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Iconic Bars: Panaji’s Joseph Bar — a dive with a vibe

August 23, 2023

Let Priya Pathiyan take you on a guided dive into Joseph Bar, one of the most popular local Goa establishments!


Goa has always been the party destination for India and even more so today, when many of the country’s best bars and restaurants have opened in this vibrant location. But there are some timeworn and yet timeless places that go beyond the trendy and trending. Joseph Bar in the colourful elite residential area called Altinho in Panaji’s Saõ Tomé Latin quarter has been around since Portuguese colonial times.


Joseph Bar Goa
The building it’s housed in may be under renovation, but the bar is thriving nevertheless. Image: Priya Pathiyan.


Its charm lies in the fact that nothing must has changed in all its years of existence. Signs, photographs, and liquor bottles crowd the main bar room artistically, the closely spaced rickety tables and tiny stools in the two dimly lit anterooms with dark, grungy corners force you to share elbow room and conversations with fellow patrons, the easy-going staff that gets you into the proper laidback Goa mood.


Joseph Bar Goa
Peeking into the bar early in the day (left) and a sketch featuring Joseph Bar by the legendary Goan cartoonist late Mario Miranda. Images: Priya Pathiyan.


Joseph bar was originally opened by a certain Senhor Joseph Pereira as a hyperlocal bar serving the local liquors, namely feni, uraq, and maad, with spicy gram as bar bites. It still does the same today, although its menu and clientele have both expanded considerably.


Joseph Bar Goa
A great spot to watch the world go by. Image: Priya Pathiyan.


On my last visit to Panaji, my beautiful boutique hotel was literally two minutes away from the atmospheric Joseph Bar, so I checked it out on my very first evening and even managed to go back another time in the day. Doesn’t it say a lot that in a place that’s overflowing with enticing establishments, I went to this one twice?

Joseph Bar Goa
The decades-old bar wears its years lightly. Image: Priya Pathiyan.

The Joseph Bar experience

Red seemed to be the colour of the night, from the reddish lighting of the bar, to the tiny red rose that they gave to each of the women guests, and the deep red cocktail called Tambde Rosa I ordered. Made with local kokum and Cazulo feni (distilled from local cashews by Hansel Vaz), it’s tart with a true Goan heart, and packs a punch.

Joseph Bar Goa
Painting the town red at Joseph Bar. Images: Priya Pathiyan.


No wonder it could be seen at every table, no matter whether the patrons were simple Panaji shop owners out on a binge or influencers from across the country in candy-coloured co-ord sets competing for the best camera angles. During the tourist season, it’s also filled with foreign tourists that are keen to get a taste of the ‘real Goa’.

Joseph Bar Goa
Quirky decor and cool customers. Image: Priya Pathiyan.


My significant other and I were there for Goa date night but soon had to share our high table in a cosy corner with a chatty couple. But we didn’t mind, as that’s the nature of Joseph Bar. You go in there for a drink and you come away with new friends. Or at least a funny story to remind you of your time there.


Exploring the menu

His Mango Chilli Feni cocktail was as hot yet refreshing as the evening. From their Goan Classics, I enjoyed the chicken cafreal, pork vindalho, and the sour-spicy pork sausages, mopping up all the sauces with freshly made poee. My vegetarian companion loved the healthy chickpea salad and didn’t mind the paneer chilli fry. What’s interesting is that they manage to encompass dishes made by the four original Goan tribes, Saraswat cooking, as well as those from the Catholic community in a compact menu.


Joseph Bar Goa
There’s something for everyone at Joseph Bar, be it assorted alcohols and beverages or veg and non veg food. The Goan sausages (left) and the chicken cafreal (right) hit the spot with my Tambde Rosa. Images: Priya Pathiyan.


In season, they offer a variety of delicious snacks sourced from homemakers in the area, said the manager and chief bartender. His real name is Prabhakar Yashwant Prabhu Azgaonkar, but the award-winning bartender prefers to be known to everyone as Gundu.


Joseph Bar Goa
Mixologist Gundu has won hearts and awards with his concoctions. Image: Priya Pathiyan.


He proudly showed off the plaques in his name and talked knowledgeably about all the offerings on the bar menu. I love that the tiny gem of a bar is so authentically Goan in character and yet is in tune with the times, serving local and sustainable food, and including a host of drink options.


From regular beers to Goan brewed People’s lager to Eight Fingered Eddie (the IPA that kickstarted the craft beer revolution in Goa). They also serve the entire gamut of Moonshine meads, some of the country’s best gins, Paul John Nirvana Single Malt, Makazai Gold Rum, Desmondji Agave and Mahua shots. Quite an impressive list for any modern-day bar, let alone one as affordable and accessible as Joseph Bar.

Joseph Bar Goa
Cosy corners at Joseph Bar. Images: Priya Pathiyan.

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