As Beijing’s hutongs dwindle, they become ever cooler. Quirky, artsy designer bars are springing up in the warrens formed by these ancient alleyways in central Beijing.
Until recently these bars catered mostly to expatriates, but now the main clientele are local hipsters. Usually hard to find, down narrow lanes and far from the bright lights of the city’s ring roads, some bars offer their locations as GPS coordinates. De rigueur are misty black and white photographs, spare modern furnishings and the odd set of rusty bed springs placed on the wall as a piece of installation art. The main draw is the drinks, but the food is slowly getting better.
Amilal, one of the best, is located in a converted traditional courtyard home and offers live music by Mongolian and Kazakh bands. Mao mao chong (Caterpillar) has a bespoke cocktail list including drinks infused with Sichuan peppercorns and chrysanthemum flowers. Mai Bar is another hard-to-find spot, but its long list of artisanal cocktails makes up for it.
Photographs: XiXinXing/Alamy; Mike Kemp/Corbis via Getty Images; AdrienC/Getty Images; CaoWei/Getty Images
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