Let us introduce you to five budget bars and five mid-price bars that are popular locally and come highly recommended if you want to have a drink and see Beijing's regular nightlife.
Many of these are in Beijing's hutongs. These hole-in-the-wall bars may not look much from the outside, but you'll like what you find inside.
At night, the screens come up and tables get put outside, and this hutong favorite is bustling with locals and foreigners living in the area. Cellar door is the perfect place to relax and watch hutong life pass you by. The bar serves bottled beer (local and imported) at very decent prices. There are a few tables inside, so this bar is also a good option for when the weather starts to turn.
Recently combined with Drum and Bell Bar after it suffered under Beijing's most recent wave of gentrification, in true Beijing style, nobody really knows what this bar is now called, but that doesn't make it any less great. It is located very close to Andingmen Station, and has an inside as well as an outside. The inside here is non-smoking, and looks like an extremely cozy living room. The outside and the deck are also decorated comfortably, with sofa's and pillows for lounging on the floor. The staff is extremely friendly, and they also have a pizza menu.
If you want simple, bottled local or import beer, or cheap mix drinks, this is where to go. Part of a youth hostel, Nian bar is a friendly bar that has it all — four fridges full of German, Belgium, British, Dutch, American and other beer, at very reasonable prices. They also serve some food, but it is very simple. In winter, Nian makes incredible mulled wine too. The staff are very friendly, and great at giving suggestions for other places to go, or for late night food in the area. Nian is located inside a hutong filled with local Xinjiang restaurants.
Also nestled in the hutongs, el Nido is a nice little bar that has, again, the import beer, the mixed drinks, but also serves wine — a rare find around Beijing's budget bars. The wine is reasonably priced, at 25 yuan per glass, and the beer is reasonable too (price varies depending on what you pick). There are tables outside, and a melted cheese shop is rumoured to be opening next door soon.
Once a street-side stall, Mojito Man has done extremely well for himself and now runs his Mojito 'stall' from a store on Sanlitun's busy bar strip. The bar is inside a residental area marked as 'Sanlitun Nursing Home', and is attached to a clothing store. The barman makes amazing Mojitos (30 yuan), Long Island Iced Tea (30 yuan), and an exciting new drink: tequila shots with a Corona bottle upside down inside them (35 yuan). There are also a few bottled beers for under 20 yuan. This is a local hotspot and frequented by expats and tables fill up quickly, but it is also the perfect way to meet some real Beijingers. Perfect for some drinks before heading out to the clubs.
Mao Mao Chong is an expat favourite, and has ranked highly on expat magazine awards — and it is not hard to see why. Not only is this bar's name adorable (Mao Mao Chong translates as 'The Hairy Caterpillar'), but the bar serves great cocktails, crafted with precision, in an intimate setting right in Beijing's hutongs. A lot of the cocktails in Mao Mao Chong are Chinese renditions of the classics, with chilli's and Sichuan peppercorns as a key ingredient. For example, there is the Bloody Mao, which is a spicier version of the Bloody Mary. On top of this, it is one of the only bars in the area that is non-smoking, making for a pleasant change around Beijing, and potentially even a dinner destination for families' because the pizza's are also amazing. If you can, come here on a Wednesday when a special selection of drinks are only 35 yuan. Otherwise, prices for cocktails range between 40 and 70 yuan.
Sportsbar/pub the Local has a lot to offer for those who want to watch any games, which due to time difference, are usually on at very bizarre times in Beijing. It is one of the places with the best range of draught beers, and one of the few that offers cider. Their Western Food selection is also good, and there are a few tables outside which is nice on good days. If you do go for the sports, call up ahead to see if they are showing your game. Happy hour is daily between 4pm and 8pm.
A Japanese-style whisky and cocktail bar, Mokihi has a huge menu with everything you can think of. The alcohol is of good quality, which means it is real, unlike many Beijing bars, and the service is very good. They also serve a variety of snacks, and the bar is open a lot later than most other venues. The cocktails can be quite expensive, but prices generally stay between 60 to 80 yuan for cocktails. The bartenders can also make your own creation for you if you ask and tell them your preferences.
Hutong classic, but up a notch from the bars mentioned in the budget section, Mai Bar is a cosy courtyard style bar, easily spottable in the dark by the red lanterns. The cocktails are delicious, and the menu is interesting — many classics, but also a lot of Beijing-named and themed cocktails that you just wouldn't get anywhere else. The crowd here is generally young and a little bit alternative — but a great mix of Chinese and foreign customers, as is the staff. This bar is also walking distance from popular tourist destination, Nanluoguxiang.
Yin is the place to go for a treat if you are only here for a short time, but want to enjoy your evenings. It is located on top of The Emperor Hotel, and has a great view from its rooftop. At night, you can see all the big tourist sights, from Tian'anmen Square to Mao's Mausoleum, lit up. This bar is the priciest out of all listed, with cocktails at least 60 yuan, and some above 100 yuan. However, the atmosphere is unbeatable, and everyone deserves a treat on holiday.
However, for a truly unique drinking experience in China, the best thing to do is order baijiu, or rice wine at dinner. This drink is an extremely big part of Chinese culture, especially in the business world. Warning: rice wine is extremely strong, tastes very unique, and takes a long time getting used to. It is a huge part of Chinese culture though, and we can custom build your Beijing tour, and make sure to include any bars or restaurants you'd like to visit, so that you can try it for yourself. To find out more, simply contact us.