The good, the bad and the ugly. The weird and the wacky. As is the That’s tradition, we’ve compiled our 2019 China Year in Review series. Below, in no particular order, we share our favorite spots for everything from frothy pints of beer to inventive cocktails.
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 made their appearance in the capital this year, each one striving to make a difference with a unique concept and menu. But who are the newcomers that really left a mark in Beijing's drink scene in 2019? Here's a list for you Beijingers in search of the perfect boozy beverage.
Image courtesy of 50/50
Location-wise, 50/50 is just far away enough from the heart of the Sanlitun cocktail scene (a convincing selling point). What’s more, the menu, service and decor are relaxed and earnest, a refreshing departure from the ever-present turn-of-the-century waistcoat-and-jazz bars that have saturated the Beijing bar scene for far too long.
See a listing for 50/50
Image by Andrew Braun/That's
The Vending Machine is a speakeasy-style bar that got a lot of buzz this year, and with good reason. While unassuming from the street, its glass door slides open to reveal... well, very special vending machines.
See a listing for The Vending Machine
Image via Irene Ho
Nestled just off Jiaodaokou Nandajie is the unassuming facade of Pinó, a wine-heavy addition to the Beijing bar scene and sister to hutong favorite, Nina.
See a listing for Pinó
Image via Andrew Braun for Jing-A
Jing-A’s new Longfusi taproom has an undeniable Brooklyn vibe with exposed brick walls, wooden and industrial furnishings, a vibrant mural and the overall hipster ambiance. It’s a blend of hutong diehards, business professionals and families with their kids – a place for anyone and everyone tucked into a nice nook of Beijing’s newest center.
See a listing for Jing-A Taproom
Image via Union
Union is a cocktail bar that has taken root inside boutique hotel The Opposite House. It’s a massive, chandelier-bedecked space that, fittingly enough, looks right at home in the trendy Sanlitun hotel.
See a listing for Union
Image via Slow Boat
It seems hutongers had a lot to celebrate this year. Another victory? Slow Boat Brewery unveiled their long-awaited Dengshikou location. The taproom feels very familiar: It retains the same menu, the same burgers and the same beers, however, the atmosphere is a lot more laid-back.
See a listing for Slow Boat Dengshikou
Image via Flynn Murphy
For a bar full of bric-a-brac — ostrich feathers, old teapots, various lamps, potpourri, plush couches, wooden benches and mismatched chandeliers — Pi Bar feels cozy but not cluttered. It's a charming amalgam of quirks and it just works.
See a listing for Pi Bar
Image via Great Leap Brewing
After riding the waves post-closure of its #12 location (don't worry though, it’s back), Great Leap Brewing rolled with the punches and opened another branch in Lido. The new spot is located right beside the NUO Hotel and boasts 30 craft brews on tap – expect all the GLB core beers, some seasonal varieties and guest brews.
See a listing for Great Leap Brewing (Lido)
Image via Andrew Braun for That’s
Two words that come to mind as we enter Stream Bar: oh, lord. We’re first greeted by a blindfolded Roman statue and welcomed into an interior that would make Austin Powers proud – it’s groovy, baby. From the long tunnel painted in deep red, shag carpets on the seats, another statue (with scattered statue heads about) and an expansive bar, it’s definitely a provoking space. Oh, and there’s a slide, too.
See a listing for Stream Bar
Image by Edoardo Donati Fogliazza/That's
Helmed by the owners of Sanlitun Soho’s dive bar-institution Red Dog, Ginger is even funkier and – if you can imagine it – divier. Where Red Dog has a print of a nude woman with the face of Mona Lisa, Ginger has an actual mannequin dressed in full drag with a lurid-green wig driving a second-hand sanlunche. Elsewhere, a recycled bunk bed makes for some kooky additional seating.
See a listing for Ginger
Image via Curtis Dunn for That’s
Le Moments is a cocktail bar in Gongti that exceeds all expectations. Run by an ex-Tiki Bungalow bartender (the beloved hutong classic), the place is high-class meets high-kitsch. The place retains some of Tiki Bungalow’s magic, with a deliciously thrilling menu of drinks.
See a listing for Le Moments
Image by Valerie Osipov/That's
Brought to you by the El Nido guys (signature picnic tables, check), Zhujingban isn’t your typical beer joint. It's casually flashy with a glossy terra cotta roof covering the softly-lit bar area and a vintage Batman pinball machine in the back corner next to modest pieces of antique furniture. The concept is sweet and simple: a tiny rotating list of brews from all over, alongside a gin-and-tonic menu.
See a listing for Zhujingban
For more 2019 Year in Review coverage, click here.