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TRAVELER NOT TOURIST | 30 October '18
Taiwan’s Hidden Cocktail Scene Is Red-Hot—and Here’s Where You Must Go
Ever since the Prohibition Era, speakeasy culture has taken root in cities like New York and London. Taipei has officially put itself on the map with a bar scene that’s transformed over the past decade. Whether in the mood for a rosewater gin and tonic, cocktails served on tap, or concoctions by a guest bartender, these nine Taipei hotspots are favorites of Journy founders Susan Ho and Leiti Hsu.
Word travels fast in the speakeasy scene, and Bar Pun already has everyone talking. Located in a skinny alley off the main drag, getting in requires patrons to hit a big red fire alarm button. The scene is quieter than other bars, and that’s intentional. The creators want you to sit back and savor your cocktail. Their menu includes both the classics and a selection of signature drinks. We suggest their egg white earl grey brandy concoction, dubbed the “Jon Snow.”
Inspired by SOHO House London, the group of creative behind the months-old Staff Only wanted Taipei to have its version of a members-only club, with a signature dose of the warmth and friendliness the Taiwanese are known for. Getting in is all part of the fun. Members must tap their membership cards on the ‘Staff Only’ sign at the front door, then ‘clock in’ at the bar. From super balanced cocktails (order something custom to test your bartender’s mettle!), 20s-esque decor, bold signage, and etched glassware, every detail is deliberate. The drinks are classic with zany Taiwanese touches and ingredients.
Barber in the front, party in the back. Yup, you read that right. During the day, the space operates as a hair salon and by night, a chic bar you’d never suspect was hidden behind that bookshelf in the corner. At Mozi, you’ll find a spacious lounge with dramatic dark leather banquettes and lighting fixtures reminiscent of the 1930s. The cocktail list is short and sweet, driven by the classics—and if you come on the earlier side and happen to have skipped dinner, make sure to order some of the fare here, as it’s some of the best bar food in town.
For a big night out, but you want to drink something more ambitious than vodka sodas, you can’t go wrong with a round of drinks at Frank. The bar spans two floors, with a club-like feel on the lower level and a rooftop above. Their drink menu has all the staples like beer, wine, and spirits in addition to creative cocktails—some come in bubble tea form for the Asian kid in all of us! We recommend starting your night off around sunset, where you can take in a spectacular view of Taipei, as its right next door to the iconic pagoda-esque Taipei 101 building. Seating is plentiful, with some swings, too, should you feel inspired.
As Asia’s first expandable bar & lounge, Kor brings a lot to the table (no pun intended). After a few rounds, you’ll no doubt start dancing to whatever’s blasting through the custom designed, chrome finished VOID sound system, be it hip hop, funk, soul, or r&b. Similar to other hotspots in Taipei, there’s a little something for everyone at Kor including a nightclub, whiskey den, cigar lounge, and cocktail bar. The decor is impeccable throughout, most notably, the large gold-hued bar.
If you’re ready to dance the night away, consider Omni your go-to spot. While there’s no shortage of clubs in Taipei, there’s something extra special about Omni. For one, the lighting system is downright impressive, and quickly adds to the electric atmosphere. The sound system is top-notch, too. As for design, Omni creators have thought of everything. The setup is similar to a stadium or theatre; the farther from the stage, the higher up the view.
This gin bar is full of surprises. Most patrons drinking at Sidebar—a premier gin bar in its own right—have no idea that there’s a hidden bar in the back. The door leading to the secret space requires a passcode, which changes daily, to enter. Once inside, feast your eyes on rows and rows of gins from around the world. If you feel overwhelmed by options, ask the mixologist for recommendations. They’re also great at creating cocktails on the spot, so don’t be shy about putting them to the test.
AHA Saloon is one speakeasy drinking experience you won’t want to miss. For one, it’s the brainchild of award-winning bartenders Kae Yin, Victor Yang, and Jeffrey Chang. The menu is a deep dive on flavors, with categories like “land,” “culture,” “faith”, “memory,” “rock,” and “junkie.” The thought is that if you can at least pick a flavor, the bartender will do the rest. Signature cocktails are especially experimental, with ingredients ranging from asparagus juice and fermented pineapple to orange acid and yam wine.
Located just off of Zhongxiao West Road, Draftland has been described as both a brewery tap room and a modernist tea bar. When creating the concept, Taiwanese drinks aficionado, Angus Zou, aspired for something different. The result? A minimalist bar where cocktails are on tap. You won’t see bartenders here, but rather ‘engineers’ of sorts. The drinks on tap menu is featured above the corresponding taps, and if you don’t fancy one flavor, you can move on to the next.
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