This speakeasy, which boasts an upmarket Damansara Heights address and an even more exclusive clientele, is where the city’s elite come to discreetly unwind. Interiors have a dashing Indiana Jones vibe, from the embedded illuminated bronze skulls to vault-like restrooms and a toy train that passes through the walls delivering drinks. Their premium concoctions are masterminded by head bartender Abel Sukau, and utilise specially sourced spirits. A must try is Sukayu’s gin-based San Junipero, Malaysia’s winning cocktail for The London Nº1 gin’s Legends of London 2019.
Upstairs from the hotly Instagrammed Chocha Foodstore, this bar attracts a cool creative clientele despite its location on touristy Petaling Street. The bar’s “farm-to-glass” concept celebrates local ingredients such as pandan and curry leaves by infusing them in house-made cordials, which are incorporated into the signature cocktails. Botanical-themed creations run the gamut from pleasing (the photogenic Jasmine x Tarragon) to wholly unexpected (kaffir lime and carrot finished with homemade chilli sauce). The high-ceiling conservatory-like interior is populated with lush hanging and potted plants, further emphasising the greenhouse atmosphere.
Kitschy with a tropical tiki ambience, this neighbourhood bar will make you feel like you’re on holiday in the Pacific thanks to the cane furniture, bamboo-panelled walls and vibrant banana tree wallpaper. Here, rum is the spirit of choice – in fact, the bar’s name pays homage to the rum cocktail which was first created at the Hilton Kuala Lumpur. Despite the laid-back atmosphere, cocktails here are serious business with the bar consistently appearing on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list since its opening in 2017. Some of the fine rums that go into the drinks here were previously unavailable in Kuala Lumpur, such as small-batch-produced rhum agricole from Haiti and high-ester rums from Jamaica. Get a whiff of their tongue-in-cheek attitude in their Closed on Mondays, a tipple inspired by the famous smoky and umami-rich BBQ chicken wings found on Jalan Alor.
One of the city’s very first speakeasies, Omakase + Appreciate is the cocktail connoisseur’s go-to bar and the breeding ground for top bartending talent. Hidden behind a dusty door with “No Admittance” written across it in five languages, this tiny shoebox of a bar seats only 20 people. This ensures a highly personalised service experience, something that’s essential to the bar’s omakase concept where patrons leave it to the bartender to create their drinks based on preferred spirits and flavour profiles. The drinks here have indeed become the gold standard by which other cocktails are judged.
5. Bar Trigona
Stunning and over the top, Bar Trigona is the Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s unapologetically glamorous signature bar. The lavish interior celebrates Malaysian heritage motifs in an opulent manner – there’s a crystal Chinese diabolo chandelier and glass mosaic walls are laid out in a ketupat (rice dumpling wrapped in woven palm leaves) pattern. But it isn’t just about excess. The bar also celebrates sustainable Malaysian produce, in particular from trigona bees, for which the bar is named: almost all of the refined craft cocktails include the stingless bees’ raw honey. This is done imaginatively, like in the Trigona Old Fashioned featuring trigona honey, bourbon and cedarwood bitters, which is presented with liquorice root, a chunk of honeycomb and a substantial ice cube. They also painstakingly source ingredients from around the country, such as wild turmeric from Pahang that’s infused in Terra, a vermouth and gin cocktail.
A gin-centric bar combining old-world charm with a bohemian spirit, Pahit (which means bitter in Malay) is set in a heritage house located in bustling Bukit Bintang that’s been restored and refurbished by renowned Malaysian landscape architect Ng Seksan. Effortlessly chic with whitewashed walls and artfully distressed brickwork, the cane furniture and picnic benches within this inner-city oasis invite patrons to indulge in a spot of day drinking. Their gin-based cocktails are overseen by local bartending legend CK Kho, and range from classic gin and tonics customised with local flavours like calamansi and assam boi (sour plum) to curated gin flights exploring martinis through the ages.
Inhabiting a prewar shophouse, this Afro-Caribbean bar is colourful and rowdy, feeling like a celebration from the moment one enters its entrance. Whether you put it down to the joyfully whimsical art of tattooist Apoh Apoh emblazoned across the walls or the brightly coloured furniture and mosaics, this beguiling restaurant-bar has charisma in spades. But it is more than just a pretty face, with what is easily the most extensive mezcal, tequila and natural wine selection in the city. Try a mezcal flight or sample one of their themed cocktails made from refreshing tropical flavours, like Woulinewa, combining gin, lime and roasted coconut water.
Opened by a group of gastronomes who are passionate about Japanese whisky, this place bills itself as a “Japanese-accented gastro-bar”. Kitted out like a plush gentlemen’s club with tobacco leather Chesterfield sofas and wood panelling, Japanese pub grub – like yakitori and grilled chicken wings – is paired with the best whiskies from the Land of the Rising Sun. A well-curated range of rare single malt whiskies will appeal to the whisky aficionado, each tumbler served with hand-carved ice if one chooses to take it on the rocks. Whisky and sake cocktails like the floral Sake Garden are also available.
Where to go in Kuala Lumpur for the best live music
This independent gig space brings a host of good tunes to the low-key Kelana Jaya neighbourhood, and is where you can go if you’re looking for the city’s young, emerging talents across a variety of genres.
A three-storey complex within TREC KL, Le Noir offers music from Southeast Asia’s best music acts every night, all curated by Grammy-winning lyricist and singer Keithen Carter.
This legendary jazz bar has been welcoming international acts like Grammy-winning jazz musician Bob James since 1998. Over twenty years on, it continues to provide a platform for Malaysia’s premier jazz musicians.
Singapore Airlines flies directly to Kuala Lumpur four times daily. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
SEE ALSO: Embracing local produce in Kuala Lumpur