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.
Below, in no particular order, we share our favorite spots for frothy pints of beer, cocktails and shots to debut in Guangzhou in 2018:
Image by Daniel Plafker/That’s
Tucked down a quiet street in Zhujiang New Town, brave adventurers hunting for mixological glory might have a challenge ahead of them if they seek out Spin. An unassuming vape shop serves as the downstairs ‘front’ to the operation and a little creative snooping will be necessary before the truly well-hidden entrance is revealed.
The disciplined mixologists behind the magic at Spin are headed up by Jackwing, a fierce female cocktail conjurer at the top of her craft. With years of experience in the bar departments of several top-tier Guangzhou hotels, Jackwing brings a meticulous attention to detail to her boozy creations along with boundless creativity.
On our visit, we sampled Spin’s spin on the classic old fashioned: the Holmes cocktail (RMB108). A little sweeter than we’re used to, to be sure, but the spicy, herbal swirl of homemade cinnamon syrup and smoked rosemary alongside premium bourbon and amaretto make for a compelling swallow.
Who's going: rum runners, cocktail conniseurs, fu’erdai types
Good for: bespoke beverages, clandestine rendezvouses
Nearest metro: Gangding (Exit C) 20 minutes, Liede (Exit C) 20 minutes
Image by Matthew Bossons/That's
Celebrated Japanese author Haruki Murakami once said, “Whisky, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it’s time to drink.” Mr. Murakami would find lots to gaze at inside Whispers, where veteran Guangzhou expat Rob Turnbull and his staff tend to a collection of 88 whiskies – from Scotch and Irish whiskey to bourbon and Japanese varieties.
Behind the bar, three shelves divide the lounge’s selection of whiskeys and whiskys based on price: RMB60 per 50-milimeter dram from bottles on the bottom shelf, RMB80 per dram from the middle-shelf bottles and RMB100 and up for top-shelf pours.
On our visit, we sampled the Bowmore 12 (RMB60), a single malt scotch whisky with a delicate and intriguing peat-smoke taste. Smooth from nose to finish, we found this Scotch an accessible starting point for Islay-style experimentation.
Who’s going: Panyu’s classiest drinkers, single malt maniacs
Good for: pondering life while sipping a cool glass of whisk(e)y
Nearest metro: Nancun Wanbo (Exit A), 10 minutes
Image by Matt Bossons/That's
Located in a small corner unit on Huaxun Jie, ATOC bills itself as a casual cocktail bar that deals in quality beverages – from Carlsberg imported all the way from Europe to mixed bevvies overseen by the bar’s drink manager. On our visit, bar boss Tait Dalrymple tells us that ATOC is very much focused on beverages, stating, “We don’t do any food, we just concentrate on drinks.” While there is no kitchen at ATOC, Dalrymple tells us that outside food is allowed in the bar and that guests are welcome to order eats from nearby restaurants – such as Skewerz, which is located right next door – to enjoy while they drink.
Recommended beverages here include the aforementioned imported Carlsberg (RMB30), as well as ATOC’s whiskey sour (RMB50) and Bloody Mary (RMB50). With just the right amount of zest and a perfectly-balanced, savory flavor, ATOC’s Bloody Mary is among the best we’ve sampled in Guangzhou.
Who’s going: Australians, lots and lots of Australians
Good for: quality cocktails, quality banter
Nearest metro: Wuyangcun (Exit B), 10 minutes; Zhujiang New Town (Exit B1), 10 minutes
Image via David Strand
2018 was a big year for David Strand and his namesake bar and brewery, with the opening of two new locations: one in Panyu and another in Xiguan, Liwan District.
Beer wise, The Strand’s Xiguan location does not deviate too much from the selection of suds on offer at the bar’s flagship location in Wuyangcun. On our visit, the bar only had one offering that was unique to Xiguan: the aptly named Xiguan Session IPA (RMB40/pint).
The Xiguan Session IPA is an easy-to-drink beer that will remind fans of Dave’s beer of his Session IPA, which is available at The Strand’s Wuyangcun location. With an ABV of 4.8 percent, the Xiguan Session IPA has a hoppy aroma that will impress even the pickiest fans of the India pale ale variety.
Those who prefer fruity suds will enjoy the Yangmei Roselle Blond (RMB40). The first yangmei beer produced in China, according to Dave, this delightful, slightly-pinkish beer has a 5 percent ABV and a light, fruity taste that reminds us of summer patio parties back home. (Yangmei is a fruit often referred as a wax berry in English, for those of you that are wondering). This beverage is our favorite of Dave’s inebriating elixirs due to its elegant flavors and sessionability.
Who’s going: urban wanderers, Xiguan locals, curious tourists
Good for: high-quality local beer
Nearest metro: Zhongshanba (Exit A), 10 minutes; Changshoulu (Exit E), 10 minutes; Ruyifang (Exit B), 15 minutes
Image via Guu's Cigar and Whisky Lounge
At Guu’s, your heart may skip a beat as you go past the earmarked glass cases and over to the bar. Under the auspices of bartenders in starched white shirts, your preferred poison will have to be either aged, rare or elusive, as you won’t find Johnnies, Jims or Jacks around here.
The menu is divided into regions: Speyside, Highlands, Lowlands, Islay, Campbeltown and Islands, following pages with more pours from Japan and Taiwan. The premium likes of Macallan 12 sell at RMB88 per glass or RMB1,780 per bottle, Glenfiddich 30 at RMB500 per glass or RMB8,500 per bottle, or Laphroaig 10 cask strength at RMB320 per glass or RMB4,500 for a bottle. Price wise, it’s strategic, so as to attract the right (read: wellheeled) crowd.
Cocktails run upwards of RMB80, and there’s just a smattering of them to tempt. Order a Trinidad Sour (RMB120); the rich and alluring concoction of rye whisky and Angostura bitters is balanced with orgeat (almond syrup) and fresh citrus.
Private parties are prevalent here and booking out the entire space is possible if spending exceeds RMB20,000 (RMB30,000 on weekends), with fine dining meal sets catered by Wilber’s.
Price: depends – the older it is, the more it costs
Who’s going: connoisseurs and moneybags, those seeking a private hideaway
Good for: distilled collectibles, fulfilling a Winston Churchill reverie
Nearest metro: Kecun (Exit B), 10 minutes
For more 2018 Year in Review coverage, click here.