When it comes to drinks, everyone has their favorite place, favorite drink and sometimes even favorite mixologist. Drinks are like religion or politics; everyone has an opinion about them, and those opinions could lead to a war.
We went into some of the best Beijing cocktail bars and asked the owners a few questions about which drink best represents their establishment. Bar owners gave the stories behind each drink and the evolution of the drink's mixology. Here are the five 5 essential cocktails, in no particular order, that you really must try while in Beijing.
1) The Penicillin (Bottle, Boot, and Cigar)View In Map
Doug Williams of Bottle, Boot and Cigar (BBC) said that while the concept of this drink is not unique to his establishment, the execution most certainly is. He stated that the Penicillin is the drink to represent BBC because, “It sits at an intersection between novice and seasoned drinkers and, even though it is a scotch whiskey cocktail, many people’s preconceived notions about a cocktail with that base are broken by this drink.”
It was born in New York City by bartender Sam Ross. And while you can find a Penicillin on menus at a lot of places, BBC is a bit different because there are no menus. They want you to have an interactive experience with the staff and get a drink that suits your tastes, not just a McDrink.
With the Penicillin, they wanted to do some special things. This starts with the fact that they use real ginger, as opposed to a ginger syrup. They also use Monkey Shoulder and Big Peat Scotch whiskeys, if they have them on hand. Lastly, and where the real difference comes in, they use Osmanthus flower and honey.
It underwent about 8 retoolings before reaching the state it’s in today. As far as whether more changes will come, that is quite likely due to the seasonal changes that take place with the honey.
Cost: 80 RMB
Add: 168 Taipingzhuang Nanli (opposite the Big Smoke)
Opening Hours: 18:00 until late, Daily
2) Green Forest (Hidden House) View In Map
Entering the Speakeasy atmosphere of Hidden House, you feel like looking over your shoulder for the Prohibition agents from the U.S. Dept. of Treasury. Everything from the music, to the lighting, to the small cozy size makes you feel like you are in a different time and place.
When we sat down with Ming, the owner and designer, he was dressed in an ultra-sharp, pin-striped, double breasted suit and he seemed like a man with more secrets than you would want to know.
The concoction to represent his third bar was the Green Forest. He said a few years ago at Revolution, his first bar, a customer asked him to make a Mojito that was special. It seems like the Mojito is the go-to drink for a lot of people and this customer wanted something a little different.
So Ming breathed new life into the Mojito by adding fresh kiwi to the drink and a lot more fresh lime than most people are willing to use. The result is a refreshing, fruity, perky drink that will recharge your batteries. The customer loved it and even gave the drink its name.
The Green Forest hasn’t seen any changes since its inception 4 years ago and Ming said it likely never would. He told me it’s a very popular drink that many people love and he sees no need to change it.
Cost: 45RMB (Happy Hour)
Add: 108, Building 39, Xindong Lu, Chaoyang
Opening Hours: Sun-Tues 17:00-1:00, Wed-Sat 17:00-2:00
3) Old Fashioned (The Local) View In Map
“An old fashioned? Everybody and their brother does those!” Yep. And everyone can shoot hoops, but they aren’t Jordan.
That’s a high amount of praise for a drink, but The Local earns it. How, you may ask, do they merit such a comparison? Simple. They care about their customers enough to make a drink that matches you.
Understand, if you go to the bar, sit in the corner, don’t engage and just order, you’ll get a rather standard drink. But if you spend some time, talk to the staff, let them know your preferred taste in drinks, then you are likely to get a drink that will be a bit different from your friends who order the same thing.
One thing that makes the Old Fashioned a bit different at the local is that the recipe they use is a very old recipe and they try to stay with the way things were way back when.
Because they stick to older recipes and they take a personalized approach to creating the drink, it is always undergoing an evolution because peoples tastes vary. But remember, rapport is necessary if you want that personal touch, so climb out of your cynical shell and get your drink on.
Add: 4 Gongti Bei Lu
Opening Hours: 16:00-3:00 Daily
4) Chase Walker (Ocean Grounds)View In Map
When you think of Ocean Grounds, you don’t really think of cocktails. But they would like to change that.
Walking in, you immediately get the feeling you are in a coffee shop and that is not a problem, because as the owner Jimmy told me, “We’re a coffee shop first and we’re not trying to become a bar.” What they do want is to take that passion and love for coffee and combine it with a love for a damn good drink.
The Chase Walker is a drink for the coffee lover. Served in a martini glass, it is made with cold brewed Guatemalan coffee, bourbon, chicory and garnished with a seared cinnamon stick. It smells like coffee heaven.
Jimmy says he got very lucky when creating this drink because the first shot out of the gate was the winner and he thinks it has reached its pinnacle as a great cocktail. I tend to agree that it is not in need of any improvement.
Add: 1-05, 1/F, Hailong Plaza, 13 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang
Opening Hours: Sun-Thurs 7:00-1:00, Fri-Sat 7:00-1:00
5) Sichuan Highway (Mao Mao Chong) View In Map
Hidden away on a hutong in the Dongcheng area sits Mao Mao Chong. Their offering was something totally different and very nice.
The Sichuan Highway was created by the original owner, Stephanie. Eric, who now runs the bar, told me that she created and won many competitions with it, apparently being named one of the Top 5 World Class bartenders in Beijing in 2012.
The Sichuan Highway is a mala pepper infused tequila drink that features ginger beer, lime juice and spicy mango syrup. It is garnished with a small red chili pepper and leaves a warm, numbing feeling on your tongue and in the back of your throat. If you love a slight kick, this is an amazing feeling to have from a cold drink. But don’t let that fool you. It packs loads of flavor and tastes great down to the last tingly drop.
Eric says that, while he isn’t sure how many attempts Stephanie made before finding perfection in her recipe, out of respect for her, he won’t be making any changes to the drink.
Another thing about Mao Mao Chong; it has possibly the most diverse menu of drinks in Beijing. Lots of places have a lot of drinks, but they tend to run in flavor families. The drinks on the menu at Mao Mao Chong all seems to come from a different direction and offer a lot of choices for most every palate.
Add: 12 Banchang Hutong, off Jiaodoukou Nan Dajie, Dongcheng
Opening Hours: 18:00 until late, Daily
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Keywords: Beijing cocktail bars Beijing in 5 Essential Cocktails
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