Cakeshop has given birth to a chill younger brother with great taste in music (and it cooks, too). While not a club per se, Pistil is a lounge and bar where people can still dance should they be so inclined. They offer a menu that will vary from season to season but has a much buzzed about collection of baos and fried finger snacks. Kitchen closes at midnight but cocktails are, of course, available all night long. They're actually good, not your average "drink to get drunk" kind of stuff. For instance, the Blue Hawaiian isn't as sweet as the average you get in Seoul (yet leaves you with a bit of a kick anyways).
If you’re looking for a place with a “sitting on a warmly-lit couch half-watching a flick and shooting the breeze with a friend of a friend” vibe, you've got this bar in HBC. The music here isn’t too loud to hear your friends over, and the place isn’t sloppy like a dive bar or sweaty like a club. It’s another kind of space. Living Room's music played by its resident DJs leans towards classic hip-hop, soul, funk, and R&B—it’s music to recline to and couches are provided for the reclining. Nobody does any fist pumping, there are no lasers or beer pong tables... It’s just home (or that living room in that dream you had).
Tucked away on Usadan-ro 14gil, with wide windows reflecting all of the fun that is going on inside, the exterior of The Link Seoul is contrasted with that of the transgender bars nearby. Although it is now a quiet alley, where the bar is located is the area that used to belong to the “real Itaewon.” As you open its large doors and walk inside, its comforting, loft apartment-like space welcomes you. It has got a nice terrace and a proper bar, where The Link’s friendly owner and bartender greet you as if you are an old friend. As its name suggests, this young bar constantly attempts to reinvent itself to become an inclusive hub of diverse cultures.
* Closed Wed. Sep 14
With its yacht-like interior, SOHA makes you feel as if you’re docked on the southern harbor of the Mediterranean. The bright colored cocktails also take inspiration from the emerald seas. Once there, try their signature cocktail, the Italian Playboy. It's got Amaretto and is finished off with a coat of sugar on top that is caramelized at the end. On the second and third floor, there’s a space that’s reserved for VIPs and there is an outdoor terrace for cigar smokers.
DOJO is located just outside of Itaewon in the Gyeongnidan neighborhood. It's an intimate, underground venue where you find fantastic cocktails, great beers in a stylish brick laden industrial ambiance. Its large windows create an illusion that you are not where you think you are. Being underground, it allows the venue to host some of the best in local underground DJs and bands in one of Itaewon’s best sounding sound systems. Open every evening 9-4 or later, it’s a great place to start..... or finish your evening!
* Closed Wed. Sep 14
The best reason for coming to Golmok? The music! LP pubs may be commonplace in Seoul, but Golmok Vinyl and Pub is no ordinary bar. The music selection is often headed by DJs or determined by concept parties such as Bob Marley's birthday bash. Golmok Vinyl and Pub serves whiskies, vodka cocktails, and beer on tap. Pickings are slim when it comes to food, so come with a full stomach, or else plan to feast your ears on their tunes. You can try your luck with requests, but sitting back to the flow of their selections isn't such a bad idea either.
* Closed Wed. Sep 14
This Humphrey Bogart of Hongdae bars hides on the basement level of the Vans Store. It’s not the top shelf alcohol, the first-class mixology or the classic décor that’ll have you falling in love–it’s the utter lack of pretentiousness. With expert bartender sense, the owner Robin and his staff are quick to tailor a drink for your taste palate. Although our personal favorite is a Grey Goose and mascarpone cheese combination called the Porma Dulce, none of the drinks fails to deliver. This is the place to go if you want to impress someone. Easily one of the country’s best bars and definitely the most underrated.
When headed to Man-pyung, look for the neon sign in pink that reads "vinyl music." A music bar opened by two friends of ten years, they've long listened to music together and DJed together. Their reason for starting the bar? They say it's because they wanted to make noise in what they deemed a quiet and romantic neighborhood. Playing music that ranges from what was hot in the '60s to current Korean indie music, you can also make song requests on hot pink post-its and stick them on the turn-table. While their cocktails are average at best, they do come out quickly. It's more the atmosphere you go for—neon laser lights and funky beats. On opening night, they showed a pig head on an iMac screen and stuck a wad of cash on its lips as an "offering" to bless their venue. The place has a sense of humor like that.
There is no question about the pairing of well-aged whisky and quality chocolate. Suprisingly located in the midst of the raucous Hongdae university district (more specifically, the notorious alleyway near hookup hotspot Between Night n Music), d.still is staffed with skilled (and attractive) bartenders to boot. The menu exhibits their attention to detail, and paired with their quality cocktails sets the mood for fine dining. Miyeok seaweed in the winter, dureup shoots in the spring—d.still utilizes seasonal ingredients paired with the perfect cocktail. Audible treats include the likes of Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden.
Hipsters of the past used to wear their hair long like the members of C’est Si Bon and played folk songs on acoustic guitars. The owner Jeong Wong-yong opened the doors to this bar in 1999. It was moved several times all over Sinchon and Hongdae before settling in its current location. The songs on the LP player span from the ‘70s all the way to the ‘90s, hitting customers with rich memories of times gone by. In addition, the vintage lighting, wooden tables and shelves, countless LPs that fill the walls and menu items like fruit salad definitely transport you back to the past.
* Closed Thu. Sep 15
Mudaeruk (or Mu, as it is sometimes affectionately called) was started by Kim Geon-ah and two fellow indie musician friends who wanted to create a casual gathering space for music lovers. As such, the main cultural attraction is the concert space in their basement where the good work of supporting indie musicians continues on. The first-floor bar exists for the purpose of funding this project. For double positive karma, order one of Mu’s “sharing boards,” wooden cutting boards loaded with small bites—for every board, 2,000 won goes to Save the Children’s local projects here in Korea. Their Samak Hefeweizen is pretty good, while a sampler of signature beers is available as well.
* Closed Thu. Sep 15
Posh. High-end. Sophisticated. All words that come to mind when you step into Le Chamber. From their pricing to their service, Le Chamber is a speakeasy that strives for the finest. Diageo World Class champions and owner-bartenders Eom Do-hwan and Lim Jae-jin offer seven-star service. Consecutive Korean champion Park Sung-min recently joined the star roster, garnering more interest. Their sign has no distinct shape or form, understandably so as a speakeasy, but the entrance to their basement is even more intriguingly mysterious. The entrance is shaped like a bookshelf, and only if you pick the right book will the door open. It's a classic mystery novel touch in a modern-day setting.
Get bored of a good thing quickly? Try out Keepers, a high-ceiling basement bar in Cheongdam that specializes in cocktails. The bar’s entire concept (and even the menu) changes every three months, and this Chuseok holiday is a chance to find out what the brilliant staff here has newly come up with. One of this bar’s specialties is the frequency of guest-bartending sessions that they hold—recently seeing to the likes of Lewis Tsang from Hong Kong and Din Hassan from Singapore. Since large tables have no extra cover charge, it’s a great place to go in a group.
Alice, a lounge style bar, serves experimental cocktails and equally bizarre bar snacks. The bar and lounge space mimics the airs of an English mansion with sofas to sink into, and ceilings that resemble the surface of a chocolate bar. Order the "Alice Boutique" from the signature cocktail list, and the bartender will whip up a gin tonic flavored with grapefruit juice, emitting a white cloud food grade nitrogen gas. The cocktail comes served in a glass shaped like an elephant, in which the truck doubles as an attached straw. The bar’s dedication to eclecticism doesn’t end here. At the touch of a button, bartenders can make drink glasses magically appear from the bar table and the bathroom with its camouflaged walls are a mysterious find, too.
This bar's located on the 21st floor of the Mercure Ambassador Hotel. Step off the elevator and into the entrance of a small greenhouse-like structure where young professionals are having dinner and a cocktail if it’s just past six. To your left, there’s a open terrace with a awesome views of Gangnam. Take a table close to the ledge while a World Class 2014 Finalist bartender serves you a red rum and Campari “Blood Diamond” from their signature drink menu. Rooftop Kloud is swanky and certainly breezy.
This bar is located on the 17th floor of Hotel Cappuccino in the middle of Gangnam. The rooftop bar, which opens at 6pm, offers quite an unexpected view of Gangnam—the old Nonhyeon-dong neighborhood with its low houses against the backdrop of tall buildings. It’s a familiar yet strange view, almost like a scene from the science fiction manga Galaxy Express 999. What makes this bar that much more special is its experimental gin and tonic as you take in the beautiful city nightscape. Or you can choose your preferred ingredients for a customized gin and tonic experience. You can of course ask the bartender to create something else for you. Imagining what it might taste like is more pleasurable than you think.
Jongno and Myeongdong
This homey bar uses fresh herbs and spices—many of which come straight from their own garden—to concoct some of the best cocktails in this part of the city. The menu is so thorough that placing an order might be the biggest decision patrons make all day. In addition to the classics, Mix & Malt also boasts a number of signature and seasonal specialties, such as their ever-changing mojito varities, each having a superb presentation.
* Closed Thu. Sep 15
We all know that the good things in life are the hardest to get, as is the case for this rooftop bar. Loved by many Seoulites, the 21st floor of the Ibis Styles Ambassador Hotel in Myeongdong serves as a bar with limited seating, making reservations a must. A barbeque buffet with a price tag of 58,000 won takes place until 10pm, so if you are intending to go just for drinks, expect entrance after 10pm. A bottle of La Mision Reserva Chardonnay Del Clarillo, a Chilean wine, is priced at 60,000 won. Beer and whisky are offered in individual glasses. This cozy bar, with a distant view of N Seoul Tower, is definitely an enjoyable venue.
The Griffin Bar, located on the 11th floor of the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square, is one of the most popular rooftop bars in Seoul. From there, you can look at the majestic Heunginjimun Gate as surrounded by the busy Dongdaemun area. You can enjoy a wide variety of single-malt whiskies and about 200 types of different wines as well as cocktails that range from fruity to heavy. Especially worth noting is the Arirang cocktail with munbaeju (munbae wine), black sesame, and other traditional Korean ingredients. Another Time Out recommendation would be the well-balanced Boutique (27,000 won) drink made with gin, Campari, basil and egg whites. Other fusion drinks include the Hangang Miracle and Dongdaemun Sling, only available at The Griffin Bar.
When you open the door to charles H and walk in, the host will first ask your name and provide you a glass of sparkling wine as a welcome drink, which you can sip on while you wait to be guided inside. The bar used mahogany for its elegant and glamorous interior design which makes you feel like you went back in time to 1920s’ New York. Sitting on the couch you can get the entire view of this place, but the best place to sit is at the bar, where you can chat with the bartenders. Chris Lowder, the head bartender, focuses on various recipes from different cities that Charles Baker once lived. And by doing so, he even came up with new signature cocktails. There are three different kinds of Manhattans served, each of which follows recipes from 1870, 1917 and 2002. It’s served in three glasses with the one on the right being the strongest.
The Four Seasons Hotel Seoul has opened a garden terrace on its 15th floor. The buildings surrounding Gwanghwamun are not too high and the view of Bugaksan Mountain sitting at the end of the city is just phenomenal. The menu offers Bubbles and Barbecue, Veuve Clicquot champagne and grilled delicacies made by the chef. You are required to order Barbecue for each person and for 85,000 won extra, you can drink Veuve Clicquot, plus red and white wine to your heart’s content. It is rather pricey since it’s located in one of the best hotels in Seoul, but you can forget about your credit card bills for awhile as you enjoy the view of Seoul and drink some (or a lot of) fizzy champagne.