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Whether you’re hankering for a place to pass the time amid Manila’s rush hour traffic, or simply a joint to unwind with some friends, there is no shortage of bars in the city that serve meticulously crafted cocktails for the discerning set.
From thematic speakeasies to independent neighborhood cocktail bars, there is nearly a place for many a cocktail drinker’s needs and preferences. In case you’d like to explore the metro’s different corners and choices of poison, here is a list of some of the best bars in Manila to visit that can help you get started.
Run Rabbit Run
When cocktail-goers spot Run Rabbit Run’s iconic red doors on the corner of P. Guanzon street and P. Burgos street in Poblacion, they know they’re in for a good time. Run Rabbit Run has taken up residence in an old house, where they serve their own take on classic and modern cocktails. As their website says, “The trademark Run Rabbit Run taste is a carefully blended mix of freshness, spice, heat and exotic herbs. Add in our obsessive need to perfectly balance out all of these elements, and you’ve got yourself a Run Rabbit Run cocktail.”
MosPhil by RRR
Fancy yourself a Run Rabbit Run regular but looking for a change of scenery? Then hop aboard Mosphil Lounge — where you can pretend to sip cocktails from friendly skies. The intimate cocktail bar has been retrofitted inside a decommissioned Antonov 24 B Russian aircraft, with interiors inspired by the swinging ‘60s and radical ‘70s. Mosphil is an ideal spot to unwind and relive the period of a funky town Manila, curated with vintage mid-century modern furniture and curios.
Asia’s 50 Best contender The Curator is definitely worth visiting when you find yourself in Makati. Priding itself on sincere and personal service, The Curator adds a warm, neighborhood bar vibe amid the concrete jungle and bustle of the business district — and has since kindled a strong and convivial community of cocktail enthusiasts.
Focusing on both specialty coffee and craft cocktails, the coffee service is what greets you when you first walk into The Curator’s doors, while its cocktails are tucked in the back.
The Curator has been included in Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for four consecutive years. The shop is currently ranked 37th on the list, 25th in 2018, 23rd in 2017 and 16th in 2016.
Also by Curator’s David Ong is OTO, which he opened with other music-loving friends as a concept bar serving “bites, bars, brews, and beats.” Named after the Japanese word for “OTO” (as well as OTO-to, which means “little brother”), OTO also serves craft coffee and cocktails like its sister bar, Curator — yet its primary difference is the fact that it’s a listening room in itself, housing large speakers, turntables, amplifiers, and vinyl records.
Agimat at Ugat Foraging Bar
Tucked in the vibrant Poblacion district, Agimat has been making waves in the city for its all-Filipino selection of cocktails and tapas — giving off a folkloric vibe as its mixologists treat you to mythical libations made from foraged ingredients that aren’t lacking in showmanship.
In 2021, Agimat unveiled a new concept — Ugat — that took up residence on the first floor. Ugat takes its older sibling’s folksy theme but brings it into the 21st century with more modern and sleek interiors and an industrial vibe, as it also houses a distillery.
The Spirits Library
The Spirits Library doesn’t want to be known as a cocktail bar. Yet true to its name, this not-a-cocktail-bar houses hundreds of rare bottles, many of them only found in this bar, as well as a collection of books and other curiosities. It’s more of a repository of knowledge and resources, including books published in the 1880s to the turn of the 20th century — a historic time for the cocktail scene.
Bar By East
If you think the best and most interesting bars in Manila are only found in the glitzy neighborhoods of Makati and BGC, then you would only be half right. Tucked in the Lamp Quarters in the eastern district of Marikina, Bar By East is a progressive architecture studio by day that transforms into a cocktail bar at night.
If its unique location and concept doesn’t lure you in, then perhaps its bold approach to its drinks might. Using conventional and unorthodox ingredients for its cocktails, Bar By East prides itself on “fresh herbs, spices, and bitters mixed with elements of this earth and flavors of the world. The fusion aims to stun your palate, leave your lips with intrigue, and keep you insatiable.”
Aside from its signature cocktails and its twist on classics, the spirits selection offers neats which remain pure and classics that stay true to tradition.
The Back Room
The Back Room at Shangri-la at the Fort is a transportive experience that takes guests back to the Roaring Twenties in a Prohibition-inspired speakeasy. The staff even look the part, donning waistcoats, flat caps, and flapper dresses. The bar houses over 120 brands of gin and 18 signature cocktails, including the bar’s very own Bee’s Knees Gin – produced within the bar’s laboratory, Bee’s Knee’s is a Manila-raised spirit that boasts of ingredients endemic to the country including dalandan, malunggay, and sampaguita.
Hotel Bar at Pink’s
Yet another speakeasy bar lurking within Shangri-la at the Fort’s walls is Hotel Bar at Pink’s, tucked behind the popular hot dog joint. But while its interiors stay true to the dark and moody nature of speakeasies, there is a decidedly more casual feel with a pop and hip-hop playlist, while customers can even order snacks and hot dogs from Pink’s. While the goal is to make speakeasies less intimidating, the bar has tapped The Curator’s team to design its drinks menu — so you know you’re in for a good one.
People of the north, no need to fret about braving through traffic for a drink: ReCraft is raising the bar for cocktails in Quezon City, aptly named as it is situated on the second floor of Craft Coffee. Its cozy space can accommodate about 30 to 35 people, and aside from its selection of craft cocktails, allow yourself to be surprised by its mixologists with a bespoke cocktail based on your flavor preferences.
SouthBank Cafe and Lounge
South peeps also have a craft cocktail bar they can lay claim to with SouthBank Cafe and Lounge in Alabang, Muntinlupa City. An independent café and bar, SouthBank is also known for creating genuine relationships with its patrons for a real neighborhood bar vibe, as they cater to coffee, wine, gin, whisky, and cocktail enthusiasts.
Bank Bar Manila
On the ground floor of the RCBC Building in BGC, there’s hardly anything to indicate that there is a bar hiding within. After all, there is only a 7-Eleven at its storefront. But hidden behind a nondescript storage room is the entrance to Bank Bar — merging glitzy old-world elements and the grit of modern-day industrial interiors to create a special watering hole for the city’s hardworking set.
The moody ambiance sets the tone and the music is never too loud at Bank Bar, allowing for those great conversations and memories that happen over a few drinks. They have a gin and tonic cart and small batch-crafted cocktails that showcase a Filipino flair, such as in drinks Mariang Bastos and Pinay Colada.
Located at Crimson Hotel, Filinvest City in Alabang, Alibi Lounge Bar is yet another speakeasy in the south that invites intrigue — the bar’s entrance is known to have an ever-changing keycode to get in.
Once you get it right, you will be greeted by dark, brooding, and elegant interiors with plush chairs and sleek fixtures. Alibi keeps the menu crisp with a gin spread as well as five signature cocktails.
Lotus Gin Room
When Ortigas’ office set want to escape to relatively quieter quarters, they can do so in the village of Kapitolyo, Pasig City, known as one of the city’s vibrant food hubs while maintaining its intimate neighborhood vibes. And while Kapitolyo is not new to the tipples, it’s hardly a discerning set from the usual mishmash of shooters and cold beers out to get you wasted — yet Lotus Gin Room is here to change that. Apparently set on captivating the young foodies of the area, the bar describes itself to be “hell-bent on welcoming beginner drinkers,” as it aims to induct the younger demographic into the ways of fine drinks and quality cocktails.
Yet another speakeasy in Manila, INT Bar is hidden behind a photobooth smack in the middle of the gritty-hipster Cubao Expo district, where independent concepts dot the area and where the city’s artists and creatives convene. Enter and be greeted by a low-key and moody bar, serving its own set of signature cocktails inspired by art and literature — a few key examples include The Tenenbaums, which pays homage to that Wes Anderson film, and A Toast to Hemingway, inspired by the variation of the Tom Collins featured in his novel, Islands in the Stream.
Who knew that the peaceful residential enclave of White Plains in Quezon City was home to a cozy jazz bar? The numbers in its name are a homage to the old telephone number of owner Jay Amante’s family, who also owns popular vinyl shop The Grey Market. True to his inclinations, the intimate bar boasts of a wide selection of vinyl records, with the warm analog sound enveloping its walls. While the bar has a predilection for classic cocktails, you can be treated to signature off-menu drinks such as In a Silent Way, named after Miles Davis’ iconic 1969 album.
Bottoms Up: A guide to some of the best cocktail bars in Manila | Coconuts
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