Autumn’s hottest global bar openings
The bar industry has been a busy bee over autumn, with new watering holes popping up on all corners of the world map. Here, we’ve picked out 12 of the best openings from the season.
From a neighbourhood haunt in Melbourne with serious industry pedigree to the return of one of Shanghai’s most accomplished drinking dens and a huge temple to whisky in the downtown London, autumn was certainly in fine form when it comes to new bar openings.
We’ve scouted the world map to find 12 of the best newcomers to the global bar scene. If you’re heading for any of the featured cities in the coming months, be sure to make a visit to these bars an absolute top priority.
Tokyo Confidential – Tokyo, Japan
Where: 9F The V-City Azabu-Juban Place, 1-6-1 Azabu-Juban, Minato, Tokyo
The power pairing of Holly Graham (current number nine on the Bar World 100, a list that ranks the bar world’s most influential people) and Wakana Murata (who led cocktail development for Gold Bar in the Tokyo Edition) have combined forces to open up this playful bar in Tokyo’s Azabu-juban neighbourhood.
‘Pull up, fess up’ is the MO where guests are encouraged to let their hair down over drinks such as the Cheung Fun Old Fashioned (made with soy caramel, bitters and peanut and sesame Bourbon) and Destroy All Monsters (made with miso brown butter-washed gin and ponzu). Though it’s not all just heady cocktails, there’s also a selection of no- and low-ABV serves. “We’re making our bar into a home for everyone,” Graham said.
Seats inside and out are both winners, whether perched up around the impressive pine bartop, made of 300-year-old wood reclaimed from a shine, watching the bar staff at work, or on the open-air balcony where a knockout view of Tokyo Tower awaits.
Chinato – New York City, US
Where: 108 Stanton St, New York, NY 10002
Once head of research and development at Double Chicken Please (DCP), bartender Ray Zhou left the acclaimed New York bar to go his own way. He’s now in the Lower East Side tending to his first solo project, Chinato, which is a play on his upbringing from China to New York.
Inside, you’ll find Zhou and his team shaking up cocktails from an Island-shaped bar that commands a 1,200 square-foot space. Those cocktails lean experimental, as expected considering his DCP history, with the menu taking on a musical theme of three sections; labelled disc one, disc two and disc three. The serves stem from his favourite songs, such as Snoop Dogg’s Gin & Juice made with clarified yoghurt, gin and Campari, and Joni Mitchell’s Ballerina Valerie, which combines vodka, lychee, ginger and lemongrass with clarified coconut yoghurt.
And Zhou hasn’t forgotten the importance of eating either, hauling in Zhaojin Daj to oversee the food programme, the sous chef at two Michelin-starred Korean restaurant Jung Sik.
Dram Bar – London, UK
Address: 7 Denmark Street, London WC2
In wondering what they wanted inside their new whisky bar on Soho’s Denmark Street, it seems drinks industry experts Chris Tanner, Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson and Jack Wallis (with credits at London venues Silverleaf and Milroy’s to their name) decided on pretty much everything: filling three floors of an 17th century grade II-listed townhouse with two bars, an outdoor terrace, a private pool room with its own cocktail vending machine (filled with canned whisky cocktails that bar staff mix in-house) and a whisky shop to boot.
While upstairs is less technical and more casual, offering kegged and canned cocktails, beers (there’s Guinness) and, of course, drams, downstairs lies the team’s research and development lab for the more serious stuff. By night, this space morphs into a 12-seater tasting room where cocktails are ‘centred around seasonality and exploration’ – see the Koji & Birch, crafted with Shio Kojo (a koji marinade), coconut, bitters, Birch Caramel and Brugal 1888 rum.
TVM @ The Fridge – Dubai, UAE
Where: Warehouse 5, Street 17, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz 1
At first glance this swish venue in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue looks to have all the makings of the now-typical modern bar – industrial decor, glowing lights and aesthetically-pleasing cocktails – but there’s a slight twist. The ‘cocktails’ contain zero alcohol as the founders, TVM Collective (The Virgin Mary Collective), hope to inspire people to ‘drink differently’ without the need to change any settings that come with your usual evening out.
On that form, music and entertainment is curated by live event producers The Fridge, so guests can hangout, sip their Fridge Fizzes (a boozeless combination of dark cane, honey line, bitters, Habaq and Vintense Prestige Sparkling Grape) and bop to live bands, without the fear of feeling worse for wear the next day. TVM founder Vaughan Yates said it is a “truly breakthrough alco-alternative way of socialising”.
Rocketman – Auckland, New Zealand
Where: 10 Roukai Lane, Auckland CBD, Auckland 1010
Having covered the dimly-lit speakeasy with Caretaker and Deadshot, which have no menus (bartenders tailor cocktails to your taste), wife-and-husband duo Heather Garland and Alastair Walker have taken a rather different turn for their third Auckland outing – a retro futurism-inspired party bar called Rocketman.
Situated in the city’s Britomart hub, above Caretaker and accessed via a red strobe lit entrance, this one for starters has a cocktail menu – drinks are named after David Bowie songs such as Heroes (with spiced coffee-blended rum, Eight Thirty cold brew, homemade condensed coconut-oat milk) and Changes (with Thomson Two Tone Whisky, fresh lemon, Manuka honey).
It’s also brings a louder party atmosphere, helped along by a bouncing ’90s hip-hop and disco-fuelled soundtrack, and, on occasion, appearances from live bands. Garland and Walker say it’s “It’s a little bit mad, a little bit mischief”. And if you’re feeling up for it, or you’re a few drinks down, there’s even a private karaoke room (find the hidden cupboard) where you and eight friends can belt out your favourite tunes.
Bar Lina – London, UK
Where: 18 Brewer St, London W1F 0SG
Soho’s iconic Italian delicatessen, Lina Stores, has a surprise up its sleeve, or rather, downstairs in its basement. The team has switched out the old pasta kitchen that used to serve the space for a sleek speakeasy cloaked in maroon and accented with marble and brass.
As you might expect, cocktails champion Italy, with imported ingredients from the country leading the way. A Bloody Martini made with Sicilian tomato water is a star attraction, while there’s also a strong selection of Negronis and Spritzes worth exploring. For bar bites, the likes of arancini and truffle crostinis aren’t far away, which is the handy thing about having a deli stacked with high-quality Italian meats and cheese upstairs.
Left Door – San Francisco, US
Where: 1905 Union St, San Francisco, CA 94123
Taking up residence above San Fran’s historic sports bar Bus Stop Saloon (which boasts an opening that dates back a 100 years), Left Door’s interior mirrors that of a luxurious members-only club – with its crackling fire, plush velvet furniture and decorative patterned wallpaper – except here, everyone’s invited.
The menu offers fresh yet elegant approaches to classics such as in the mezcal-based Negroni, a whisky sour made with malt-infused maple syrup and a Margarita, made with Tequila infused with jasmine rice. There’s also a section dedicated to Martinis, which come with olive pairings – say blue cheese and goat cheese, or even caviar.
Bar Antoine – London, UK
Where: Hamilton Pl, Greater, London W1J 7DR
Bar Antoine forms the bar part of Yannick Alléno’s takeover of the Four Seasons Hotel on Park Lane, named in memory of the storied chef’s late son, Antoine. The inside scene is of relaxed luxury with mohair chairs and cosy banquettes, while outside guests can wind down on the secluded leafy terrace fronted by views of Mayfair.
Head mixologist Michele Lombari handles the cocktails, who’s swapped hotels having recently been at London’s The Ritz, and he’s just launched a signature menu based on ‘Ikigai’, a Japanese concept about finding meaning in life.
The list, comprised of 12 cocktails, is split between the concept’s four principles – love, passion, purpose and passion – with mission’s, well, mission, to showcase sustainability in standouts such as the Penicillin Nouveau (featuring Hennessy VSOP, mezcal, milk whey, miso and ginger honey).
In addition, the bar has also created its own line of tonics called Allenotics, infused with the likes of beetroot and vegetables and then mixed into a trio of gin and tonics.
Portrait Bar – New York City, US
Where: 1 W 28th St, New York, NY 10001
Found in Midtown’s restored Fifth Avenue Hotel, The Portrait Bar sweeps guests off to destinations far and wide via a globe-trotting menu of cocktails designed by bartender Darryl Chan.
Each drink is built to represent a certain city – for instance, Torino’s bittersweet Campari, cardamaro and fig leaf soda combination ushers you to Italy; Cebu’s ingredients of rum, Scotch, coconut and calamansi bring the vacation vibes of the Philippines; and a gin and earl grey-based serve called the St. James is reminiscent of afternoon tea in central London.
But it’s the space itself that really sets the scene, taking design cues from the quiet sophistication of a London library bar and the chic aesthetic of an Italian villa, filled with original art and more than 50 portraits adorned on the walls (hence the name). The perfect place to hash out future travel plans.
El Sueño – San Diego, US
Where: 2836 Juan St, San Diego, CA 92110
When La Piñata, Old Town’s historic Mexican restaurant, finally closed its doors after 90 years of service, San Diego lost a legend, but its successor El Sueño is looking to be a worthy replacement.
Once inside, you may feel as though you’ve stumbled upon a hidden hacienda, stored away somewhere deep into the jungle — only equipped with cleverly-designed cocktails and an enticing menu of modern Mexican food to wash them down with; from lobster tacos to ceviche sushi rolls.
The two-storey venue holds court to 300 people and is split across a maze of different areas, including a stone-floored patio engulfed in greenery, private dining rooms and two bars that send out agave cocktails like the Bad Bunny (an orange-hued Margarita put together with mezcal, jalapeño-infused Tequila and carrot juice). Simply put: If you’ve come here for a quick drink, be prepared for a change of plans.
Maggie’s Snacks and Liquor – Melbourne, Australia
Where: 181 Lady Margaret Rd, Southall UB1 2PT
Founded by a team with a bulging CV of industry experience, in Maggie’s, the hip neighbourhood of Brunswick can add another hip neighbourhood venue to its already plentiful list.
Living up to the name, on the liquor side, cocktails make the most out of local ingredients – like the Margot Robbie, named after the Australian actress and made with pistachio orgeat, vodka, citrus and Australian aperitif Rhubi Mistelle, while the Vanilla Slice Milk Punch tastes like the classic Australian puff pastry but in drinkable form, with clarified milk, burnt vanilla, brioche, passionfruit and Starward whisky.
On the snacks side of things, these share New Zealand influences (where chef Scott Blomfield is from) – think a mushroom lasagna topper with yuzu mayo (a gourmet take on the kiwi Dairy icon), kumara chips with a kiwi onion dip and a snapper pie with roasted bone cream.
The venue itself follows a cosy vintage theme – fitted out with reclaimed furniture, antiques and a fireplace – while the courtyard outside is perfect for whiling away the sunny days over the next few months. But no matter the season, this one will prove popular all year round.
Sober Company, Shanghai
Where: F106, 109 Yandang Lu, Huangpu, Shanghai
While not a new venue per se, Sober Company’s reopening certainly feels like one, and its return is a major boost to Shanghai’s cocktail scene.
After over a year out of the game, the bar can now be found over two floors in the INS complex by Fuxing Park, bearing the same multi-storey concept – split between Kissa (the ground floor bar for casual cocktails and coffee), Izakaya (an intimate neon-lit dining space for sushi and omakase) and Sakaba (also on the second floor where more adventurous cocktails are offered, such as an Old Fashioned topped with Kobe beef).
As for Tipsy, the old venue’s secret speakeasy, this has made a comeback too. If you want to be granted access, acquire tokens by purchasing enough drinks over the venue and its location will be revealed. After all, there’s a reason why the bar’s motto is ‘come sober, leave tipsy’…