Tbilisi Nightlife: A Realistic Summary and Drinking Guide
11 September, 2014
Tbilisi Nightlife: A Realistic Summary and Drinking Guide
Tbiliseli like to drink and like to party. This is a simple fact. While Georgians in general like to enjoy their homemade Odessa and Saperavi grapes, their spicy pepper vodka or their throat-burning Tchatcha, denizens of the capital have begun to widen their drinking habits from the supra of old, to the posh, see-and-be-seen bottle-service clubs of Chardeni and beyond.

First and foremost there are your Dukanis, small underground eating and drinking establishments that are a time capsule of old Tbilisi. Smokey cellars, and menus that in no way reflect what is actually available for service. The wait staff is undoubtedly middle-aged women who hate you, or are at least annoyed by your presence. Who is there: old Georgian men from the neighborhood surrounding it, and tourists who saw the description in Lonely Planet. What you drink: Gomi Prestige 0.7L bottles. Example: Racha.
Next, a step up in terms of modernity, and size, but keeping within the same general vein as a Dukani are your 24/24s. These are corporate run affairs with all day, all night food and drink service. The T.G.I.Fridays or Sizzlers of Georgian cuisine and culture. The items on the menu are more consistently available and the menu usually comes printed in several languages. The wait staff are late 20-somthing Georgians getting paid 2gel an hour who likely hate you. Who is there: Simply everyone, but varying greatly depending on your time of day. During standard lunch hours it is filled with tourists stuffing their faces with Adjarian khatchapuri, and kebabs. At 3AM, it is mostly groups of Georgian men who are very, very drunk and are looking for food like Khashi and/or Khinkali. What you drink: House beer 0.5L (2x). Example: Samikitno/Machakhela.
Next stop: Chardeni. Chardeni nightclubs are a fascinating combination of Post-Soviet conspicuous consumption, imported from Moscow, but imitating Miami. These places attempt all the glitz and glamour of the themed nightclubs from the planets major party destinations, but lack in crucially important areas such as recognizable DJ’s and actual space to dance to the music. Chardeni is purely a place to see, be seen, and display success as determined by the ability to buy a 75-lari fruit platter, and 20-lari Red Bull vodkas. The service will be decent, but mostly because the staff understands their role as gophers who want to eventually become bartenders, bartenders who want to impress women with their ability to
throw a cocktail shaker over their shoulder. Who is there: Men, late 20s-mid 40s from former Soviet republics with significant disposable income, Slavic women, 18-25. What you drink: Neimeroff Vodka 1L or 7 Vodka Red Bulls. Example: 90 percent of everything on Chardeni or Bambis streets.
Ok, so Chardeni is not your scene, but you aren’t ready to hang with the hipsters in the final category, where do you go? Perovskaya, like Chardeni, is a name emblematic of a whole category of bars, this time with distinctly British or Irish pub themes. While the eponymous street has undergone a degree of changes in recent times, the numerous Asian “massage” parlors were shut down a year ago, the dozen or so bars that sell imported beers for 8 lari and host of Georgian cover bands playing your favorite Rolling Stones and Beatles cover songs remain. These remain steadfastly average in most all categories.
Who is there: late 20s-mid 30s Georgian banking middle managers with their friends. What you drink: Draft 0.5L Murphy’s or New Castle (5x). Example: London; Dublin; Generic UK city.
Perovskaya bars have a sister group of bars located just a few neighborhoods over in Vake – the German bars of Vake as I will call them all have their own presumably exclusive brand of Pilsner or similar brew from somewhere in central Europe. While Vake bars carry Vake prices, more often than not you won’t be disappointed in the quality of the beer and the more subdued atmosphere. In terms of service, the wait staff’s disdain for your presence in their seating section will be tempered because the owner is probably on the premises holding court. Who is there: late 30s-late 40s Georgian banking upper managers with their friends. What you drink: Draft 0.5L Krombacher or Paulaner (4x). Example: A bar called Krombacher or Paulaner.
The final classifiable sector of Tbilisi drinking establishments I will elaborate on is certainly the newest category in the city and also the most enjoyable in this author’s humble alcohol imbibing opinion... Hipster bars. Only debuting in Tbilisi around 5 years old, they are a direct and obvious result of the improving euro-Atlantic integration of the drinking and socializing habits of the city’s increasingly educated and internationally oriented youth. With English speaking bartenders who are often foreigners themselves you would be hard pressed not to find a half a dozen nationalities in these bars at any given moment. These bars are decidedly not fancy, and with only the most basic accommodations, but what they lack in amenities they make up for in their own distinct and often quirky personalities, as well as a quality of customer service seen nowhere else in the country. Who is there: 20-somethings from Georgia, the USA, and Europe. What you drink: 3 lari Draft Georgian beers (7x), Jack and Cokes (3x). Example: Canudos, DarkSide, or DIVE Bar.
As you can see, whether you have 5 lari or 500 euros in your pocket, there will be no difficulty in finding a venue to match your drinking style and required levels of customer service.

*NOTE: The author owns DIVE Bar.

Author: Cory Greenberg
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