By Debajit Dhar
Dubai’s glitzy mega-resorts, glamorous hotels and deluxe dining venues offer whiskey enthusiasts various opportunities to enjoy their favorite spirit. It even hosts whisky events curated by international experts. But, and this is the biggest consideration, access to such opportunities can only be possible if you have a clear understanding of Dubai’s strict drinking laws. Dubai is, after all, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and a Muslim country.
Still interested in experiencing the whiskey scene in Dubai? Here’s what you should know about it:
Dubai’s Top Notch Drinking Experiences
As expected from a wealthy, cosmopolitan city, some of the establishments serving whiskey in Dubai are rated as among of the finest in the world.
For those seeking an intimate, exclusive atmosphere, a speakeasy is your go-to place. While Nippon Bottle Company is “secretly” located behind a bookshelf inside the Dusit Thani lobby, it has long been a highly popular nightspot. Here, you can try a wide range of Japanese drinks, exotic mixes and well-known labels from their well-stocked whiskey bar.
For a rich and deluxe ambiance, there’s Al Sarab Rooftop Lounge, listed as one of the “world’s coolest bars” by MSN.com and one of the top “incredible bars you should drink at in your lifetime” by Business Insider. Their whiskey offerings draw loyal patrons of both expats and locals. The breathtaking desert views, lavish décor and live music create the perfect Arabian Nights feel, shisha optional.
For the classic pairing of cigar and whiskey, visit The Cigar Bar at the Fairmont Hotel. Cozy, retro and romantic, the lounge has a cigar sommelier who can recommend the perfect cigar and whiskey selections according to your preferences.
If you truly want to experience luxury at the highest level (literally), don’t miss Al Muntaha on the 27th floor of the Burj Al Arab. Order the world’s most expensive cocktail made with a rare 55-year old Macallan, or indulge in the unicorn of bourbons, Pappy Van Winkle.
“Top Notch” And “Dubai” Don’t Necessarily Mean Expensive
Those who prefer a more casual setting can go to Girders, a sports bar with an extensive, impressive, and relatively more affordable whiskey menu. Couqley French Bistro & Bar likewise offers a casual bar menu featuring whiskey sour, rye whiskey, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and more.
Another practical option is to shop for drinks from an established alcohol retail store as they often offer tax-free and discounted prices. African + Eastern, the largest alcohol retailer in the region, has 16 stores all over Dubai and carries an extensive selection of spirits.
The Catch: You Need Paperwork
Non-Muslim expats residing in Dubai are required by the Dubai alcohol laws and regulations to possess an alcohol license to buy, consume and store whiskey at home. Failure to comply can lead to heavy fines, jail time, loss of visas and deportation.
While the laws are strict, procuring an alcohol license is fairly low fuss:
- Provide proof that you are not a Muslim, are over 21 years old and you receive a minimum income of AED 3,000 per month.
- Submit the required paperwork: a completed application form with supporting documents.
- Pay the processing fee of AED 270.
For an even easier process (albeit more limited option), you may apply for a license with the African + Eastern chain. All you need to do is to submit the required documents online, and everything will be facilitated for you.
The alcohol license is good to use for one year. As a license holder, you are expected to be aware and to comply with the rules on buying, consuming, transporting and storing whiskey in the permitted quantity.
Sophisticated settings, an international community and world-renowned selections of the best spirits make the whiskey scene in Dubai grow more vibrant than ever. If you’re a whiskey fan visiting, working or living in this city, you won’t run out of options whenever you want to enjoy a good drink. Just make sure to follow the rules.