Chinese “Northerners” are known to be drinkers, and quite aggressive ones especially during business situations. From baijiu (white liquor), huangjiu (yellow wine), to everyone’s regular favorite pijiu (beer), there’s no shortage of liquor to imbibe.
But even so, there’s really nothing I enjoy more than an after-work cocktail, a whiskey-based concoction made with detail and precision, to help alleviate some of those many possible stressors one can encounter while living in Beijing. The big city isn’t all bliss, but fortunately there are a handful of nice bars with well-made drinks and friendly bartenders.
Mao Mao Chong (Chinese for caterpillar) is a 30m2 tiny spot near Nanluoguxiang open after 7pm, 6 days a week known for their own infused spirits and artful cocktail blends. Imagine syrupy over ripen figs shaken up with whiskey and poured over ice. That’s my go-to drink: the Fig Old Fashioned. Also try the Numb Mule for a Sichuan-inspired spicy, or the Bloody Mao. Pppsttt.. their artisanal pizzas are probably one of the best in Beijing but arrive early since they can only make 2 at a time. 12 Ban Chang Hutong near Jiaodaokou South Street, Dongcheng District, 010-64055718
Apothecary is my splurge spot, a place that is more upscale but a sure-thing when you want to satiate a craving. Their staff is well-trained, professional, and seemingly determined to make you the best drink of your life. Peruse their extensive menu that features an array of historical and more experimental drinks. I stick with America’s oldest cocktail, the Sazerac, 98% of the time. 81 Sanlitun North Street, 3/F Nali Patio, Chaoyang District Beijing
Jam Bar, as mentioned in “Do, Make, and Purvey”, is a charming hidden spot in a dynamic part of town. There, you’ll find his version of the Boulevardier made of equal parts campari, whiskey and vermouth called the Tom Waits. If you’re there enough, you’ll realize that the boss really likes the singer. 206 Gulou Dong Da Jie, Dongcheng District
Susu is a Vietnamese restaurant that is concealed in a hutong area. Situated between Nanluoguxiang and Meishuguan (National Art Museum), the courtyard restaurant has been refurbished in proper 1970s Los Angeles style. Besides being in love with their vegetarian bánh mì lunch set, try their Saigon Fizz— a sweet blend of gin and ginger. Skip dessert there and try the Quiet American. Careful though, they’re surprisingly strong! 10 Xi Xiang, Qianliang Hutong, (near the National Art Museum, 150m north of Sanlian Bookstore), Dongcheng District 8400 2699
Amilal is good for the basics. If you want imported beer like Rogue or a refreshing mojito with some nice music and a cozy environment, I’d recommend this spot. Aluss, the owner and black & white film photographer, also has a great selection of whiskey. My personal favorite would be the Hibiki 12 year old, no ice. 48 Shoubi Hutong (southeast of Gulou Dongdajie – follow the red lanterns), Dongcheng District
For those who don’t live so conveniently close to a bar, have yourself a little Mad Men break and pour yourself a neat Scotch.