Drinking and nightlife in China

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Wan Chai & Northeast Hong Kong Island

    Second Draft

    Tall windows wrap around a magisterial sweep of wooden bar at this Tai Hang neighbourhood gastropub, the sort of civilised joint where everybody knows everybody. A curated line-up of local beers favours the faultless Young Master brewery (450ml pours around HK$80), or go for an organic wine, paired with creative nibbles such as edamame with crispy chicken skin.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Central District

    Quinary

    Consistently voted one of the world's top 50 bars, Quinary is a sleek, moodily lit cocktail bar that attracts a well-dressed crowd. Its gifted mixologists create homemade infusions of spirits and the Asian-inspired cocktails are delicious, theatrical marvels. Signature creations include the Quinary Sour (whisky, homemade liquorice syrup and bonito flakes) and the Instagram-killing Earl Grey Caviar Martini with whipped air.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in The Peak & Northwest Hong Kong Island

    Old Man

    If Ernest Hemingway was still alive today, the chances are he’d love this tiny no-sign speakeasy named after his novel The Old Man and the Sea with a neo-cubist portrait of Papa himself looking down approvingly from behind the bar. The atmosphere is friendly rather than pretentious and the mixology is exceptionally creative, with elements like gruyere, sous-vide pandan leaves and nori dust (cocktails HK$100).

  • Nightlife in Central District

    Stockton

    Hard-to-find Stockton evokes the ambience of a private club in Victorian London with Chesterfield sofas and wood panelling cleverly arranged to form dark, intimate corners. Its signature cocktails (from HK$130) are inspired by famous writers and quirkily served in vessels such as ceramic pots with rosemary fronds to garnish. Make a reservation if you're coming after 9pm on a weekend.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Beihai Park & Xicheng North

    Bear Brew

    Run by two affable, aproned Chinese bears (who speak excellent English), this gay-friendly hutong hangout pours a host of house creations such as a 24-hour cold brew with Coke, a ‘dirty’ (espresso shot dumped on iced milk) and the usual range of espresso and pour-over coffees. The rooftop terrace, with its poetry-inspiring views of the White Dagoba Temple, is glorious on a sunny afternoon.

  • Nightlife in The Peak & Northwest Hong Kong Island

    Ping Pong Gintoneria

    Behind a closed red door, stairs lead down into a cavernous former ping-pong hall, now one of Hong Kong's coolest bars. The drink here is gin – the neon-illuminated bar stocks more than 50 types from across the globe, served in a variety of cocktails both classic and creative (G&Ts from HK$110). The crowd is arty, and the decor is even artier.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Drum Tower & Dongcheng North

    Nuoyan Wine Bar

    Move aside, Merlot, it's mǐjiǔ time! Try something new at this rustic tavern specialising in Chinese wine made from glutinous rice (米酒; mǐjiǔ), a delicately sweet tipple that's the same potency as sherry. There's no English menu, but you'll be given a tot of several types (rose, plum, osmanthus, aged etc) from which to choose a bottle (380ml, ¥150 to ¥220).

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Drum Tower & Dongcheng North

    Great Leap Brewing #6

    Lost in a maze of alleys east of Houhai, this tumbledown courtyard is where Beijing's craft-beer scene first burped into life back in the heady, pre-Xi days of 2010. The bar, with its lovely walled yard, remains Beijing's most atmospheric spot for a pint. Choose from a chalkboard list of locally inspired creations such as Honey Ma Gold, with its Sichuan peppercorns and Shandong honey.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in French Concession

    Speak Low

    Speak Low is a speakeasy within a speakeasy within a speakeasy. Once you find your way in through the Ocho bar equipment shop, start with a drink on the 2nd floor; outstanding cocktails run ¥75 to ¥85. Then head upstairs (hint: find China and you'll find the entrance) to the intimate, seating-only bar for expertly crafted Japanese-influenced cocktails from ¥100.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in French Concession

    Ars & Delecto

    Parisian-style cafe, with round wooden tables, a long marble bar and simple art deco images on white walls, Ars & Delecto is, without a doubt, one of the best cocktail bars in town. The small but punchy drinks menu has classic tipples, martinis, negronis, whisky sours and highballs, plus signature creations served with serious style.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Suzhou

    Birdland

    Friendly staff speak excellent English and there is an ever-changing selection of 15 well-kept, local brews on tap. There are also tasty burgers, pizza and potato wedges on the menu. On the ground floor of Ligongdi International Youth Hostel.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in French Concession

    The Odd Couple

    Enter this Xintiandi speakeasy via a wall of rainbow LED lights and an enormous Pac-Man screen at the top of the stairs. Inside it's an intimate, thin rectangular space with red lighting, small tables, standing space and a little smoking balcony. The concept comes from two esteemed bartenders, Tokyo's Shingo Gokan and New York's Steve Schneider. Throwback classic cocktails are mixed to perfection.

  • Nightlife in Sanlitun & Chaoyang

    Great Leap Brewing #45

    Raise a flagon of Beijing's original and best craft beer at this industrial-chic outpost of Great Leap, a couple of clicks north of the Sanlitun action. A chalkboard lists the myriad beer styles on tap, which are best paired with the fabulous New York–style pizza (¥110 to ¥140 for a 16-inch monster). Non-drinkers are catered for with the craft ginger soda, a spiced-up sensation.

  • Nightlife in French Concession

    The Bunker

    This speakeasy is located inside the Green & Safe restaurant on the 2nd floor, behind a wooden palette–style door. This sophisticated spot is a top choice for a quiet cocktail within Xintiandi. If you're drinking, you can skip the Green & Safe dining queue and order from the menu. Most of the cocktails are excellent, though some are a bit wacky.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Shenzhen

    Oil

    Quite possibly the best underground club in China, Oil is a compact, sweaty chapel to electronic beats, the darker and more esoteric the better. An adjoining cocktail bar (open nightly) provides the perfect prelude to Oil's weekend parties, which have been known to keep raging until 7am. Check its socials for upcoming events.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Dashilar & Xicheng South

    Soloist Coffee Co

    Partway down a gentrifying hutong is this exquisite coffee roaster and cafe, born here as a pop-up during Beijing's annual Design Week, and now a small chain. Supposedly once a public bathhouse (the building is decades old), the cafe these days deals out liquid relief of the caffeinated kind, hawking a gourmet selection of coffee-based drinks, including cocktails such as 'cold brew gin tonic'.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Drum Tower & Dongcheng North

    Dada

    Ever since this Shanghai export touched down in 2012, Dada has become Beijing's premier venue for esoteric, bass-heavy beats, while remaining unpretentious and divey enough for the casual party-goer. By combining an imaginative line-up of DJs at weekends with a commitment to keeping entry at around ¥60, Dada gets the party vibe spot on.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in The Bund & People's Square

    Long Bar

    For a taste of colonial-era Shanghai’s elitist trappings, you’ll do no better than the Long Bar. This was once the members-only Shanghai Club, whose most spectacular accoutrement was a 34m-long wooden bar. Foreign businessmen would sit here according to rank, comparing fortunes, with the taipans (foreign heads of business) closest to the view of the Bund.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in French Concession

    Café des Stagiaires

    This popular oasis of Francophilia is decked out in hip 'olde worlde' charm with a bar made from stacked suitcases and bistro-like decor, plus windows that fully open out creating a lovely patio atmosphere into the often raucous Found 158 complex. Cocktails include the mint julep, the basil smash and a punchy Sichuan negroni. Happy hour runs weekdays from 5pm to 8pm.

  • Top ChoiceNightlife in Suzhou

    Locke Pub

    Locke Pub is a key part of Suzhou's social and cultural scene, as much a community social space as a pub. As well as serving imported bottled beers, wine and cocktails, Locke hosts regular events and is a great place to meet locals.