if high-end fashion is your fancy, stay at House Hotel Nişantaşı or for the local Turkish fashion scene, stay at House Hotel Galatasaray.
Images by Lanee Lee, except Hotel House Bosphorus courtesy of House Hotel.