Remember how angry you were when your parents enforced a curfew? Who did they think you were: Cinderella?
It meant all the cool kids, the ones with the Bohemian parents, were turning up to parties just as you were leaving.
But however much you disliked the word, all that is about to change. I promise you, the new Curfew bar in Copenhagen will change the way you regard curfews forever.
A small iron stencil sign that reflects the name of the bar onto a white wall designates the entrance. It’s not tremendously visible, but it’s worth seeking out as Curfew is an extraordinary bar.
Pushing through the front door we enter a dark room. We can no longer hear any of the noises from the outside street. It generates mystery, like we are embarking on a secret adventure.
At the second door are two men dressed in white shirts and black bow-ties who are wearing leather holsters. I feel I am suddenly in gangster territory, and I have to check I didn’t say that out loud when one of them asks us: “Did you know this used to be the place where gangsters hung out during the Second World War?” The mind-reading is remarkable, so I guess the next trick will be knowing what I want to try first.
Instead of guns, we find out later, they’re carrying ‘bartender kits’ in the holsters to fit in with the bar’s ‘Prohibition era’ theme.
Vintage meets innovation
As I am poured cucumber water from an old metal jar (ideal to neutralise the tastes you are about to experience), I observe some peculiar old bar artefacts displayed in a big cupboard that also houses a bottle museum dating back to the early 19th, or maybe late 18th, century.
The place is certainly designed in a unique way – by the owner himself, it transpires. A collector for many years, he has assembled a mixture of the innovative and vintage. Low lighting gives Curfew a sense of calmness and privacy, while Portuguese terracotta tiling gives it a sense of heritage. The overall effect is charming, like it’s a room full of intimate treasures.Designer aficionados will appreciate the Arthur Umanoff iron red chairs (originals), while the couches are a family creation, sewn by hand by his mother and wife.
Be unfaithful … for one night
Regarding the drinks, it’s difficult to know where to start, so let’s go for my personal favourite, ‘The Unfaithful’, Curfew’s secret formula for getting the woman of your dreams. It’s Hendricks gin with a mix of liquorice and cucumber infused with petal rose that will put anyone in the mood – ideal to order for a lady if you are out on a date!
Then I would recommend ‘The Eucalyptus Martini’, a beautiful citrusy number with a consistency aided by egg white and ‘all that shaking’; or possibly ‘First Aid’, aloe vera honey and dry port wine that tastes like fragolino.
And last, but not least, a cocktail with history: ‘Queen Berengaria’. Made in honour of her marriage to King Valdemar, this cocktail involves two extremes meeting in a balance of sweetness and berries that will take you back to the medieval era. Inspired by love, it balances a vanilla-infused aquavit with ruby port wine and a home-made blackberry and lemon verbena shrub.
They also offer some craft beer that matches their Prohibition theme – namely Brooklyn lager – and some Portuguese wine produced by Cortes de Cima. Or if you can’t drink, are driving or are not in the mood, they make some amazing soft drinks using their own sodas. ‘The Flying Daisy’ with aloe vera soda was my favourite.
Apple of his eye
Curfew is owned by Humberto Saraiva Marques, a journeyman Portuguese barman who has spent his entire working life in the profession, first in London, and then in Copenhagen. He recently finally fulfilled his ambition to run his own bar, “the apple of his eye”, where he has the opportunity to finally satisfy all his whims, of which one is making his own drink creations.
He has been harbouring them for a quite a while. While bartending doesn’t tend to be on most careers masters’ lists, Marques remembers being asked at school what he wanted to do when he grew up and choosing bartending, partly because he was inspired by his brother being in the hospitality business. Hanging on the wall, a signed portrait of Tom Cruise in ‘Cocktail’ offers an alternative explanation.
Where art has no limits
For Humberto, making cocktails is an art.
“There are so many things yet to be discovered,” explains Antonio, one of his bartenders. “He keeps inventing – he is a constant inventor.”
The menu is extensive as Marques and his staff are always coming up with new ideas, although it couldn’t be done without hard work and exhaustive ingredient testing.
All in all, they promise, Curfew is about the experience, not about getting drunk, so drop by and lighten your load.