A Belgian barkeeper, David Duchovny and some Russian Cocaine – the unusual, yet perfect ingredients to start any Saturday night that we found at the fantastical, intimate watering hole, If Dogs Run Free.
What the hell has David Duchovny got to do with anything? Well. He wasn’t there in person, but in the teenage fantasies we discuss at the bar. After a few shots of heartwarmingly good alcohol, our conversation drifts to the days of our awkward teenage crushes. I’d still not push him out of bed still being one hell of a Schnitte (hottie), but that might be a conversation for another time and place. (reality slap) Back to the task at hand …
This place is more than a bar. Actually, on first impression, it’s hard to define what this place actually is – a cocktail bar or a dark corner of your subconscious in which hard liquor is served. But that’s the idea, according to part owner Gregorio.
“The space itself is meant to invite fantasy – just like the name, the space should invoke that ambiguous question – ‘what if?’”
Being the brainchild of an actress, a restaurateur, graphic designer and two architects, this place was always going to be a place with an identity crisis – however, this confused state of being very much works for it.
It seems not dogs, but a team of mad-designer-scientists ran free here. The ceiling! Those colorful, edged and angled tiles, coming down from above like upside down mountains from an Atari videogame, finding their way down to merge with the plain grey concrete walls and floors of the sweeping space.
Gregorio tells me that the space is based on a black box theater in which the ceiling is the main attraction. We find ourselves admiring more than drinking. Even more spectacular is the way the tiles connect with the row of alcohol (the leading actor in this theater piece), illuminated and glowing behind the bar underneath an imposing mirror.
We start the first round lightly. Some Gin & Tonic for my friend and a shot of Absolut Elyx Vodka for me. As a Vodka lover I know almost all of them, but have never had the chance to try this one. I’m not disappointed – smooth and one of the more exclusive liquids.
Subtle background music blends into the increasing sound of conversations as good-looking people make their way in from the street.
We’re soon onto the cocktails as their names inspire our curiosity. There are the old school classics – the Old fashion, the Margarita, the Boulevardier – We sample the first original house-made invention – the Damascus Sour. It’s boozy, tasty and very different. While you see cocktail mixologist across the city nowadays, this place opened in 2012 when cocktails were the new hot girl at school in Vienna. The difference between ‘dogs’ and the others is that here, they’re mad scientists rather than mixologists, with a serious commitment to their booze.
“We want people to identify with ‘their’ drink,” Gregorio tells us. Watching the barkeeper shaking and blending his brews, there is no doubt he knows what he’s doing. He does it without overdoing it by showing off his biceps and his shiny white teeth smile. He just subtly works the magic.
However, we finally get to see his shiny white smile when we order our round of shots – ‘one Russian cocaine, one Piranha, and one Pickleback, bitte.’ It sounds like the mad hatters tea party, dosen’t it?
The ingredients combination is as odd as their names:
Russian Cocaine: a vodka shot glass with a coffee-sugar-dipped lemon on top
The Piranha: vodka and Tabasco with a cherry on top
The Pickleback: Irish whiskey and pickled gherkin juice
Holding the Russian Cocaine in my hand, I find myself scratching my head like a virgin with no idea where what goes – unsure on how to get this down my throat at first. But I shrug and dig in. And my eyes sparkle at the sudden and unexpected pop this drink delivers.
We walk out of the bar inspired to start each Saturday night with coffee-sugar-lemon-vodka kicks and Tabasco cherry shots to help us chase that goal of every weekend – to let our dogs and our fantasy run free!