I am coining a new adjective in this post: Beijingy. Bar 4 Nine 泗酒城 is really Beijingy.
It represents the flourishing of something that I have hoped to see for the entirety of my time in Beijing. Local Beijingers, skilled and knowledgeable with regards to the modern, but proud of their heritage putting forth really high quality products in a thoughtful, quaint atmosphere.
Bar 4 Nine is named after an old name for the city – the 4 representing the 4 inner gates to the Forbidden City and the 9 being the 9 outer gates that now follow the circular Line 2 Subway. A bar created between 3 owners (2 Chinese bartenders and an American), the one who created the concept for the bar is an old Beijinger (old as in he is local – 老北京, not in reference to his age as he is quite young!) and wanted to demonstrate that China may well be modernising and adopting Western habits, but Chinese culture still has a lot to offer.
Located above a chicken restaurant just south of Xianlaoman Dumpling House 馅老满– the best way to find it is to look for the large red “鸡” sign that hangs outside on Andingmen Nei Dajie – then walk through the restaurant and up the stairs in the back. But if you are coming to the bar after 10PM (after the chicken restaurant closes), then note that they do remove the illuminating 鸡 signage and replace it with their own nicely branded sign.
The inside is humble, but comfortable and the pet birds add a nice occasional accompaniment to the excellent soundtrack that they have playing in the background. The soundtrack is so good, it was a topic of our conversation. The owners told us that initially they also had a balcony, but that due to complaints from Hutong resident neighbors, they had to close it. #Beijingyproblems
The owners also serve as the two bartenders, who cut their teeth working at Xian bar in East hotel in Lido. Professional guys who know their stuff, they know their way around all the classic cocktails and can whisk you up something if it isn’t on the menu. But the main draw for coming is their list of cocktails that take very traditional Chinese ingredients, some of which you might have already decided that you hate *cough* baijiu *cough*, but through the magic of a cocktail shaker, baijiu can be made palatable and even challenge your previous perceptions of China’s national liquor.
Even more controversial than baijiu, what makes Bar 4 Nine stand out most for me was seeing douzhi (fermented meng bean juice that tastes as good as it sounds) as an ingredient in one of their signature cocktails. The local porridge that often defines who is a Beijinger and who is a 外地人, has been compared to the pungent blue cheese and is thick and grey and really not something you’d expect to find in any cocktail…that actually tastes good. But Bar 4 Nine has managed to successful create some truly unique cocktails that any Beijinger would be proud to call their own.
From Douzhi to baijiu and Chinese medicinal herb-based cocktails, I highly encourage you to try them. They challenged our perceptions in the best possible way. The bartenders are also very knowledgeable and keen to share their unique choice of ingredients along with explaining the history and relevance to Chinese culture.
While you’re sipping away at your Beijingy cocktails, they also provide some *surprise! surprise!* traditional Beijingy snacks to give you the full Beijingy experience. The dried fig and crunchy bites are still to be found in the hands of hutong dwellers as they sit and watch the world pass by. Not your boring peanuts or typical snack you’d find in any other bar, these two snacks not only fit the Beijingy theme, they taste damn good and pair beautifully alongside their finely crafted cocktails.
Peking’s Past with Erguotou Baijiu, Housemade Kombucha, Lemon Juice, Sugar (RMB 80)
4 Nine City with Beefeater Gin, Fermented Mung Bean Juice, Cassis, Lemon Juice, Passion Fruit Syrup (RMB 70)
The Hutong Hipster with Osmanthus Wine, Cold Brewed Coffee, Prucia Plum Liquor, Honey, Lemon Juice (RMB 75)
Fragrant Mountain with Plantation Rum, Elderflower Liqueur, Fernet Branca, House-Made Basil & Lime Shaved Ice (RMB 80)
Old Gangster with Erguotou Baijiu, Chinese Medicinal Herbs, Honey (RMB 50)
Charlie Chaplin with Sloe Gin, Lemon Juice, Apricot Brandy (RMB 70)
Vieux Carre with Rye Whiskey, Cognac, Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Bitters (RMB 90)
Whiskey Sour (RMB 70)
It’s incredible to think that with so many bars in Beijing, why there aren’t more that are Beijingy. I’ve already decided that this will be my go-to place to bring out of towners who visit, but where else would I take them? I know that there are plenty of bars that can make a mean cocktail, but how many can be characterized as Beijingy? I know that Bar 4 Nine is already gaining attraction and attention for making a cocktail out of Douzhi and if this is creating a new trend in Beijing, I only wish that more Chinese culture was presented so tastefully!
I highly recommend a visit, but you will probably want to book as space is limited!
Bar 4 Nine 泗酒城 Contact Details:
- Address: 2nd Floor of the Chicken Restaurant on 308 Andingmen Inner Street (south of Xian Lao Man Dumpling Joint) Dongcheng District
- Tel: 18801391367 (EN), 15010008553 (CH)
- Opening Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 19:00PM-02:00AM
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.