Night in the city, and the neon is flashing. Are you, busy through the week with no time to catch your breath, looking for a little corner where you can stop and sit on a Friday or Saturday night? In Taipei, specialty bars and pubs have sprung up to fill this need for the office crowd, and are thus concentrated in the Xinyi and Daan districts. These new-style establishments are different from the city bars, wine houses, beer houses, and izakayas of the past, stocking alcohol of myriad variety and with interior spaces presented as “fashion capital” statements. The creative ferment has crafted an “alcohol gourmet culture” exclusive to Taipei.
Sipping 1920s’ Style
The Mandarin Oriental Taipei Hotel’s (台北文華東方酒店) exterior has a calm, dignified appearance, typical of Taipei hostelries. The M.O. Bar, tucked within, is truly satisfying to ladies and gents in search of world-class bartending. Stepping inside is like stepping through a time tunnel – back to a more glittering, resplendent era, when drinks were lingered over in a genteel, elegant manner.
The interior of the M.O. Bar is decked out in the style of the 1920s. Staff members are dressed in all-white suits, echoing the attire popular in that era. The long central bar serves as the main stage for the bartenders, where an endless chorus line of inspired cocktails moves from imagination to reality. Amidst the urban-retro trappings, one can enjoy M.O. Bar’s highballs, premium champagnes, wines, and a copious variety of spirits. A special attraction is the frequent invitation of world-class bartending talents, such as Manabu Ohtake, Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of 2011, to be “artist in residence” for a period of time. During his tenure as guest bartender, Ohtake came up with some ingenious concoctions combining Western spirits with Eastern elements. Here, you do not just sit down to enjoy a glass, you step onto a fashionable and cosmopolitan international stage.
Savoring Fine Spirits and Great Food “At the Inn!”
Located in Xinyi District, Placebo Taipei opened in 2016, and has the character of an inn from a martial-arts movie – a design inspired by the zombie flicks owners Darren and Anarchy used to watch when they were kids. If you don’t ask about it, however, the spooky zombie connection won’t be obvious. Seen from the outside, the warm lighting and interior decor create an ambience that draws people in for a bit of R&R.
All drinks and foods at Placebo Taipei are developed, marinated, and brewed in-house using local Taiwanese ingredients. A plate of soy-braised treats and a bowl of mutton soup, accompanied by a homemade jasmine-tea gin dubbed “The Jasmine Lullaby,” warms one from the depths of one’s soul to one’s heart on a cold winter’s night. Because the majority of the clientele is female, the bar acknowledges that preference with a fine selection of mulled wines. Roselle, roses, and mulberries may be mixed with a red wine and/or cognac to produce a sweet and sour medley that, from moment of contact with the tongue, all the way down one’s insides, runs smooth and silky. Their effect is soothing, echoing the name of the bar, your Placebo Taipei experience indeed providing “placebo-like” comfort for body and soul.
Whisky Museum Down a Cozy Lane
Ask where to find the best spirits in Taipei, and you’ll find nary a lover of whisky who does not answer: “L’arrière-cour.” This whisky bar has been in place for almost 20 years, and considers itself a “Whisky Museum.” One of the inspirational souls behind the endeavor, Lin Yifeng (林一峰), is a Taiwanese whisky master. His dream in opening the bar was to inform more people about the richness of the world of whisky.
At L’arrière-cour the goal is not quantity, but a glass that perfectly suits the moment. There is no spirit menu here. The bartenders first spend time communicating with their customers, inquiring about such things as what the person has just eaten, and whether his or her taste preference leans toward something strong or something a little smoother. After this, a number of possible choices are presented – a good idea for the customer who isn’t sure what he wants, and while you’re taste-testing, you also hear the story of each liquor, and about its unique characteristics and flavors. This customized process is like chatting with a good friend, and is why so many return to L’arrière-cour time and again.
Fine Brews for Leisurely Sipping
Want to know what the most fashionable way to drink is in Taipei currently? Standing is “in!” And if there’s any one place responsible for this trend, it’s Landmark, the Taihu Brewing Company’s (臺虎精釀啤酒) craft beer bar in Xinyi District. Craft beer is all about savoring slowly; “sipping” is thus at the core of alcohol-appreciation here, and Taihu Brewing wishes to encourage that in its consumers. The bar’s Chinese name, “啜飲室,” literally means: “sipping room.” In addition, because the establishment is partially open to the elements, Landmark takes the TLC step of providing capes for patrons, so they can keep warm while lingering over their drinks alfresco!
Landmark is home to a gathering of Masters. In addition to Winnie, or Hsu Juo Wei (許若瑋), pioneering female and chief brew master, who has 10 years of experience, all bartending staff have attained SERIOUS BEER Certification Level 1. Chat with them and you’ll come away knowing a great deal more about craft beer! Taihu Brewing/Landmark also sells its beer in cans, and recently cooperated with renowned painter, Yao Jui-chung (姚瑞中), to create beer can artwork that uses themes involving beer’s raw materials, while showcasing the characteristics of four Taiwanese cities. Its India Pale Ale (IPA) is the Taipei offering, and has textured layering with an aftertaste that travels from bitter to sweet and tells the classic Taipei tale of hard work in the pursuit of success. While sitting down to savor the beer, savor as well the inspiring story of this city depicted on the can.
M. O. Bar
5F, No. 158, Dunhua N. Rd., Songshan Dist. (松山區敦化北路158號5樓)
Placebo Taipei 安慰劑
83, Sec. 2, Keelung Rd., Xinyi Dist. (信義區基隆路2段83號)
4, Ln. 23, Sec. 2, Anhe Rd., Daan Dist. (大安區安和路2段23巷4號)
Taihu Brewing Landmark 臺虎精釀啜飲室
68, Sec. 5, Zhongxiao E. Rd., Xinyi Dist. (信義區忠孝東路5段68號)
Excessive alcohol consumption may be harmful to your health.