Drink

The Best Bars in Manila (2019)

Tastes are evolving, and with it, the way we like to drink.
IMAGE KAI HUANG
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While there will always be a special place in our hearts for dive bars, ihaw-ihaw beer gardens, and loud ostentatious party palaces, our elevated preferences for the finer things are also influencing the way we imbibe.

These days, when we say “bar,” we think top-shelf: cocktails given the same attention as a high-concept dish; a place with such distinct character and personality that we oftentimes subconsciously match it with our own. Bar owners are going for more intimate settings that reflect their taste and style, offering an experience that is more niche and (oh god, I can’t believe we’re saying this) bespoke.

From quirky to high-brow, campy to tight-laced, there is something out there for the discerning drinker with very particular demands. These are the bars that we liked the most this year. 

Buccaneers 

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The cavernous bowel of a pirate ship might seem more Disney World than Poblacion, but drinks here are more sophisticated than the setting implies. Known for its extensive rum selection and the imaginative cocktails served in tiki mugs, there is something at Buccaneers for both serious enthusiasts of the amber liquid and those just looking for something strong yet refreshing. Purists will appreciate its straightforward and very proper daiquiri.

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Don Pedro Street, Poblacion, Makati 

Elbert’s Upstairs Bar 

Photo by Kai Huang.

The man cannot help it if expectations are always high when he opens an establishment. When Filipino food lovers wanted a proper steak, a well-assembled sandwich, or the perfect Napoli-style pizza, they turn to Elbert Cuenca. When he opened his Upstairs Bar on top of Mendokoro Ramenba BGC, the Noel Bernardo-designed space is exactly what we expected of the seasoned restauranteur—sleek, stylish, and elegantly discreet.

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Icon Plaza, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 

 

Back Room 

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While many have tried to replicate that Prohibition Era vibe in their speakeasy-style bars, only a few have truly succeeded. On top of that heap is The Backroom with its beautiful black marble floors and countertops, green leather interiors, and dark wood. Forgoing the classic cocktails, it only offers concoctions that are unique to its bar. 

Shangri-La at the Fort, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig

 

Bang Bang 

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Photo by SASHA LIM UY.

We have never walked into a Vietnamese opium den, but we are totally buying Bang Bang’s interpretation. Green bulbs color the thug-glam surroundings and velvet banquet seats that are more The Hangover rather than The Sopranos. However, don’t let the silly plastic gun chandelier fool you, the cocktails here do not pull any punches. The inclusive Pride and Tonic is a colorful take on the G & T, but those complex and herbaceous flavors demonstrate substance. 

Guanzon Street, Poblacion, Makati 

 

The Spirits Library 

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It really is a library, its shelves heavy with books on the topic of alcoholic libations. But despite the moniker, this beautiful little nook in Poblacion is truly all about sought-after bottles and cocktails that are crafted by some of the best in the industry. While it has only been open a few months, it is fast becoming a popular spot to grab a good drink and be immersed in a steady vibe. 

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Guerrero Street, Poblacion, Makati  

 

The Peak Bar

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The sweeping views of BGC and beyond is the star attraction of The Peak, which is perched on the 62nd floor of the Grand Hyatt. But its bar is no slouch, serving well-crafted cocktails and a decent wine selection, accompanied by imported oysters, freshly carved jamon, among other tasty bites. Best to come at sunset to catch the best show in town. 

Grand Hyatt Manila, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig 

 

Lampara 

Photo by Kai Huang.
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While initially the food was what created a buzz around this cool Poblacion haunt, the drinks prove to be just as irresistible. The unique cocktails inspired by modern Filipino dishes have proven to be just as good on their own. The cool, mismatched furniture lends a laidback vibe to the place, making it conducive to a chill night out. 

Enriquez Street, Poblacion, Makati 

 

Mistral 

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The rooftop bar was initially an extension of the Raffles’ French restaurant, Mireio, where diners can have a cocktail before or after their meals. However, the prized property with a generous view of the Makati skyline became such a hit with its frozés and aperol spritzes that it deserves its own personality. To accompany its absinthe cocktails and endless pours of wine and bubbly, it has DJs to deliver the appropriate party soundtrack. 

Raffles, Makati

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About The Author
Jaclyn Clemente Koppe
Chinkee writes and eats for a living. By living, she means cake. Or steak. When she's not eating, she's running her own blog-shop, OneBigBite.com.
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