It’s been one hell of a year to say the least, particularly for those of us based in China. We’ve seen ‘The Tweeter in Chief’ launch (and then halt) a trade war between the world’s two leading economic powers, Fan Bingbing disappear and then reappear (with a major fine to pay) and another record-breaking Singles’ Day haul for Alibaba. To wrap up 2018, our editorial team has put together a list of the year’s most unforgettable viral stories, recounting major occurrences that defined the worlds of sports, tech, arts, fashion and food. Here’s to another year of eclectic, weird and wonderful life in China, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
It's hard to keep up with Beijing's everchanging gastroscape. But hey, that's our job. This year proved that China's craving for bougie cocktails and craft beers won't be declining anytime soon. A host of new bars – especially lounge bars – made their appearance in the capital this year, each one striving to make the difference with a unique concept and menu. But who are the newcomers that really left a mark in Beijing's drink scene in 2018? Here's a list for you Beijingers in search for the perfect drink.
2018's new bar The Great Outdoors continues on the Fangjia tradition – albeit with calmer vibes. It can be hard to appreciate the great outdoors in Beijing winter. But at these Great Outdoors, appreciation is reserved for the beers, served alongside a variety of Western comfort food to vaguely outdoorsy decor – unstained wood, photos of treks along the walls.
See a listing for The Great Outdoors
This summer, hutong favorite beer bar El Nido rose from brickening ashes and reopened within the confines of The Other Place (another hutong hangout – apologies if you live in Chaoyang and don’t understand this paragraph).
Just steps from both Great Leap and Jing-A, Australian brewery Little Creatures opened its first Beijing location. For us, this makes a lovely craft beer trifecta. From their full-on IPA to their mellow Rogers’ Amber Ale, you really can’t go wrong with your choice (beers are RMB50 for a pint, RMB35 for a half).
With a rotating cast of DJs playing different styles of music every night (special props to Funk night on Thursdays) along with guest DJs, Aurora is the spot you show up to after a drunk dinner and leave from with someone to be fruitful and multiply. As far as vibe goes, think more Lantern and Dada than Sirteen or Kokomo. And, oh, Aurora also has a kitchen with burgers, steaks, and Mexican food provided by Chen Wen Cai, formerly of Luga’s.
Image by Andrew Braun/That's
In a city of over 20 million people seemingly on a nonstop bustle, finding a quiet spot to kick back, have a drink and turn off your brain for an hour or four is a luxury that seems to be in demand. And in fact, this year the capital has seen an influx of expertly curated cocktail establishments with a forceful devotion for the craft. One of the latest to step up to bat is Inception – and the 1920s-style lounge bar is swinging for the fences.
Herbal takes everything we’ve come to expect from a high-end cocktail bar, and then goes one step further. The space has the air of a Victorian apothecary, and, thankfully, the good taste to make a 19th-century pharmacy look chic.
The Bell, in partnership with liquor brand Martini, sought to create an Italian-style terrazza in the middle of Beijing. The result is The Bell x Terrazza Martini, a two-floored indoor bar and outdoor rooftop.
Image by Valerie Osipov/That's
The Shanghai-based brewery unveiled its first Beijing location in Xinyuanli, moving next door to pizza pros Bottega, with a menu boost to match.
Image by Andrew Braun for That's
Arch is a lounge bar to its very core – it's classier than it needs to be, but it holds on to that easthetic fiercely. Finding this new speakeasy requires a few right turns, but its luxe interior and the its signature cocktails make it worth the hunt.
Crafted by the team behind Hoper’s first, smaller location in Gulou (one of the few remaining hutong bars), Hoper’s cocktails are sophisticated without being overly complicated.
Image via Valerie Osipov/That's Beijing
Pinball Liquors is a playground for pinball geeks and hip Instagrammers alike, and probably the only establishment where a neon Playboy bunny sign and a Ghostbusters-themed pinball machine coexist.
Image by Valerie Osipov/That's
After a good, quiet run in an apartment room in Yoolee Plaza, esteemed cocktail bar Botany has made big moves, reopening in its first proper location. Well, not that big of a move – it's still in Yoolee Plaza, just on the ground level. The lounge vibes are a bit more playful this time around, but Botany does stay true to form with their unconventional menu, which features their eccentric signature cocktails.
For more 2018 Year in Review coverage, click here.