Where to drink in the bustling city.
There are two sides to the Chinese capital’s kaleidoscopic nightlife: Clubs with bottle service and plenty of model types, or a motley smorgasbord of hangouts scattered throughout hutongs or alleyways. Getting lost among these historical mazes are opportunities to experience the real Beijing and uncover epic watering holes along the way.
Cocktail culture has been sweeping through Chinese cities as rapidly as the velocity of the latest high-speed train. But speakeasy-style cocktail bar D Bespoke is one of the few establishments in Beijing appealing to the type of connoisseurs who can elucidate why ice pellets are used in shake-free drinks, rather than crushed or cubed. Helmed by the impeccably outfitted Japanese mixology veteran Daiki Kanetaka, the reservations-only spot, however, doesn’t boast a phonebook-sized menu. Instead, bespoke drinks are expertly crafted based on a series of prompts to glean a guest’s personal taste. Reservations are mandatory. D Bespoke: B510 107 Dongsi Bei Dajie, Dongcheng District; +86-10-6400-0133
Modernista is a cozy European-style bar that brings swinging excitement to its Hutong neighborhood. Here, vintage décor meets modern nightlife. With a classic dark wood bar and a black-and-white tiled floor, Modernista combines art deco spirits with local culture. Offering swing jazz, Mahjong nights and an impressive selection of alcohol, visitors will wonder why they didn’t discover this modern classic earlier. Modernista: 44 Baochao Hutong, Gulou Dong Dajie, Dongcheng District; +86-136-9142-5744
The notion of imbibing alcoholic concoctions — no matter how expertly crafted — in a temple may seem a tad sacrilegious. But the environs of Contempio, a bar housed in a 600-year-old temple courtyard, is too lovely for one to resist a taboo tipple. The establishment’s hidden locale also adds to its idyllic charm, heightened by artfully selected antique furnishings. Contempio: Doufuchi Hutong, east side of the Hong’enguan Temple (100m east of Cafe Sambal), Xicheng District; +86-10-6407-6778.
“Only by not forgetting the past can we be masters of the future.”
Ba Jin, Chinese writer
Unpretentious, under-the-radar and just plain entertaining, V.A. Bar is the ultimate destination for serious music lovers. Its status as one of Beijing’s best-kept secrets is more than a clichéd epithet for V.A. Bar, the city’s leading venue for live music. Decked out with a sound system to wow even the snootiest of aural aficionados, the intimate space has become known as a showcase for some of the city’s fiercest jazz musicians. V.A. Bar: 13 Wudaoying Hutong; +86-10-5844-3638