Nestled in a grove of trees, this bar is a something between an oasis and playground for those who truly love cocktails. Owner Daiki Kanetaka of Glen fame opened Glen Classic because he felt that the aforementioned whiskey-centric bar was getting too "rowdy" for the kind of experience he wanted his customers to have.
The solution? A semi-hidden cocktail lounge located behind the Worker’s Stadium, sharing a courtyard with Beijing nightlife stalwarts Face and Lan Na Thai. Comfortably appointed with soft leather sofas for small groups and oversized armchair stools at the bar, Glen Classic has no menu to speak of. Instead, you’re presented with two guides when you walk in, one detailing the different types of libations the bar specializes in, and the other an even more abstract, useful tasting guide and introduction to Glen Classic’s strongest offerings: sherry, Calvados (apple brandy), Armagnac, old rum, and whisky.
Most intriguing are the first three options: Glen Classic is the first bar in Beijing (at least to our knowledge) that focuses on these lesser-known fortified wines. Kanetaka has spent time all over Spain, visiting sherry distilleries and adding to his considerable collection. They offer tasting flights for all of its specialty liquors, ranging from RMB120 to taste three sherrys all the way to a wince-inducing RMB460 for the "High Vintage" whisky set, which to be fair does not include any whisky under 20 years.
Much like one of our favourite bars in the United States, the Violet Hour, Glen Classic takes the menu-less approach to their craft cocktails. Have a seat at the bar and start a conversation with the barman, telling him exactly what you do (or don't) like. Kanetaka or his staff will distill those opinions into four ounces of cocktail perfection.
For our first cocktail we wanted something with a flavor profile similar to the Jack Rose, an apple brandy-based concoction. We received a Golden Dawn, made with two types of Calvados, Tanqueray Ten gin, apricot eau-de-vie and orange juice, and a Honeymoon made with Calvados, Benedictine liqueur, Cointreau and lemon. Needless to say, both drinks were transcendently delicious, the first one a burst of complex vegetal must from the two Calvadoses followed by the woodiness of the gin and rounded off with sweetness from the eau-de-vie. The Honeymoon was sweeter and silkier with a soft spice imparted by the Benedictine.
Besides the bespoke blends, which the bar prides itself on, there are also two barrel-aged options currently on offer, a Rusty Nail (Scotch and Drambuie) and a Negroni (gin, sweet vermouth and Campari; both RMB110). Aged for five months, the spirit-forward cocktails have rounded off and deepened in flavor over the course of aging, trading brightness and vivacity for a smoother, more mature taste. More infusions than an alchemist’s laboratory line the bar, including tomato, rosemary and black pepper vodka (for Bloody Marys) and ginger vodka (for Moscow Mules). Each drink is served in exquisite vessels, from a coupe glass as delicate as Cinderella's lost slipper to a sturdy faceted tumbler for our Old Fashioned.
There is a limited food menu that includes an olive sampler (RMB50) and various salumi (RMB100-200 for the 5J Jamon Iberico). "Composed platters" of Gosling's Rum-smoked salmon with lime pickle and cream cheese or Wagyu beef with onion raisin jam and juniper mustard (RMB150 each) are the brainchild of Max Levy, late of Bei and Spoonful of Sugar. The last page of the menu is devoted to cigars (RMB150-300 each) and Kanetaka's suggested pairings of cigars and cocktails.
This kind of luxury will put a dent in your wallet: cocktails start at RMB100, there is a minimum spend of RMB200 per person, there's a dress code (smart casual to formal, if you please), and reservations are mandatory. But for cocktail nerds and anyone seeking a truly quiet yet culinarily enlightening night out, Glen Classic comes highly recommended.
Our rating: 5/5 stars
What: Glen Classic
Where: Face Hotel courtyard, 26 Dongcaoyuan, 工体南路 东草园26号
About The Author...
Ami Li was born in Beijing and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Amherst, Massachusetts. She's called Beijing home (again) since 2010. Before working at City Weekend she spent over two years with independent music promoters Split Works. When not sweet-talking the bouncers and bartenders at Beijing's bars, clubs, and live music venues, Ami enjoys hanging out on roof decks and Instagramming photos of her cat, Pushkin.