By Anatol Steven.
A postmodern-minded team of girls are the vigorous driving force behind PinUp, a great new cocktail bar on a quiet street in the Old Town, a sliver of a space between the Grand Palace Hotel and Riga Castle.
The pin-up girls in mind here are the new industrial style, with tattoos and metal studs, as well as the old-fashioned femme fatale. The aim is to give vintage images a fresh and artistic look – an idea that trickles into the cocktails on offer.
There are four glossy lists of cocktails, one of which carries the classics (€8 each), such as Negroni, SideCar, Whisky Sour – even Long Island Iced Tea for the same price. But another lists “classics with a twist”, also at €8 each.
We enjoyed one of these, prepared by the long-lashed tattooed blonde bombshell behind the bar. Served in a chunky tumbler, “Old Fashioned with maple syrup foam” had all the ingredients favored by characters in TV’s Mad Men – Angostura bitters, sugar cubes, cherry, slice of orange, Woodford Reserve bourbon – but added a thick layer of white maple-syrup foam, turning an already sweet cocktail even sweeter.
In was mightily enjoyable, but next we needed something less likely to bring on Type 2 diabetes. For now discarding the third list of cocktails, PinUp’s own house mixes (€7 each), such as Nutty Monk (Frangelico liqueur, spice mix, lime juice) and mandarin revolution (Mandarin Napoleon, lemon juice, mandarin segments, mint), we went for the fourth (€6 each) – martini cocktails!
No ordinary martinis, of course. We asked for an elderberry-basil martini, with vodka, elderberry liqueur, grape juice, basil and mint. The only thing “martini” about these cocktails is the martini glass. Anyhow, we loved it – much sharper, to the point. Next time we’ll try the pumpkin-clove (vodka, pumpkin puree, cloves, lemon juice, honey), blueberry-lavender (gin, blueberry puree, lime juice, lavender, blueberry syrup) or carrot-ginger (gin, carrot juice, lemon juice, ginger, mandarin syrup) “martinis”.
If cocktails are not your thing, there are Latvian beers, lots of spirits, eight different rums, teas and coffee. Weekdays, PinUp has burgers, salads and coffee, to consume in or on the go, and as evening approaches, silent black-and-white cartoons screen atmospherically on one of the walls.
In November and December, jam sessions, acoustic evenings and live music take place on Friday and Saturday nights, mostly Latvian artists. And, as with the “techno fetish” night hosted at Halloween, a big highball-sized party will be staged at New Year.