There are two types of bartenders. The first are those whose theatrics and vitality shine over the drinks they concoct and, while seldom a disappointment, their cocktails are soon swilled and quickly forgotten about.
Then there is the other, rarer, bartender, an artisan if you will, who spends hours perfecting the delicate nuances of spice and citrus so that the final balanced flavor is one that elicits a sublime sensory transcendence. This is the bartender one craves when quality, not quantity, is desired.
Tony Zhao has banked over two decades of mixology knowledge, finessing his skills in Shanghai and Singapore before coming to Beijing he’s opened Tony's Workshop, a jazzed up furnishing hidden right in the heart of Yongli International. When you finally find the door on the 11th floor you’ll be met with a warmly dimmed bar front featuring a clean, well-stocked bottle wall and a cushioned bar bench perfect for those halfway into loosening their ties. Hyper kitsch decorations like ceramic cat heads, a plump taxidermy pheasant, and faux cherry tree branches sit alongside artful silk tapestries and solid Thai carved footstools. There’s a lounge space in the next room that feels like any standard apartment living room, though the view lends credibility to the fact that this is no ordinary place.
The intimate details however are found in the personal touches Zhao creates. Artful menus with hand drawn botanical illustrations exhibit his thoughts towards the paragon of making things that are simply good. We sampled three drinks that were brought to life from these pages, a punchy peach blossom infused cocktail, a citrusy gin-based goblet balanced with a simple syrup, and a rosewater iced martini that offers you a tranquil patience to its consumption not found in many drinks. All drinks exhibited a marked Chinese influence in the spices that they contained, something that Zhao was keen to point out, as he strives to repurpose western classics for a Chinese palate. Basic mixes will set you back RMB 100, and for more intricate cocktails look upwards to RMB 120-150. While the performance is quite restrained (Tony showing only a steely gazed, eagle eye precision) the end results are a technical masterpiece needing no illustrious words to back them up.
Daily 6pm-2am. Rm 1111, Unit 2, Yongli International, Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District (8424 4285)
1km east from Dongsi Shitiao (Line 2)
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Photos: Erin Strong
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