Ah, it was all fun and games before the great brickings of 2017. Remember when you could have cheap booze anywhere on Sanlitun’s notorious Dirty Bar Street or up and down the Dongcheng hutongs? At that time, Toy Box was the speakeasy bar of choice for sinners with some taste. Behind an anonymous door on the sixth floor, it overlooked the chaos on the streets below, while treating the inductees (that knew how to find it) with some of the best drinks in the capital.
Alas, the bulldozers came to tear the street asunder, and Toy Box disappeared along with many of its neighbors. Up until now, that is. After a near two-year hiatus, news reached us that it was finally back. The rumors turned out to be true, though it’s clear the time for games is over: The legendary cocktail bar in fact re-branded as Schrödinger's Box and moved in among the elders of Nali Patio.
The speakeasy style is gone, but some of the original touches have survived (together with a good percentage of the original furniture): For one, the imposing wall of alcoholic goodies that emits a dim light and sets the mood. A corridor lined with neon arches instead makes it so the place is partially isolated from the exterior, to preserve the quiet atmosphere.
For them, a cocktail is in some way an unpredictable mixture, and just as it is impossible to know if the cat in Schrödinger’s thought experiment is dead or alive until we open the box, only tasting the drinks will test the bar’s success – or so we’re told.
We don’t mind the explanation (and we certainly don’t need any encouragement to get to drinking). We soon find that the cocktail masters here are never afraid to experiment, as it was the case during the bar’s previous life. Now the physics reference starts to make more sense. Asked if we would like to try some honey in our whisky sour (RMB80), we agree, though with some reticence. In the end, the result is quite outstanding. At Schrödinger's Box they might like to freestyle, but they know what they’re doing – no dead cats here.
Toy Box might have lost its former appeal, but while it doesn’t hide under a black door anymore, it still keeps its soul alive. It’s still a quiet place to have superb craft drinks. And then, it strikes us – much like the good old times of Beijing nightlife, the new Box is in many ways a metaphor for the infamous cat, suspended in an uncanny state – not entirely dead, yet not entirely alive.
[Images via Edoardo Donati Fogliazza/That's]