Skullduggery, which boasts an upmarket Damansara Heights address and an even more exclusive clientele, is where Kuala Lumpur’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 Sukau’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, Botakliquor 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, JungleBird 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.
4. 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, JOLOKO 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.
Please check the respective locations’ websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
Information on travel advisories is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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