Whether you’re posting up at a dark, hidden bar or a refined, cultured cocktail bar, we from all walks of life – certified adults, that is – frequent these stress-relieving establishments to let loose, and more often than not, to behave like grown children away from the prying eyes of real adults. Sometimes if we’re really in the moment, it’s within our right to trash our real identity – John, 34, married with two kids – in favor of something more vibrant, with due respect to the laws of having fun(You know who you are). Your intentions notwithstanding, the bar scene in Kuala Lumpur carries with it the usual scent of boring, a whiff of not fun and the mark of… a sleep-inducing movie reminiscent of something your grandparents would watch in shades of black and white.
But hidden within the deluge of all this dreariness, positioned in suave social circles, lies a few diamonds worth writing home about.
You might even find a hidden bar or five worth the visit
1. The Deceased @ Chinatown
If you’re feeling a bit too full of life, too hopped on oxygen, too remote from life-and-death situations and is looking for something to temper your life force, to ground you in the perils of reality, you’d do no better(or worse) than The Deceased. With a name like that, invoking memories of all things that go bump in the night, you’d likely be well surrounded by deathly contraptions straight out of a horror flick. Take a tour through the eerily lit staircase, slowly inching towards the dimly lit room, in full view of the creepy crawlies, only to find that it’s strangely calming.
Owing to the bar’s creative strokes of genius, their concoctions are far from dull, unimaginative and mundane. From one creative to another, I salute you:
- I Know What You Did Last Summer(popping balloon, cinnamon stick, vodka, gin, blackcurrant juice)
- Tea of Oblivion(local tea and gin)
- Petty Person Beating(joss paper, incense stick, paper cutouts, citrus base, oolong, gin)
- Emperor Punch(gin and ginger ale)
Address: 55, Jalan Sultan, Kuala Lumpur, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
2. Shuang Xi @ Tun H.S. Lee Road
Stowed away, buried deep within Chinatown at the heart of Kuala Lumpur, beyond the purview of gawkers and serial hardcore partygoers, lies the latest hidden bar Shuang Xi. Built entirely on the concept of lounging about – its premise features various greeneries and vintage furniture – patrons are highly encouraged to not act the fool but instead mellow out. The unspoken rule: seriously, just chill out.
In keeping with its chilled-out, welcoming vibe – a theme consistently weaved throughout the whole experience – their cocktail concoctions smells of something you’d find in a cross between a sugar-coated fluffy pillow and a fantasy partner(tall, dark and handsome or just plain insta-worthy):
- Sweet Dream(vodka, banana milk, salted caramel)
- Linger Ginger(plum wine, ginger)
- Familiar Stranger
Address: 177, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: 014-944 5130
3. Bar Zhen @ Jalan Balai Polis
Located suspiciously between some dark corner of some even darker alleyway, is the crown jewel, Bar Zhen. The alleyway entrance – every bit foreboding as it is eerie, is a symbolic precursor of what you might be expected to encounter, the equivalent of judging a book by its cover. But upon stepping into the hidden bar, you’ll find the vintage papers, maroon posters, and medicinal cabinet to be at odds with what you’d conjured up in your mind’s eye.
Tying in the medicinal properties of its herbs and the alcoholic component of its..alcohol, their Asian-inflected concoctions are restorative in nature – both in times of boredom and when you’re feeling a little under the weather(not backed by science but one can hope):
- Ginseng Honey Paloma(ginseng-tinged Cognac, agave nectar, Tequila, grapefruit syrup)
- Tongkat Ali Kopitini(kopi tupai, rum, tongkat ali coffee liqueur, Irish cream)
- Lychium Maca Osmanthus Tea(vodka, tea)
4. The Attic @ Jalan Balai Polis
The Attic, a unique standout hidden bar among the common many, has found a rightful home in Petaling Street. Make your way up two flights of stairs and under the watchful gaze of the pale moonlight, besotted by KL’s landmarks(Petronas Twin Towers, old railway stations, & Menara KL), be instantly transported to an easier time; where the simple offerings of bean bags strewn about plucks you from the harsh reality of the outside world. A simple place where you can rest on the laurels of existing.
The quaint DIY bar, unassuming in its bare brick walls, while still maintaining an air of artistic flourish, keeps its drinks and prices well grounded – whether you’re sporting a sports car or lugging around a bike for environmental reasons:
- Mango Margarita
- Melon Martini
Address: Third Floor, No. 15, Jalan Balai Polis, City Centre, 50000, Kuala Lumpur
Contact: 012-393 8627
5. Botak Liquor @ Jalan Petaling
The farm-to-table concept has been gaining traction at the tail end of this closing decade, leaving stale ingredients at the bottomless pit of obscurity. Botak Liquor, manned by Shin, is a trendsetting bar conceived from the newly coined “garden-to-glass” concept: fresh ingredients rooted in actual dirt, straight from the source, within a stone throws away from the kitchen.
If you’d expect the botanical theme to vine(or worm, pun intended) its way into almost every conceivable drink Botak has to offer, you’d be right and then some. Indiscriminate in its layering of all things natural and fresh(flowers, fruits, vegetables) in their concoctions, blossom forth:
- Sweetpea and Elderflower(sweetpeas, unaged whiskey, organic elderflower, lemon)
- Violet and Dragon Fruit(grappa, dragonfruit, violet liqueur, maraschino, lime)
- Starfruit & Daun Kari(organic starfruit, pisco, curry leaves, lemon)
6. The Berlin @ Jalan Tun H S Lee
The unsung hero for those looking for a quick escape, Berlin – hidden from plain sight; KL’s unofficial consulate for the heavy of hearts – condenses the offerings of the fabled city into a boxed-in landscape, with each artistic detail(graffiti, red neon lights) etched in purposefully to affords its patron a taste of its nuances – a remote getaway without actually getting away.
Channeling the Berlin theme, staying consistent with the rugged edges of its rich history, converges a smattering of drinks that’ll leave you in drunken stupor, where memories and histories of the night go to die:
- The Brandenburg(Germany’s Jagermeister, pineapple juice, fresh lemon juice, triple sec & passion fruit syrup)
- The JFK(Vodka, Bailey-Based)
- The LustGarden(Gin-Based)
7. PS 150 @ Jalan Petaling
Having undergone a series of transformations, at one time taking the form of a brothel house, a regular house, and a warehouse, PS 150 is uncharacteristically an open wound, an unpeeled onion – layers upon layers of its detailed past makes for its story-driven present. Divided into three sections, each section assigned its own era, you can tease out the nuances native to a particular era: The Opium Den, perfect for the solo traveler, is balanced out by the Post-War space, immediately inviting to bigger groups.
The cocktail menu is compartmentalized on the basis of five distinct eras – Vintage(1850’s – 1910s); Classic(1920s – 1930s); Tiki(1940s – 1960s); Disco(1970s – 2000s) and Contemporary(late 2000s – present):
- Lychee No.3(London dry gin, ginger flower, lime, lychee)
- Red Poisoned Princess(Tequila Plata, Mezcal, Absinthe, Raspberry, Lime, Soda)
- Rumble In The Jungle(Coconut and Pandan Rum, Tuak, Campari, Tropical Juices,
- Elemakule Bitters, Gula Melaka, Curry Leaf)
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