Outstanding mixology and hospitality make The Sign Lounge the perfect bar for the Instagram generation

It’s not every day you order a drink and get an aquarium. Even less so in Vienna, a town known for its conservative tastes, where classics like mojitos and piña coladas still dominate the bar scene. Yet The Sign Lounge, a charming little dive tucked away on Liechtensteinstrasse in the 9th district offers all that and more, along with interesting twists on the classics.

A few of their more notable concoctions are the Malbrett (painting palette), which lets you create your own drink using a paintbrush and three differently flavored syrups; the Manneken Pis, served from a miniature version of the fountain in Brussels, and the Kentucky Cream, a cocktail that comes in a box of caramel popcorn.

In fact, it was thanks to the extraordinary appearance of their many specialty cocktails that The Sign Lounge became as popular as it is today. Owner/bartender Kan Zuo told me, “When smartphones and social media just started getting big, all of our cocktails were suddenly being photographed and posted. And then one night, the whole bar was packed. At first we thought we were just lucky, but it has stayed that way every weekend since.”

Reeling in the Guests

Concealed behind an inconspicuous facade with oodles of empty bottles standing proudly in the window, The Sign Lounge confirms the old adage that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Once inside, you’ll find an impeccably designed, sleek yet cozy environment, alternating light walls with dark furniture. With comfy chairs and flattering, soft lighting, it is as inviting as it is beautiful. If you look around, you may notice various quirky little details: A Buddha statue, a Russian matryoshka doll, and a stuffed hamster beam at you from across the bar, giving the cutting-edge interior some extra charm and warmth.

The Sign Lounge has won numerous awards, including “Bar of the Year” at the Mixology Awards in 2015 and 2016, and Falstaff’s “Bartender of the Year” in 2015. As I sipped a drink called Gin Gin Gin Mule, it became apparent why: It was deliciously tangy, boasting the perfect booze-to-ginger beer ratio; the copper mug it came in was garnished with mint leaves, fresh raspberries and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. But it pales in comparison to The Sign Lounge’s #instafamous signature drink Fish and Tonic: The whimsical concoction, served in a glass bowl with a mechanical clown fish swimming happily around in it, has rightfully claimed its place on the unofficial throne for most share-worthy drink.

Quite the catch

Fish are indeed a recurring theme at The Sign Lounge. As Zuo’s zodiac sign is Pisces, even their house gin is adorned with kois; the same can be seen on his right arm in tattoo form. Another focus is hospitality: Sure enough, right after taking a seat, a pitcher of water and a bowl of pretzel snacks materialized seemingly out of thin air. The restrooms take it to another level, stocking every knickknack one could hope for: Makeup remover, face powder and body lotion leave their lavatory better stocked than most hotels.

But to Zuo, it’s all part of being the perfect host. “We want our guests to feel welcome, by having conversations or serving drinks, water and snacks. We want them to feel like a fish in water – completely comfortable.” Cheers to that – and thanks for all the fish!