5 Bars in Asia Drunk with History
December 16, 2013
If these walls could talk, oh the stories they would tell. Karryn Miller takes a look at hotel bars across Asia with history—places that have seen empires rise and fall, trends blossom and fade, and, through it all, are still the hot spots for a cocktail.
Published on Dec 16, 2013
Mumbai’s oldest licensed drinking spot, The Taj Mahal Palace’s Harbour Bar, turns 80 this year (2013). Take a seat at the solid marble bar or in a comfy chair overlooking the Gateway of India. Order their signature cocktail, aptly named From the Harbour Since 1933, and hear the history of the fruit-flavored drink as it’s mixed. Apollo Bunder, Mumbai; tajhotels.com.
Originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the Old Imperial Bar at Imperial Hotel Toyko survived the Grand Kanto Earthquake and World War II, and retains classic touches like a 1923 wall fresco. Sip on a Mount Fuji, first served in 1924, which, according to the hotel, “evokes a snow covered Mount Fuji at sunrise.” 1-1-1 Uchisaiwaicho, Chiyoda, Tokyo; imperialhotel.co.jp.
The Jazz Bar at Fairmont Peace Hotel, has seen major changes since it opened in 1929 but it’s kept its Art Deco aesthetic—and musical act—from the eighties. Two of the surviving band members still play at the club. Watch them perform while sampling an Around the World, a blend of pineapple juice, Cointreau and gin. 20 Nanjing Rd. East, Shanghai; fairmont.com.
A regular tourist haunt, the two-story Raffles Hotel Long Bar is well known as the birthplace of the Singapore Sling. The historic bar opened in the early 1900’s and the iconic gin- and brandy-based drink was added to the menu in 1915. The current decor is inspired by 1920’s Malayan plantations, with rattan chairs and paddle fans. 1 Beach Rd.; raffles.com.
The Rex Hotel became famous during the war era for the daily “Five O’Clock Follies”—press briefings held by the U.S. military. Afterwards, journalists and officers drank on the vast terrace overlooking the heart of Saigon. Order the cocktail of the month to go with a great sunset view of the colonial boulevards and modernizing skyline. 141 Nguyen Hue Blvd., Saigon; rexhotelvietnam.com.