Cocktails: more sophisticated than shots, cheaper than a bottle of wine, less damaging on the physique than beer and always easy on the palate, it’s no wonder they’ve garnered such a following.
For years, we Guangzhouers have gotten by with syrupy concoctions mixed with fake alcohol or overpriced ‘experiments’ served 10 minutes after our friends have left to hit up the next bar.
In the past two years, however, there’s been a jiweijiu resurgence in the City of Flowers, with numerous specialty cocktail bars popping up in historic districts like Dongshankou and Liwan and on central party streets like Xingsheng Lu.
If you’re new to the area – or if you simply haven’t had a chance to explore the city as much as you’d like – we’ve rounded up the finest mixology hubs in Guangzhou so that you can sip the real stuff without wasting any time at subpar establishments.
Guangzhou’s first expat-run speakeasy and winner of the Reader’s Choice award for Outstanding Cocktail Bar at our 2016 That’s PRD Food and Drink Awards, Hope & Sesame brings patrons signature cocktails in a refreshingly cozy atmosphere. Finding the place is an adventure in and of itself, as you’ll need to wander down an alley in Dongshankou, find the hidden door and pass a brief ‘interrogation’ on a secreted intercom in order to enter. It’s all very hush-hush, as are the cocktail recipes – unless you know Morse code.
Photo by Calvin Chan
Another veiled venue, Lotus hides a floor above a nondescript cafe on Xingsheng Lu and attracts swarms of in-the-know clientele every night to talk business over original mixes. The low-lit interior is trimmed with dark wooden windows and hints of traditional Chinese decor, transporting guests to a posh Shanghai lounge from the 20s. Drinks are original, layered with intriguing flavors and adorned with everything from pine cones to sprigs of rosemary.
Located in a heritage building in the historic neighborhood of Dongshankou, this molecular gastronomy restaurant and bar serves up custom cocktails like the ‘Prism Bamboo’ – a mix of vodka, sake and Spanish sherry adorned with a bamboo leaf. Save time to tour the refurbished mansion when you visit and be sure to make reservations ahead as seating is limited.
A smart stop for Mad Men-esque whiskey-teers on Party Pier, Mixologie pays tribute to heritage with its rich leather sofas and reproduction of the famous 1263 Scottish painting ‘Fury of the Stag’ hanging behind the bar. Unlike other cocktail locales, the menu here is thick – patrons can choose from more than 200 bespoke drinks – and most beverages are prepared on the strong side unless you ask otherwise. Sit outside for an epic view of the Pearl River, Canton Tower and Liede Bridge at night.
Founded by cocktail connoisseur Kelvin Wood, S.T.M – which stands for ‘sip till morning’ – takes its alcoholic creations very seriously. Located on the ground floor of St. Martin Hotel in a fascinating section of Liwan District, this bar doesn’t have a drink menu, and instead invites you to tell the bartenders your poison – or what flavors you’re in the mood for – and let them work their magic.
Recently moving to a new location on Jinsui Lu in Zhujiang New Town, this fourth-floor bar rocks an experimental air with alternative music and drinks such as the 'saussurea involucrate' made with steeped wine. Culinary swashbucklers can try a glass of alcohol infused with reptil – er, ‘homegrown’ Chinese ingredients that’ll get your heart pumping. If you’re not into the exotic, there’s plenty of well-executed classic cocktails as well to start your night off right.
If your midnight escapades haven’t yet led you to the humble establishment that is Revolucion Cocktail, you’re not hanging with the right crowd. A favorite among many expats and locals in Guangzhou, Revolucion offers expertly made drinks without the uptight vibe that characterizes other cocktail bars in town. Prices are reasonable, dancing on the bar is encouraged and service is surprisingly swift.
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