Embracing your geekness couldn't get much geekier than clinking themed cocktails at a fandom-inspired bar where everyone shares your obsession.
Parallel universes, enchanted kingdoms and superhero hangouts where you can simultaneously sip a drink and take a selfie next to the largest collection of anime figures or vintage comics you've seen in your life take the concept of fandom beyond new heights and straight into outer space (sometimes literally). As awesome as barcades are, they are usually blinking and flashing and whiz-banging with multiple fandoms, so while they have their own place in my robotic heart, it's in a different chamber.
Bars like Figures and Lovecraft aren't just dives with a few movie posters peeling off the wall. These are the brains behind Beetlejuice, Alien, Cthulhu, 007, Sherlock, mythical creatures, steampunk gadgetry and every comic book that ever existed brought to life in full Technicolor. Because you don't want just a fruity red cocktail, but a fruity red cocktail topped with a lemon rind in the shape of lightning bolt because you’re Superman. Or Wonder Woman. Or whoever.
Go bar-hopping and genre-hopping with these 13 shrines to fandom that will change the way you raise your glass.
The Unicorn and Narwhal Bars
If you're one of those people who proudly flaunts a candy-colored shirt that says "I’m really a unicorn" or "Narwhals are rad" or who might have gone to at least five Starbucks just to taste the legendary Unicorn Frap, you're going to be utterly enchanted by these trippy sister bars in Seattle. It’s like walking into a carnival on acid. Get your freak show on with pastel walls that are either mounted with taxidermy and moldings reminiscent of an old-time circus (and possibly American Horror Story: Freak Show) or splashed with fantastical murals inspired by vintage tattoo art. Pinball machines and other arcade games light up like crazy for an electric ambience. Magical cocktails include My Little Pony, The Mystical Mermaid and — of course — Unicorn Tears.
Seattle, Washington, USA
Ride a unicorn.
The Lovecraft Bar
In the eldritch depths of NYC lies a bar crawling and seething with the Cult of Cthulhu. Lovecraft aficionados will love this lair that's the closest thing to R’lyeh this side of the universe with unmentionable wall art, strange tubing, bubbling portal windows and, of course, tentacles. There is even an entire bookshelf of the master's works and other Lovecraftian nightmares for your reading (dis)pleasure. The bar is epic. Drown yourself in their own house brew that's on tap or a signature potion such as the Cthulhu Mythos. You can even concoct your own cocktail by picking your own poison and a house-made infusion or two, with selections rotating seasonally — bourbon & ginger ale with a pumpkin infusion is an evil Halloween treat.
New York, New York, USA
Worship the Elder Gods.
The Sherlock Holmes
Whether you worship Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or have watched every single episode of Sherlock at least twice, the detective-obsessed should have a clue about this famous London pub. The Victorian atmosphere, down to antique taxidermy (including a stag head wearing Sherlock's trademark deerstalker hat), books and apothecary bottles, is just like walking into 221B Baker Street. You can even explore a recreation of Holmes and Watson's study. This place also hosts murder mystery nights — so much more believable when you're looking for evidence in the same place John Watson keeps his revolver. Because investigating whodunit can be thirsty work, they have beers like Watson's Wallop on tap and a criminal lineup of cocktails, one of which must be constantly stirred for five minutes. Peculiar.
St. James’s, London, UK
Are you a senpai when it comes to naming every single power Koro Sensei has in Assassination Classroom or holding your own in a debate about which Death Note character is really the evil overlord? Otaku haven Otaboro is for anyone who devours enough Japan-imation to know the difference between a soul eater and a soul reaper. The walls are animated with a kaleidoscope of characters and the wait staff are even more obsessed than you are — meaning, they already know which obscure anime you're talking about and will mention three more you never knew existed. Anime figurines have taken over the bar, tables and even the bathroom. Don't be surprised if you find Captain Levi staring at you from between two bottles of sake.
Oita, Kyushu, Japan
Jekyll & Hyde Club
For a thirst that cannot be denied, horror maniacs need to skulk over to this East Village haunt "for eccentric explorers and mad scientists" that's full of evil but really alive with talking skeletons, gargoyles and mounted heads. Dare to go here as much for the ghastly entertainment as the poisonous libations. Even the wait staff are a cast of charmingly creepy zombies, vampires and one undead butler who sang me a gravelly serenade I will never forget in this lifetime. Expect the Sphinx to start a conversation or the dormant Dr. Brain to get electrified to life and raise Frankenstein from the ceiling at any time while sipping your Alter Ego. Warning: you may or may not get a birthday insult from the gargoyle.
New York, New York, USA
Embrace your evil half.
H.R. Giger Bar
It doesn't get more sci-fi than a bar dreamed into being by the Oscar-winning artist whose design work brought Alien into a whole other realm of horror. With an entrance that looks like a portal to the Nostromo, it looks less like a bar and more like a mausoleum for extraterrestrial life-forms. His ancient-meets-hypermodern vision is realized in an ominous atmosphere where almost everything down to the most gruesome details appears made of Xenomorph skeletons warped into art both beautiful and grotesque. Even the floor is covered in some ancient unearthly code that could either summon alien armies or make the place self-destruct. It seems like the ideal place to toast a dystopian future without the risk of playing human host to a surprise chestburster.
Kalchbuhl, Chur, Switzerland
No one can hear you scream.
Special agents, Bond girls, SWAT teams and any other intelligentsia will want to toast their spy movie fandom undercover at this off-the-grid hideout. Vintage Bond posters and random signs that No Shooting and Taking photos is not allowed warnings make you feel like the sidekick on special ops, but rest assured you can Instagram whatever you want, especially that suspicious-looking checkpoint, without getting abducted by enemy operatives. There is even a magician bartender and often speakers whose gripping real-life experiences with espionage will compel you to stay for another round. You don't need a password to get the intel on cocktails like Vesper Lynd and Mission Impossible (shaken, not stirred ... or is it the other way around?) or their top-secret Code Beer that you'll find nowhere else. No wonder it's been declassified.
Milwaukee, WI, USA
Say the password.
The Green Dragon Inn
The only food (and brews) for the brave and true — and diehard Tolkien fans — come from the Green Dragon, which was magically reconstructed after The Lord of the Rings finished filming in Middle-earth. If you have enough gold to tour the Hobbiton Movie Set, this is predictably the last stop after a long day's journey on the road that goes ever on and on. You can sit back in Bilbo's armchair by a roaring fire or daydream by the window while gazing out at the rolling hills of the Shire washed in a golden sunset. Put up your hairy feet and enjoy a complimentary pint from their exclusive Hobbit Southfarthing Range while savoring a beef and ale pie just as Merry and Pippin would if they weren't dancing on the table.
Matamata, New Zealand
Embark on your quest.
Kaiju Sakaba (Monster Bar)
This is the Godzilla of bars for anyone who can't get enough kaiju in all their fire-breathing, Earth-shattering, Tokyo-stomping glory. You're greeted by a giant lobster-thing with flashing eyes (aka Baltan Seijin from the Ultraman series) at the door and things just descend into chaos from there. There is a beast in the wall whose mouth you can stick your hand into and a gold clam-headed humanoid with eyes on stalks which appears to laugh at all the humans. The bar has been invaded by a swarm of kaiju figures and other memorabilia slithering, stamping their feet and snarling at you as you sip your sake or whatever else megamonsters drink besides the blood of their enemies. Just remember the one unbreakable rule: no superheroes allowed.
Brave the beasts.
Figures is the mutant that emerged from an experiment that involved splicing the DNA of a comic and toy haven with that of a killer restaurant to create a bar that will soon be every diehard comic enthusiast's kryptonite. The lobby is one enormous photo op and the walls could have been torn out of a vintage comic book and magnified a hundred times. Its superpowers lie in how it merges Mickey Mouse with Wonder Woman, Superman with Star Wars and every other genre imaginable from its walls to its libations, all spawned from the idea that "these are the figures that shaped us." The menu is just as colorful, with everything from lightning bolt and Stormtrooper cocktails to desserts crawling with tiny chocolate robots.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Swoop in or teleport over.
Game of Thrones Pop-Up Bar
Epic is the only word to describe this shrine to the Seven Kingdoms, which has brought in legions of fans, gone viral on Instagram and received a serious boost in geek cred with a mention from George R.R. Martin. Anything that can slay the author who created it is worth the quest. Dreamed up by The Drink Company, who are known for their creative cocktails, this is the only place in Westeros or anywhere else you can sip What is Dead May Never Die or The Lannisters Send Their Regards. Pledge to your house (I'm with Greyjoy) in the Red Keep and take advantage of the ultimate Instagram opportunity: holding your drinking horn high on the Iron Throne itself. Ride hard, because after August 27, this mythical realm will vanish.
Columbia Heights, Washington D.C., USA
Swear your allegiance.
The Beetle House
Whether you're alive, undead or somewhere in-between, this Tim Burton tribute in the East Village that insists "it's Halloween all year long" is literally to die for. Anyone who has ever binged on horror movie marathons or wanted October 31 to keep repeating itself will find themselves spellbound by a spooky atmosphere that could easily pass for one of the green-haired ghoul's haunts. You don't even have to say his name three times for The Beetle’s Juice, a venomous concoction of tequila and blackberry schnapps muddled with blackberries and limes, then injected with angostura bitters and bloody cranberry. Not to mention you'll get served between the teeth of an enormous Burton-esque monster — and by a bartender who looks like the ghost with the most.
New York, New York, USA
Say it three times.
Obsessed with steampunk and fantastical gadgetry? Fascinated by weird science? Think you've seen everything that isn't technically alive but still moves? You'll think again once you walk through the door of Enigma and are greeted by the glowing purple plasma-lamp cranium of a humanoid robot in a gas mask. Said robot is also cycling on a stationary bike, surrounded by kinetic sculptures from metal joints that fly from the ceiling like skeletal wings to an entire wall of revolving gears that periodically breaks out into a futuristic light show. There is also a perfectly terrifying painting of an empty-eyed cyborg face slowly being consumed by clockwork. Even the shelves of liquor bottles are interrupted by oversized clock parts, though the cocktails are verifiably mixed by humans.
Gear up your imagination.