Fact: If a laowai says their favorite liquor is baijiu they’re either a) lying or b) have been to Capital Spirits Bar and Distillery, where the eponymous spirit is the distilled Chinese liquor.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the new bar is a mash-up of two popular hutong bars that were bricked over during the local government’s ‘beautification’ campaign.
But Capital Spirits and The Distillery are back – now, together. The new location is just across from the old ‘D,’ and considering the two were owned and operated by the same dudes, the merge makes a lot sense. Now, when your friends visit Beijing, you only have to stop at one place, where you can grab a Baijiu Sour (RMB40) for them and a martini (RMB60) for you. Everybody wins.
However, if you don’t at least try one of the baijiu-based cocktails, you’re doing it wrong. They truly are a work of art. Picking the right one is tough – nobody wants to end up with a baijiu cocktail they don’t like, no matter how much they dig baijiu – but luckily, Capital Spirits offers tasting flights (RMB30-180 per flight). Sample different types of baijiu, pick your favorite, and the bartender will recommend a cocktail to suit.
If that sounds like too much work, you can’t go wrong with the Maotai Coco Cream (RMB60), which is best described as coconut-chocolate milk, with a casual dash of Maotai.
On the distillery side, the lip-smacking house gin (RMB50) comes in four varieties, including Chrysanthemum Monkey, named after the year it was made, and Uncle Karl’s, named after, well, someone’s uncle named Karl.
Drink decided, you can chill in either the main bar space, or in a second, more private room, across the courtyard. The team is working on an upstairs terrace, too.
Altogether, it's an exciting start, yet the bar’s enduring appeal comes down to its lack of gimmickry. Sure, it’s “the baijiu bar,” and also “the gin bar,” but mostly, it’s just a damn fine place to spend an evening.