Scarlet A is a new Beijing Speakeasy with quality cocktails and a great addition to Gulou’s growing bar scene. After a long Friday working remotely out of Cafe Zarah, I was ready for a drink to get my weekend started. But with a low tolerance for alcohol, I need to make every cocktail count. There are so many bars popping up around town and Scarlet A was on my hit list of new places to try. Conveniently located just a few doors down from Cafe Zarah, on the main road of Gulou Dongdajie, you’d think this would be an easy spot and yet I still managed to walk past it.
So take this lesson learned from me and remember what the entrance looks like (photo below) because the sign for this speakeasy cocktail bar is clearly not meant to stand out (it doesn’t even come out in my photo). Something to look out for and help you spot the door is the wooden staircase that leads into Scarlet A. Stepping inside, don’t be fooled by the floor to ceiling steel shelf – it’s a sliding door that pulls from right to left and opens into a sleek bar with illuminated shelves to spotlight their bottle selection. But with only a few bar stools in this space, you can continue through another sliding door, that leads into a mini open courtyard space, that leads into their main lounge area. A cozy space that seats about 20, there’s a sofas on one side of the room with a few stools and arm chairs.
Scarlet A’s Discreet Entrance
We were a group of about 6-8 and basically had the whole space to ourselves. Though the space did warm up quickly once the heaters were turned on, it was freezing cold when we first walked in and the sofas are not nearly as comfortable as we wished they were. I think their pillows are still too new and puffy and probably just need to be worn in.
But none of our qualms with the space mattered once we tasted their cocktails. We already knew that the guys behind BBC – Bottle Boot & Cigar were consulting on this project, which is why I knew I could count on these cocktails being both crafty and quality.
Upon arriving, we were pleased to see a focused and colorful cocktail menu, and delighted in the clever breakdown of cocktail traits – strong, sweet, tart, fruity, bitter, floral, smokey and spicy. A menu that you’d normally pick a drink within a few seconds of glancing through your options, this one had me entranced for at least a few minutes before I settled on the Hester Prynne (RMB 55), a gin-based sweet, tart and fruity mix – just the traits I look for in my cocktails!
A pleasure to watch bartender Jack Chen in action and my cocktail tasted even more lovely than it looks. Each of my drinking companions sampled different cocktails on offer (according to their own preferences) and as we all walked out of Scarlet A for a night out in Gulou, we were pleasantly surprised by our short n sweet pre-dinner drink experience and keen to return and tell our friends all about it (I mean you!).
Scarlet A’s Cocktail Menu
Hester Prynne with Gin, Housemade Raspberry Syrup and Egg White (RMB 55)
Old Fashioned (RMB 55)
Charleston with Bourbon, Organic Honey and Lemon (RMB 65)
Ace of Spades – Bourbon, Housemade Persimmon Syrup (RMB 55)
Jordan Baker Cocktail with Bourbon, Aperol, Avema and Lemon (RMB 75)
Still in soft opening, you can follow Jack the bartender’s wechat (ID listed below) to stay in the loop with upcoming events and drink promotions. This Gulou cocktail bar is on the right track with a focused menu of fantastically-made cocktails at a very reasonable price.
Scarlet A Contact Details:
- Address: 3 doors west of Cafe Zarah, No. 60 Guloudongdajie, Dongcheng District
- Chinese Address: 东城区鼓楼东大街60号
- Tel: 139 1084 6615
- WeChat ID: jackchen135 (add their bartender to stay in the loop on events and drink deals)About Kristen
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.