While the United States’ current president – a man with small hands and an even smaller vocabulary – has made bunkers something of a joke in the past six months, underground shelters do serve a genuine purpose: Bunkers protect you from undesirable conditions above ground. With the smog and frigid weather upon us in Beijing, it’s time you found a bunker of your own in the PRC’s fine, metropolitan capital.
Enter: Alcoholic Association, a brand-spanking-new cocktail slash whiskey bar beneath an apartment building in Liangmaqiao. Positioned along an underground hallway dominated by jam-packed Japanese eateries, this temple to tipplers is our top choice for riding out Beijing’s impending ‘airpocolypse.’
When we saunter through Alcoholic Association’s soft-pink doors two weeks after its opening, we’re greeted by an amiable bartender and relaxing vibes.
The exterior of Alcoholic Association. Image via Linda Wang
While we are never shown Ron Burgundy’s basement in either of the Anchorman films, we can’t help but imagine it would look something like the interior of Alcoholic Association. Wood accents abound, plush leather furniture is carefully arranged throughout the space and soft lighting creates an intimate atmosphere. The bar seems perfect for a romantic rendezvous with someone special, or drinks with colleagues, or even a low-key jazz flute performance – it’s very versatile that way.
“I wanted to create a bar where guests can become friends with the staff, enjoy reasonably priced drinks and treat the bar like their own personal ‘secret living room,’” says Linda Wang, the proprietor of Alcoholic Association and the manager at popular Beijing haunt Revolution for the past seven years.
The interior of Alcoholic Association. Image via Linda Wang
The bar’s back wall is loaded with booze bottles, including an impressive whiskey collection composed of roughly 80 different varieties.
We order a pint of draft beer (Stella Artois, RMB55; Goose Island IPA, RMB75) and press Wang – who informs us the bar is predominantly focused on whiskey and cocktails – for her top cocktail recommendations.
The delightful Penicillin: a complex cocktail for the distinguished tippler. Image via Matt Bossons
“Much like getting a suit, which needs to fit you properly, we need to know what you like and make sure the drink is suited for you,” Wang tells us. Upon learning of our passion for smoky whiskeys, she suggests we order a ‘Penicillin’ (RMB95), made with smoky Laphroaig, fresh lemon juice, ginger liqueur and honey.
The cocktail’s flavor is incredibly dynamic, starting with a sour, citrusy punch before fading into a smoky-sweet taste; it is a top choice for distinguished drinkers.
Wang also recommends the ‘Plum Candy’ (RMB95), although we opt for a generous pour of Talisker 10 – because we love scotchy, scotch, scotch.
“I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly...” – Ron Burgundy
Scotch is the thinking man’s drink, and true to form, we slip into deep thought, pondering all the big questions. Was T-rex a hunter or a scavenger? What is the identity of the Poe Toaster? And, what the fuck happened to Rudy Giuliani? Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers to these questions, but we do know one thing for sure: Alcoholic Association is our go-to Beijing bunker this winter.
Bright yellow beverages at Alcoholic Association. Image via Linda Wang
If you’re keen to check it out for yourself, a few final notes: Friday and Saturday evenings can be busy, so be sure to arrive early if you want to snag a table; the bar offers a membership program for those interested in becoming regulars and getting the most bang for their boozy buck; outside food is allowed – so you can scarf down sushi from one of the adjacent Japanese eateries while you get saucy; and, according to management, events and special promotions are on the horizon – so stay tuned!
Closed Sundays, 7pm-late; 17-B1, North Gate, Huayuanjiuduhui,Tianze Road, Chaoyang District（Behind Women’s Street, next to US Embassy）北京市朝阳区天泽路华远九都汇北门食街B1层-17号（美国大使馆旁边，女人街后面）(135 2116 5069)
[Cover image via Linda Wang]