Seoul’s craft cocktail scene may have just started budding, but it’s off to a vigorous start thanks to a handful of mixology enthusiasts working ceaselessly to usher in what’s being referred to as the city’s “golden age of the cocktail.” With a willingness to embrace inventive flavor combinations and presentations, and a knack for scrupulous execution, these seven cocktail bars are laying a solid foundation for the Korean capital’s emerging libations scene.
Cocktail Bar, American, Barbeque, Pub Grub, $$$
Transport yourself straight to Texas at Southside Parlor, where thoughtfully crafted cocktails, mouth-watering comfort food, and service with a smile await you. Marrying local ingredients with Southern-inspired flavors, the bar’s one-of-a-kind drinks like its Omija Mule and Juarez Old Fashioned are the main focus here, but solid barbecue dishes and a rotating menu of tacos (served on Tuesdays) keep its loyal patronage consistently coming back for more. Grab a seat at the copper-topped bar and prepare to be wowed by the passion of its resident bartenders as they create your beverage, or head up to the cozy rooftop to enjoy your drink with a view.
Mix & Malt (믹스앤몰트)
Cocktail Bar, Restaurant, American, Fusion, $$$
Situated in off-the-beaten-path Hyehwa, Mix & Malt makes use of fresh ingredients and a vast selection of top-shelf (and rare) liquors to concoct some of the best cocktails in the city. In addition to all the classics, the bar also serves up numerous signature and seasonal specialties such as their ever-changing mojito varieties that are as appetizing as they are Insta-worthy. Food offerings ranging from Buffalo wings to a perfectly prepared French dip are also on point. Outstanding music, endless entertainment options (like video games and a shuffleboard table), and a fireplace make Mix & Malt the ideal spot for a friendly gathering or date night.
Le Chamber (르챔버)
Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
To access the high ceilings, billowy drapes, and Gatsby-esque furnishings that make up Le Chamber, patrons must proceed through a library and pick the correct tome from an obscure bookshelf that doubles as a secret entryway. In true speakeasy fashion, the bar boasts a mind-boggling selection of more than 200 whiskies, as well as a bottle storage facility for VIP visitors. But above anything else, Le Chamber is best known for its exquisite presentations and modern interpretations of classic cocktails such as its Dark ‘n’ Stormies and Moscow Mules. Every other month, a new cocktail is selected as the focus of its ongoing cocktail competition; bartenders create their own twist on a classic and choose the best by surveying guests.
Blacklist ( 블랙리스트)
Cocktail Bar, American, Fusion, $$$
Featuring a curated selection of bourbon and whiskey, Itaewon-based Blacklist has become somewhat of a neighborhood institution since it first opened its doors. The menu here consists of craft beer, reasonably priced wine, and a mix of cocktails including the classics as well as Blacklist proprietor Shin Packard’s own inventive creations. The bar’s classy but friendly atmosphere attracts a diverse clientele of cocktail enthusiasts of all backgrounds and makes it a popular spot among locals looking to either start or end a night out on the town.
Alice Cheongdam (앨리스 청담)
Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
Past an obscure sign marked only with the image of a white bunny, down some stairs, and through a flower shop, patrons find themselves at Alice, a lush, wood-paneled speakeasy seemingly plucked from the British countryside. Here, bartenders mix up cocktails that convey compelling stories through extravagant presentations. Take the “Lost in Wonderland,” for example. Inspired by the TV show Lost, the concoction melds shrimp-infused Absolut Elyx, Carpano dry vermouth, lemongrass, spearmint and black pepper, and is presented on a sand-coated dish bedecked with a wee palm tree and an “S.O.S.” message. This is the place to go to forget your worries and immerse yourself in an intoxicating fantasy world.
Pussyfoot Saloon (퍼시풋살룬)
Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, Fusion, $$$
All aboard! This Hannam-dong hangout promises to take you on a well-oiled journey from the minute you step foot into its train-themed interior until the last sip of your meticulously fabricated libation. Brought to you by the owner of Mix & Malt and tended by some of the biggest names in Korea’s mixology scene, Pussyfoot Saloon offers an eclectic mix of cocktails ranging from perfectly executed classics to the wildly inventive. The Bobby Burns, for example, is a delicate take on the Manhattan, made of Johnnie Walker scotch whisky and sweet vermouth stirred together with Benedictine liqueur and lemon oil.
Charles H (찰스H바)
Cocktail Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
Hidden within the ritzy Four Seasons Hotel Seoul behind an unmarked door is Charles H, a cocktail bar that pays tribute to Charles H. Baker, the “patron saint of good living.” Here, head bartender Chris Lowder, formerly of New York’s NoMad Hotel, brings to life the boisterous author’s exotic libations garnered from his “spirited” travels around the globe. Must-try tipples include the Sherry Hurricane – the very first sherry-based cocktail in Korea – which marries the sherry with passion fruit, lemon, Korean honey, absinthe and Peychaud’s bitters, as well as the Manila Polo Club, milk-washed white rum mixed with mango, spiced honey, lemon, lime, egg white and absinthe.