MANY OF VIENNA’S must-visit marvels are clustered in the 1st district, the Innere Stadt, among them the Hofburg imperial palace, the Renaissance Revival opera house, and the Albertina museum. It’s a posh area, filled with glamorous American bars like Roberto, Dino’s, and the gorgeously designed early twentieth-century Loos. But when Dominik Möller and David Kranabitl unveiled Truth & Dare in a late-eighteenth-century clergy house on the hushed, winding Schönlaterngasse, they were determined to infuse the city’s historic center with a more brazen, unconventional energy.
“We love the classics. It’s how we drink when we go out. But we also love to be creative, and we thought that innovation was missing in the 1st district,” says Möller. A chilled-out ambiance was also glaringly absent from the neighborhood, and the duo wanted to “disrupt” the typical fancy-night-out model, as Kranabitl puts it, by serving quality cocktails alongside a stream of hip-hop and ’80s music.
Truth & Dare made its inopportune debut just before the pandemic struck — for many locals, their introduction to the bar was via the cocktails passed through a takeout window. But before embarking on this venture, Möller and Kranabitl worked together at The BirdYard, a restaurant and bar in Josefstadt, the city’s decidedly edgier 8th district. It was there that it became clear “that we had the same ideas. We both had goals to open our own bars based on the same concept,” says Möller.
They serendipitously found the location for Truth & Dare much faster than they anticipated — a former bar “that still had ashtrays on the tables and bottles in the fridge. So it looked like the owner left one night and never came back,” Kranabitl recalls. The newly minted entrepreneurs moved quickly to transform the disheveled space and implement their long-percolating vision.
Wine and Spirits
A selection of alcohol-free mixers and aperitifs for a healthy, holistic cocktail...
They developed a menu that reflects the bar’s name, one that is equally grounded in timeless concoctions with subtle twists and drinks “that are pushing the envelope but are still approachable,” says Kranabitl.
Although the menu changes throughout the year, it always features 16 cocktails. Purists will revel in go-tos like the paloma, Sazerac, or the crystalline gimlet, a mainstay prepared with a from-scratch clarified lime juice cordial. The more curious will relish original libations, like Count Coco, an herbal take on the Negroni with Tanqueray gin, coconut, dry vermouth, and Fernet Hunter; or the Silky Sheets nightcap, pairing Olmeca Altos tequila with aromatic pandan and bright lemon curd. “We are very clinical about our drinks and it takes a lot of time for us to create one,” explains Möller.
Regulars, many of whom drop by on Sundays when the off-for-the-night industry crowd tends to flock here, are also drawn in by the surprise miniature cocktails rolled out every week. Some come solely to savor whiskey, a spirit that Möller has been “collecting and drinking for years,” he says. Over the summer, Truth & Dare even released its own single malt Scotch, a limited-release bottling aged in bourbon barrels from Mannochmore Distillery in Speyside, Scotland.
“Having our own Scotch is an idea that is older than the bar,” notes Möller. “We wanted to do something that is different than anything else we’ve seen in Vienna.” The Scotch, which guests are eager to order when they learn about it, attests to Truth & Dare’s desire to meld tried-and-true brands with more obscure ones. “It’s easy to have a bottle on the shelf for 1,000 euros that everyone just looks at,” points out Kranabitl, “but we want to have spirits that are rare and accessible.”
In terms of aesthetic, Truth & Dare’s cocktails shun clunky garnishes and dramatic flourishes for a precise balance of uncomplicated ingredients. “We are more concerned with what’s in the drink,” says Möller.
The moody, minimalist interior, courtesy of the celebrated local design firm BÜRO KLK, has a complementary urban, industrial air dominated by a stark palette of deep gray. The long bar is crafted out of stone and steel, backdropped by a sleek wall of shelving holding the array of glistening bottles. Some patrons choose the seats cleverly nestled into the old windows overlooking the street; others head for the long banquette in the room awash in velvet and burnt red hues with the vibe of a retro lounge.
“We wanted a bar that was practical, that functioned well, because if you make a mistake in the planning, you’ll regret it every day,” says Kranabitl. “But we also cared about the atmosphere. We knew we had to look good for the 1st district.”
Italian Stallion Recipe
- 50 ml Maker’s Mark bourbon
- 20 ml fresh lemon juice
- 30 ml white grape juice
- 15 ml thyme syrup*
- 1 egg white
- Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake.
- Strain and shake again without ice to fluff up the egg white.
- Pour into a cocktail glass.
*To make homemade thyme syrup, combine 1,000 grams of sugar, 1,000 ml of water, and 7 grams of dried thyme in a pan and heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, let it simmer for approximately ten minutes. Strain the syrup to remove the thyme.
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Alia Akkam Writer
Originally from New York, Alia Akkam is a writer living in Budapest who covers design, drinks, food, and travel. Her book on hotel bars, published in 2020, will be followed up by one on gin cocktails this year.
Natasha Stanglmayr Photographer
Natasha Stanglmayr is a New York–based photographer. Her work has a documentary approach to travel and portraiture, with natural light as her driving force. She was born in Beirut, raised in Vienna, and spent her summers in Honduras with family. Her global upbringing and extensive travels have made her comfortable in a wide variety of cultures and locations. She brings an unfiltered, authentic, and unscripted point of view to her audience.