8 great cocktail bars around Asia

WITH a choice of up-and-coming locales, established favourites and sophisticated hangouts, Asia is an ideal place to sip your favourite cocktail, or try out some of the local variations on the old classics.

Below we’ve listed eight of our favourite spots across the region to sip a cocktail on a balmy summer evening. Whether it’s the views, the ambiance, the music or the company, each one has something special… and of course very, very good cocktails.

Bamboo Bar, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Bamboo Bar, Mandarin Oriental Bangkok

Bamboo Bar, Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok

Fine cocktails, great jazz and a unique old world vibe come together at the Bamboo Bar in Bangkok. A part of the historic Mandarin Oriental, this place has become a regular haunt for celebs and dignitaries down the years. Names like Mick Jagger and Pierce Brosnan spring to mind. Resident jazz musicians team up with a rotating line-up of renowned jazz singers, packing the Bamboo Bar with Bangkok’s rich and beautiful on the weekends. The cocktail menu includes all the old favourites and  a few signature highlights too. The Thaijito, a local take on the classic Mojito with Thai rum and herbs, packs a punch. With cocktails coming in at about US$10 the prices are not over the top and great cocktails are a given. Be sure to dress nice; Khao San Road chic is not the desired look. Recommended.
Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, 48 Oriental Avenue, Bangkok 10500.

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Pic: 36levelsabove.com.au

Blu Bar on 36, Sydney, Australia

If you’re keen to celebrate the joy of cocktails in Sydney you really need a view of the harbour. And at 36 floors up with incredible views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and the beautiful harbour itself, there’s no better place for a night of sophisticated cocktail swilling. Thanks to its menu Blu Bar on 36 has also netted a swathe of awards from JetStar, the Australian Hotels Association and Sabatos’ 100 Best Skybars. Come along to see what the fuss is about and choose from drinks like Chairman Mao, the Gold Rush, Harbour Serenade and Lady Perculiar.
Shangri-La Hotel, 176 Cumberland Street, The Rocks.

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Mai Bar

Mai Bar. Pic: Casey Hynes.

Mai Bar, Beijing

Mai Bar, a small but inviting establishment on Beiluoguxiang, a short walk from popular bar and shopping street Nanluoguxiang, offers customers great drinks and great service, two things that do not necessarily go hand-in-hand in Beijing. The owner was trained at cocktail heavy hitter Apothecary, so he knows how to mix a quality creative drink. Not sure what to choose from their extensive menu? The friendly staff will be happy to recommend something that suits your tastes, whether you go in for light and sweet or something whiskey-based. Because of the care that goes into the making of each cocktail, you may end up waiting a while for your drink, but that’s a small price to pay for the experience. Mai Bar opened only a few months ago, but between the excellent house influsions and cocktails, friendly and attentive service, and quiet but chic location, it represents the best of the Beijing bar scene.
40 Beiluoguxiang, Gulou, Beijing.  

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Studio Lounge and Restaurant, Hanoi, Vietnam

For a good session of Hanoi cocktails head to the city’s Old Quarter for an ambiance that is hard to beat. Away from the chaos of the streets you can relax here in subdued lighting to the sounds of water and chilled music. Come simply to enjoy a drink or make a real night of it and order from the menu featuring European cuisine. They have live music, jazz and DJs here sometimes.
32 P Ma May St, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi, Tel. + 84 4 4 3926 3882

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Pic: governorsreisdence.com

Kipling Bar, Governor’s Residence, Yangon, Myanmar/Burma

This beautiful bar is the perfect place for a cocktail, with its teak armchairs, wooden paneled bar and colonial-style decor. It seems to beg a martini or even a scotch. The colonial building in Yangon’s embassy district dates back to the 1920s.
35 Taw Win Road, Dagon Township, Yangon, Tel. +95 1 229860

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Little Pari Jazz and Cocktail Bar, Siem Reap, Cambodia

For a little jazz and a few Khmer-style cocktails head to Siem Reap’s Old Market Area. Fresh Cambodian herbs and spices are used in the concoctions here like chilli, lemongrass, tumeric, mint, pepper and sugar palm. They certainly give the flavours a bit of a zing and the owner has also decked out her interior with recycled materials such as old Pellegrini bottles, and her photographic collections. There’s plenty of jazz and blues to set the mood as well.
The Lane behind Pub-Street, Siem Reap, Cambodia, Tel. +855 12 508 248

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Frangipani, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Frangipani, Kuala Lumpur
, Malaysia

Hip and modern Frangipani is a good place to embibe on a few cocktails and hang with a happening crowd. There’s an elegant restaurant here too with a French influenced menu. There’s also a new wine bar, Bibitus, on the ground floor featuring French wines at reasonable prices.
25 Changkat Bukit Bintang, Tel. +603 2144 3001

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Geographer Cafe, Melaka, Malaysia

Old Malacca oozes character and charm, and this eatery come bar is one of the best places to take it all in. Come for a dinner, indulge in a desert or wile the night away with a signature cocktail – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. The Geographer is located on a busy corner of Jonker Street and has open sided planning so there’s plenty of views of what’s happening outside. There’s usually plenty of live music with jazz a regular feature.
83 Jalan Hang Jebat, Malacca Town, Tel. +60 6 281 6813

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Casey Hynes and Fergal Barry-Murphy also contributed to this list.