The recent explosion of bars and clubs catering to the large student and yuppie population has given Bangalore its newest nickname, Pub City. Although bartenders complain that clubs are not as crowded as they once were, the bars are particularly packed on Friday and Saturday nights—the best days to experience the scene in its pulsating glory. If you do partake, begin early. The whole city shuts down by 11:30 p.m., even on Saturdays. An after-dinner start should leave you enough time to soak up the vibes without going overboard.
Make Cosmo Village at 29 Margrath Road your first stop. Boasting a full bar and food menu in an atmosphere advertised as "Living Room Dining," the club's cushy couches, dim lighting and lounge chairs provide a mellow start for the evening. The DJ spins acid jazz and trance music, adding to the loungelike feel. The outdoor terrace upstairs is covered, and thanks to Bangalore's temperate climate, it is a breezy spot to people-watch and check out who's going out for the evening.
From Cosmo Village, take a quick walk to Pub World on 65 Residency Road, an aptly named bar where foreigners seem to outnumber the locals. It's an ideal place for thirsty travelers, who can easily strike up a conversation with just about anyone sitting around. But don't expect an array of international ales; only local brews Kingfisher and UB are on tap.
For the next pint, stroll through the Brigade Road shopping district toward Mahatma Gandhi Road and stop in at the Underground, 65 Bluemoon Complex. This downstairs haunt, vaguely modeled on a London tube station, features a neon-lit bar and cozy, crowded booths. Few venture onto the dance floor, despite the catchy '80s tunes spinning out from the DJ booth. Bathrooms here are not in the best condition, so it might be advisable to hold off on that last drink until you get to the next location. But if you want to sample the house potion, squeeze your way to the bar and ask for Clifford. After one of his concoctions, if you're still standing, take a refreshing walk about a half-kilometer north to another popular nightspot, 180 Proof, at 40 St. Mark's Road. This former Catholic church was converted two years ago into a hip nightclub featuring steepled ceilings and oak support beams. There are extra seating areas outdoors and upstairs, so finding a berth isn't usually a problem. And you will need one after the house specialty, an Indian version of a Long Island iced tea made with locally produced vodka and whiskey.
To finish off the evening, hop into an autorickshaw and tell the driver to take you to I-Bar, back on Mahatma Gandhi Road at number 14/7. Nighttime drivers speak better English than those who work days, allegedly because they tend to be educated and work evenings for the extra cash, so don't worry about not being understood despite your slurred speech.
I-Bar opened only six months ago at the back of the upscale Park Hotel, but it already has become the spot for Pub City's hippest and hottest crowds. Leave the traditional garb of saris and kurtas at home. The fashion code here is Tommy Hilfiger and Prada. Even the managers, dressed in fitted black suits, shirts and ties, look sharp. Large beanbags are the furniture of choice and the tables are only knee high—the better to reach for that cosmopolitan without having to struggle out of your chair's deep embrace. When the thumping beats of the house DJ start eliciting signs of a headache tomorrow, just step out the sliding door to the hotel's pool area where covered verandas offer padded bamboo benches and the cool caress of Bangalore's breezes. And thank the city planners for having the foresight to close the pubs early.