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Bars are drinking destinations important to human societies and often considered places to escape reality. We can trace their origins back to ancient Greek and Roman times. How many bars are there around the world? No one knows for sure, but it’s estimated there are more than a million across the globe. They typically fall into one of several categories, from hotel bars and cocktail lounges to taverns and beer halls. Many are ordinary, but some push the boundaries of creativity. Here, we present 5 of the most extraordinary watering holes in the world.

Photography by Juan Serrano Corbella/Alamy

Cool in the Caribbean

Floyd’s Pelican Bar
St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

Located a mile offshore in the Caribbean Sea, Floyd’s Pelican Bar is accessible only by boat and was initially created to serve local fishermen. Owner Floyd Forbes built his establishment on a sandbar entirely out of driftwood, coconut tree trunks and palm branches. Jamaican captains ferry guests out to sea in colorful water taxi boats; the trip and entry will set you back $10. The bar interior boasts an array of memorabilia from around the world, and the floor looks like a guest book as patrons are encouraged to carve their names into the dock boards. Most bar goers wade into the turquoise waters with a drink in hand, socializing with strangers and making new friends. Floyd’s operates a tiny kitchen serving lunch and dinner, including a daily seafood catch, jerk chicken and coconut garlic lobster. In case you’re wondering, there’s no bathroom. Cash only.

Photography provided by the Ritz Carlton, Hong Kong

The Air Up There

Hong Kong

Ozone sits half a kilometer above sea level on the 118th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong. Claiming the title of highest bar in the world, it is quite literally over the top. Guests enjoy jaw-dropping panoramic views of Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong Island and beyond. The interior design is out of this world in every sense, with an explosive and extravagant futuristic vibe. Mixology is in full force here, and the extensive food menu includes a range of sushi, Japanese cuisine and Asian tapas served to the soundtrack of a live DJ. Patrons include hipsters, expats, hotel guests and people celebrating special occasions. Bring your Gold Card as the drink prices are almost as high as the bar’s setting. A strict dress code is enforced, and reservations are required.

Photography by Really Montana Photography

A Bizarre Slice of Americana

Sip ’n Dip Lounge
Great Falls, Montana

Start with an old-school motor lodge, combine it with a tiki bar, add in a swimming pool and some mermaids, and you get one of the most unusual bars in the world. This crazy combination is best described as Polynesia on the Great Plains. The Sip ’n Dip draws a local crowd ranging from college kids to ranchers to airmen from the nearby military base. The entertainment consists of a “tank” of mermaids (and occasionally mermen) who perform behind two large glass windows six nights a week to the delight of visitors from near and far. Another draw? The kitschy vocals of Piano Pat Spoonheim, a local icon who’s been headlining here for more than 50 years. Guests tackle drinks like the 52-ounce rum fishbowl and dine on the signature meatloaf.

Photography by Robert Harding/Alamy

A Shot of Adrenaline

Cresta Run
St. Moritz, Switzerland

Back in 1885, British military officers created the Cresta Run as a tourist draw. This natural ice racing track starts in St. Moritz, winds its way down a narrow valley for nearly a mile and ends at a clubhouse in the village of Cresta. Racers fly down the mountain on a ribbon of ice headfirst at speeds of up to 80 mph in pursuit of the fastest daily time. Spectators, meanwhile, cheer them on and witness spectacular crashes that often require an ambulance to collect wounded riders. Spandex-clad participants mingle with women draped in fur and gentlemen dressed in tweed as they sip on Champagne and snack on light bites in a clubhouse steeped in tradition. It’s  eccentric, charming and somehow unpretentious. The signature drink for riders is the Bullshot: a vodka concoction containing four beef bouillon shots, Worcestershire sauce and hot peppers. Guest passes can be arranged in advance.

Photography by Education Images/Getty

This Place is on Fire

Tom’s Burned Down Cafe
La Pointe, Wisconsin

Tom’s Burned Down Cafe is a hastily cobbled-together bar draped with tents and tarps that could easily be mistaken for a junkyard. Presiding over Lake Superior, it is located on Madeline Island and only accessible by ferry boat from the mainland port of Bayfield. This cannabis-scented open-air ramshackle wonderland of bars, decks and stages is adorned with eclectic art and twinkling lights. Hundreds of signs share sayings like, “You have to be tough if you are going to be stupid.” How did this place come to be? Nearly 30 years ago, a fire broke out at an existing bar called Leona’s and the structure mostly burned to the ground. The name was changed to Tom’s Burned Down Cafe (“Tommy’s” for those in the know). By day, it’s a funky beach break. By night, locals and tourists come together to enjoy live music and celebrate another day in paradise. Cash only. 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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