The Men’s Club. It can have different connotations in the US, especially in Las Vegas. But in colonial India and throughout most of the second half of the 20th century, these clubs were the watering holes where the city’s experienced congregate. The bars in these clubs transported you to another time and place; plush leather seats, wood paneling and muted tones. The Madras Club (which was also known as the Ace of Clubs in the 19th century) dates back to 1832; it is one of India’s oldest clubs, Chennai’s club culture is second only to Kolkata.
Some of the city’s modern bars exude a similar vibe. These are the places for a relaxed drink and quiet conversation. Where connoisseurs exchange notes about their favorite dramas and where the music never kills the mood. It’s in these places where you’re likely to find whiskey lovers who can tell the difference between peaty Islay malts and soft and smooth Scottish lowland malts. You’ll find other spirits and cocktails here, but it’s whiskey that almost inevitably comes to the fore.
Here are 7 of the best whiskey bars in Chennai:
1. Cheroot, ITC Grand Chola:
It is undoubtedly one of India’s finest malt and cigar lounges; Cheroot takes its name from the legendary cigar of the former Madras Presidency, which was Winston Churchill’s personal favourite. Cheroot’s interior takes you right back to the Raj’s glory days – soft seating and warm and welcoming tones. It’s also a 2020s version of a 1920s watering hole with ‘Speakeasy’ decor where connoisseurs meet. Expect to find some of the rarest single malts, cognacs and fine cigars here.
ITC Grand Chola, Mount Road
2. Library Blu, Leela Palace, Chennai:
One of the city’s finest bars that can enter any list of India’s finest whiskey bars. Leela Palace is Chennai’s only luxury city hotel located on the edge of the Bay of Bengal. The blue and gold interior complements the view. Our favorite design elements include bookshelves with first edition classics and art by talented artists like Paresh Maity. It’s not just the fine whiskey and wine list, the cocktails also hit the right notes.
Leela Palace Chennai, MRC Nagar
3. The Flying Elephant, Park Hyatt Chennai:
It’s been almost a decade since The Flying Elephant shook up Chennai’s luxury F&B scene. After a hiatus of sorts, Flying Elephant reopened in a bolder, innovative and what they like to call an unscripted avatar. Its three-level architecture offers guests a multi-sensory dining experience that is unique in Chennai. While the spotlight may be on the reimagined food menu, Flying Elephants OG fans will tell you that this is just as great a place to sip your favorite malts. It offers several rooms and niches that have been reimagined as part of the hotel’s recent renovation.
Park Hyatt Chennai, Velachery Road
4. Lady Connemara Bar, Taj Connemara:
It is one of India’s most famous hotels, dating back to the 19th century. This was once the very center of Chennai’s (then Madras) nightlife. It’s that same sophistication that sets this bar apart in the city. Heritage-inspired cocktails compete with hand-rolled cigars for your attention in a room full of old Madras legends. The bar is home to some of the best whiskey brands and is equally renowned for its English Afternoon Tea Service.
Taj Connemara, Binny Road
5. The Velveteen Rabbit:
This intimate bar takes its name from Margery Williams’ novel of the same name. This popular hangout for adults has just been revamped and is now spread across multiple levels. It’s not just the interior that transports you to another place and time, the food and drink menu has been completely revamped. From craft cocktails to international small plates and fine malts, this is a great place to relax on a Friday night.
2nd Main Rd, RA Puram
6. Radio room:
It’s been almost seven years since Radio Room redefined the template for an ‘adult bar’ in Chennai. Perhaps it’s the music, with an emphasis on 80s classics and rock anthems, that sets the tone for the experience. The interior complements the ambiance with new hi-fi systems in the mix. The global beers and fine whiskeys complete the picture.
Sathyadev Avenue, MRC Nagar, Santhome
7. Thank you:
It is one of the many progressive bars in Chennai that are equally defined by their food menu and exhaustive list of beers. Not long ago, Chennai’s bars were not known for their food and restobar was not a term you would hear much. Dank is one of the rooms that changed that. It is one of the city’s largest bars with an exquisite selection of whiskeys and a popular Sunday brunch.
Sir Theagaraya Road, T Nagar