has a serious drinking culture, but we’re not complaining. Whether it be with coworkers building guanxi,
or with friends getting into mafan
, being sociable in Beijing
typically implies that it be over drinks. China’s capital is known for its unique bars – here’s our pick of the best.
Bar, European, Spanish, $$$
Hidden amid a quiet hutong
neighborhood stands Modernista. From the outside, the bar looks quaint and noiseless, but upon entering the hutong
and walking up the tiny staircase, guests find that this description does not, in fact, describe the actual bar.The upstairs opens up to reveal masses of people packed in a speakeasy-like area; mellifluous chatter and melodic live music fill the space. Another staircase, but this one winding and even smaller than the first, reveals an intimate dancefloor, stage, and insanely busy bar. Guests can choose to sway the night away here, or move back to the more private upstairs area and gaze upon the masses below. Modernista offers something that many bars in Beijing do not – consistently delicious drinks, amazing live music, an incredible atmosphere and regularly held events, that of course, involve drinking.
Janes and Hooch
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Fusion, $$$
Tucked a bit away from the hustle and bustle of Sanlitun, Janes and Hooch is one of Beijing’s most beloved cocktail bars, as well as one of continent’s, as it was rated one of the top 50 bars in Asia. The bar’s interior is detailed by beautifully polished wood, exposed brick, sleek-looking concrete, and brushed metals; candles light the venue, and exquisite cocktails occupy the tabletops. The cocktails here are renowned for being both eccentric and tasteful; with unconventional concoctions to more traditional favorites, Janes and Hooch is unique in every way.
Bar, Fusion, $$$
The decor here really is something – a plush rug covers part of the wooden floor, and velvet curtains the color of red wine line the large windows, with stools at the bar to match. From behind the bar’s island, Mona Lisa gazes towards the opposite wall. Classical cherubs occupy the ceiling, lit by soft yellow lights. A namesake bar, Da Vinci, encapsulates the 15th-century prodigy astonishingly well. In a secluded location in Yongli International Apartments, with a very intimate setting, Da Vinci’s draws patrons in not only for its atmosphere, but also for its innovative drinks; cocktails by the names of Alice in Wonderland, Penicillin, and Da Vinci
can be found on their menu. Although the establishment can be a bit pricey, it is nothing out of the ordinary for a bar of its kind, and it is certainly worth every penny.
The Black Moth
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Fusion, $$$
A massive comic strip telling the story of a boy and a black moth is the centerpiece of this bar’s back wall, while decorating the venue’s plush chairs are black and white contemporary pillows with a woman’s face plastered on them. The clanking of glasses and chatter from patrons fill the area; this is The Black Moth, an eclectic joint located in Sanlitun. The Black Moth has been voted as one of the city’s best bars time and time again, and it shows with how packed it is every night. Customers continually praise The Black Moth’s cocktail selection, which is small in size, but huge in flavor; speciality drinks are offbeat and refined, just like the bar itself.
Bar, Cafe, Chinese, American, $$$
Calling all bibliophiles – The Bookworm is the bar for you!
At first glance, The Bookworm appears to be nothing more than a bookstore, but upon seeing glasses of wine and whiskey scattered upon wooden tabletops throughout the establishment, it is obvious that it is so much more. With floor-to-ceiling bookshelves lining the walls, it is difficult to picture The Bookworm as anything other than a bookstore, but it also doubles as a cafe and bar. On the back wall of the store, there is a door that, when opened, leads to a petite, metal stairwell that resembles a fire escape. A climb to the top of the freakishly small steps leads to a rooftop bar – when the weather is nice, this area makes for a relaxing place to grab a drink. Patrons here have a choice of the bar’s select whiskeys, gins, and wines, and can opt to have a cocktail as well. As far as one-off bars in Beijing go, The Bookworm certainly is one of the most unique the city has to offer.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Wine Bar, Fusion, $$$
Red Dog is an anomalous cocktail and wine bar, hidden on the ground floor of Sanlitun’s SoHo Building, and one of Beijing’s most beloved places to drink. Where swanky meets eccentric, the bar’s decor is influenced by turn of the century Paris, but with a contemporary feel. Vibrant colors and patterns decorate the furniture; portraits of naked women in black and white and amber hues line the walls. All-in-all, the bar is beautiful in the most unusual of ways. Aside from its chic atmosphere, Red Dog also provides some of the city’s best drinks. Regarded as both one of Beijing’s best wine bars and
cocktail bars, Red Dog serves some of the finest wines, as well as some of the tastiest and funkiest mixed drinks.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Fusion, $$$
A bar reminiscent of the 1920s, Parlor has a speakeasy feel to it. The bar is owned and operated by the owners of Da Vinci,
so the cocktails served here are crafted to excite patrons’ taste buds in the same unusually delicious way; the Alice in Wonderland
cocktail is served with a plate of marshmallows and dry ice. Parlor’s warm lighting shows off the bar’s tasteful furniture, which incorporates dark, polished tables and chairs, and tealight candles. On the exposed brick and wood-paneled walls hang prohibition inspired paintings, adding to the bar’s charming feel. Overall, Parlor’s uniqueness in both their ambiance and drinks are what make it the highly regarded bar that it is.
Blending in with its neighbors, this unassuming hutong
is home to some of the best drink specials and best gaming consoles available in a public setting – Nintendo 64, Sega Genesis, Game Cube, the list goes on.
For game enthusiasts, 8-Bit is an oasis, and for those who are accompanying said enthusiasts, the bar serves as an entertaining way to enjoy a drink. What feels like a never-ending trip up the bar’s winding stairs, opens up to a rooftop patio that looks over the surrounding neighborhood; tables, chairs and an open sky make for a perfect place to enjoy one of the bar’s delicious draft beers. To enjoy the 8-Bit experience like a local, shoot some pickle shots (they’re so good),
grab a controller, and get your game on!
Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, Mediterranean, $$$
Cinker Pictures evokes a feeling of nostalgia; red velvet curtains are draped throughout the venue, and gold accents decorate the furniture – the decor is retro down to the font used on the movie house’s menus and signs. Although easily mistaken for being strictly a cinema, Cinker Pictures is also a restaurant and
a swanky cocktail bar. The carefully crafted drinks are delectable, and when enjoyed in front of one of the large movie screens or on the movie house’s rooftop bar, they are even more so. Describing this bar as unique does not even begin to scratch the surface of what it truly is – a modern day 1960s experience in the heart of Beijing.
Cocktail Bar, Fusion, $$$
Hidden within the L’Epasar Restaurant in Topwin Mall, is a blue wall adorned with a blue button. Upon pressing the blue button, a stylish bar is revealed; welcome to Press Release, the epitome of a modern-day speakeasy quietly tucked away in Beijing’s buzzing city center. The interior is refined with magazines and newspaper clippings lining the walls, and a typewriter sits atop of one of the bar’s tables. If you haven’t already guessed, Press Release was created to be a literary lounge. Cocktails here are named after famous authors and magazines, on the menu is an intensely tasteful drink named after the beloved Ernest Hemingway – Write Drunk, Edit Sober.
Press Release is not only unique in atmosphere and cocktails, but it is also unique in that all of the drinks are vacuum sealed and infused through the use of a sous-vide machine, which gives them an aromatic quality and a taste that is out of this world.
For a truly out of the ordinary drinking experience, try your best at hunting down the bar and enjoy a drink, or three (who’s counting anyway?)
at Press Release.