Spirited Traveler: Drinking (and smoking) in Dubai

Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:53am EDT
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(Kara Newman is the author of “Spice & Ice: 60 tongue-tingling cocktails,” available. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

By Kara Newman

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Business travel in the small desert city of Dubai can be thirsty work.

In a town known for its high-stakes fortunes and opulent real estate, the drinks may flow after hours, but "it's more about the sheesha that goes with the drinks, than any one cocktail itself," explains resident Cindy Hammel, a professional copywriter.

Perhaps this should be unsurprising; in keeping with Islamic principles, alcohol is not freely available in Dubai. Instead, sheesha, flavored tobacco smoked from a water pipe (hookah), is the preferred social lubricant. Moroccan tea service or a staggering array of fresh fruit juices are found in many venues.

But, when dusk falls, Dubai's nightlife comes alive, and the party isn't confined to the weekend.

In a stroke of luck for business travelers, thanks to licensing laws, Dubai's bars are almost exclusively located within hotels (choose wisely; not all properties have bars), and many of these have club-like atmospheres, with DJs and late-night revelry.

Zuma (), located in the downtown financial district, is "usually buzzing with the financial crowd," Hammel says. The restaurant, known for its Japanese food, prominently features sake as well as a list of non-alcoholic fresh-fruit "cleansers and boosters," such as the mojito-like yoshi nura (mint and ginger mixed with sugar and fresh lime juice, topped with soda water).

Also along Sheikh Zayed Road, Vu's Bar () is on the 51st floor of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, and offers expansive views and a list of 200 cocktails.   Continued...