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. So sit back, relax and relive the highs and lows of the last 12 months.
Below, in no particular order, we share our favorite drinking spots for cocktails, craft beers and more to debut in Guangzhou this year:
Image by Matthew Bossons/That’s
Gin is in. At least that’s our impression after visiting Evening Standard, a new gin bar tucked away in Yangji. This bar offers thirsty patrons in Guangzhou cool cocktails and a bevy of gin and tonic combos on the menu. It’s a welcome addition to the neighborhood, albeit at a pretty penny.
The bar stretches about 10 or so seats long, with a worldly collection of gin bottles from China to Finland and beyond, which helps set the scene behind the bartenders’ office space. Away from the bar, there are a handful of tables as well as two main couch areas well suited for a gin-tastic celebration. Meanwhile, old English newspapers can be found around the place as a subtle reminder of the spirit’s storied past in London.
We kick off the evening with an English Negroni (RMB90), which comes slow but strong. Set in an old fashioned glass with a large square cube for optimal chill, it’s a quality drink that we’d order again.
Who’s going: ginholics, people looking for something new, the neighborhood
Good for: gin and tonic, catching up with friends
Closest metro: Yangji (Exit B), 10 minutes’ walk
Image via 247bySECOO/WeChat
Who needs bartenders when you’ve got cocktails on tap? Draft cocktails are the theme of a new bar on Xingsheng Lu called 24/7 by Secoo, a premium premixed cocktail brand owned by China-based Secoo Group. The boozy establishment appears to be in some partnership with Lotus Lounge – a decadent cocktail bar located directly upstairs (you can walk through the bar to enter Lotus Lounge).
Guangzhou is the newest city for 24/7 by Secoo to call home, as the bar concept has set up shop in Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing and Suzhou. (For once, Guangzhou has beaten Shanghai to a new opening.)
As we mentioned, 24/7 serves their cocktails the new-fashioned way – substituting the bartender for cocktail kegs. Aside from fun and tempting draft concoctions, you’ll also find a couple craft brews on the menu (which is clearly visible above the taps). One aspect of the menu that catches our eye is the craft cocktail credits below each drink, which give a shout out to the creator of each beverage.
When we visit early on a Thursday evening, we order the Peking Mojito (RMB58) and the No to Criticism Session IPA (RMB38). Suanmei (preserved plums) are utilized to add a subtle tartness to the mojito with Chinese characteristics, which is otherwise a water-y beverage. But given their selection of other drinks on tap, we wouldn’t be so quick to write them off.
Who’s going: Xingsheng Lu strollers, casual cocktail drinkers
Good for: cocktails on tap, something new
Nearest metro: Liede (Exit B), 10 minutes’ walk
Image by Ryan Gandolfo/That’s
Best described as a bar with speakeasy characteristics, this sweet spot is secretly accessible from the street while also being completely visible to shoppers inside Xintiandi Garden.
Patrons can read all about Choi Chi College’s drink options on their newspaper-style menu. We opt for the bar’s classic negroni (RMB69) and the Shazam IPA (RMB39); however, the establishment also offers cognac, whiskey, gin and wine by the bottle. The negroni doesn’t disappoint – bringing a cool, bold gin and orange flavor that is perfect for combating Guangzhou’s sticky, summer heat. As for the Chinese wheat brew, putting its low alcohol content (4.0% ABV) and small stature (230 milliliters) aside, it’s an enjoyable and refreshing beer with a fruity aroma and hazy yellow body.
On the backside of their paper menu you’ll find a tasty selection of siu mei (roasted meats), which make for an ideal end to a boozy night. After finishing our drinks, we venture back through the street-side eatery and order the lao niang cha shao rice dish (RMB28) – a delicious combo of barbecued pork, pickled vegetables and rice.
Who’s going: trendy types, college graduates
Good for: hard drinks and roasted meats
Nearest metro: Yangji (Exit B), 10 minutes’ walk
Image by Matthew Bossons/That’s
Located on Huangpu Dadao Xi, this rye-focused bar and restaurant boasts an impressive collection of more than 100 whiskey varieties, including eight notable Japanese bottles and 36 scotch offerings.
The long, thin interior of the restaurant is well decorated and seems like as good of a place as any for a strong drink on a rainy evening. We order up an old fashioned (RMB45), which arrives mostly true to form, without an icy whiskey ball. Its strong and fragrant flavors hit the spot, although we must admit we’re craving a punch of the straight stuff.
With a brilliant playlist featuring the likes of Phil Collins, Tom Petty and The Beatles playing over the bar’s sound system, we demand a wee dram of Macallan 12 (RMB70) with a casual fist pound and begin perusing the food menu.
Price: RMB100-150 per person
Who’s going: whiskey aficionados, Japanese people, Johnnies and walkers
Good for: intimate boozing, an encyclopedia of whiskey choices
Nearest metro: Tiyu Xi Lu (Exit H), 5 minutes’ walk
Image via Out of Office/WeChat
Channeling the vintage appeal that’s prominently displayed in AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men, Out of Office (called 老板不在 in Chinese) is a welcome haven for the after-work drinking crowd. Tucked away on the 10th floor of China Plaza in Yuexiu, patrons will find this speakeasy accessible through a small office with floor-to-ceiling windows and a typewriter sitting on a large wooden desk. (You’ll first need to enter Hoppo House and turn right, the ’60s themed office will be on the left.)
Once you venture into the office and through the door, you’ll see a well-lit bar on the right-hand side of the space, and office-style furnishings filling the cozy establishment. Along the back wall are desk-inspired tables for private chats, while the middle of the room consists of comfy, cushioned chairs.
At Out of Office, guests will find a range of signature cocktails, spirits, wine and a couple beer options on hand. But, being a classy joint and having clocked out after a long workday, we sample the Mr. Draper (RMB95) and Live or Let Rye (RMB110). Both drinks come finely crafted, meeting our expectations for artisanal alcoholic beverages. Presented in a small box-like briefcase with a flask to pour the drink and vapor flowing out upon opening, Mr. Draper is a take on advertising guru Don Draper’s cocktail of choice: the Old Fashioned.
Price: RMB100 per drink
Who’s going: people with jobs, cocktail connoisseurs
Good for: vintage vibes, quality drinks
Nearest Metro: Martyrs Park (Line 1), 7 minutes’ walk
For more 2019 Year in Review coverage, click here.
[Cover image via Out of Office/WeChat, Matthew Bossons/That’s, 24/7bySecoo/WeChat, Ryan Gandolfo/That’s]