What you need to know
Whether you need alone time or social distancing, follow this list of bars to find your quiet corner in Taipei with a good glass of cocktail.
Text: Lig Lin
Translation: Lin Ying-jen
Drinking at a moderate pace can relax one’s mind and body, and it doesn’t have to be a group activity. If you only want to have a quiet drink alone and wind down after a long day, here are some options in Taipei. At a time when social distancing is encouraged, these bars are perfect for solo visitors.
1. Bar Kodani: Dark and absent of music
The entrance to the Bar Kodani is a rather tiny wooden sliding door, where you have to lower your head to get in - a gesture that implies every customer is equal.
The owner Mr. Kodani comes from Kanagawa, Japan. After accumulating 10 years of bartending experience and obtaining the international bartender certificate, Mr. Kodani came to Taipei at the referral of a senior colleague. He then worked at a high-end cocktail bar called for two years before starting his own business in 2015 in the Tiao Tong Shopping District, a neighborhood he was familiar with.
There’s no drink menu here. Instead, it all comes down to your preference and habit as well as Mr. Kodani’s creativity. All you can do is watch Mr. Kodani’s level of focus in the dim light and listen to the sounds of stirring ice cubes colliding with each other in the glasses. The almost pitch black environment that has a low volume of sound and the absence of music is not suited for big groups.
Bar Kodani neither serves customers in a group of more than three nor accepts reservations. You can try your luck when you’re feeling spontaneous. With only nine seats, Bar Kodani is usually the right place for those who want to visit on a whim. When you slide open the wooden door, you’d see Mr. Kodani indicate whether he has seats available. You can chat if you want. If not, you can just relax and space out, perhaps reflecting on life.
Address: No. 5-1, Lane 83, Section 1, Zhongshan North Rd., Zhongshan District, Taipei City
2. Bar Chu: One cannot eat without drinking
There’s a great variety of delectable dishes to choose from, including burger steak and omurice. Many customers cannot stop praising the quality of the dishes at Bar Chu. But there’s one rule: it doesn’t accept customers who’re only here to dine without having a drink or two.
Bar Chu neither accepts reservations nor customers in a group of more than two. This is to prevent the intimate ambiance from going out of tune. The owner Mr. Chuuwa Sennya insists on always mixing the drinks and cooking on his own unless it’s far too busy. Mr. Sennya ensures the food quality stands out with not only his excellent culinary skills, but also his daily visit to the Binjiang Market for first-class ingredients.
Everything from interior decor to different kinds of dishes and cocktails reflects the personality of Bar Chu, which is particular about details. Upon entering Bar Chu, you’d see nothing but the seasonal, tasty fruits displayed around the corner, including white rose apples, sugar apples, melons, and loquat, which are used to make fresh, fruity cocktails.
When you sit down to have a drink, you will find more than 80 percent of the customers are Japanese. If you ever feel bored, you can even practice your Japanese.
Address: No. 18, Section 3, Xinsheng North Road, Zhongshan District, Taipei City
3. Vivid Hermit Saloon: Speakeasy accepting Facebook reservations only
Vivid Hermit Saloon accepts customers by reservation only, taking bookings solely through Facebook messages. Once you’re at the front door, you need to call the number for someone to pick you up.
After entry, immediately after the first door is the smoking area, while the bar is hidden behind another door. The drink menu has just the right number of choices, no more, no less. The bartenders said Vivid Hermit Saloon’s signature drink is the champagne cocktail.
The saloon interior space carries a very subtle sense of luxury. Next to the bar is a sofa seating area. Although this bar has only opened since July 2019, most customers are regular patrons or they visit at the recommendation of their friends.
Besides alcohol, Vivid Hermit Saloon also serves side dishes to go with the drinks, such as cheese platter and Rolex oysters that require a reservation in advance. The owner originally planned to serve coffee in the afternoon and alcohol at night, but he realized that most people would have been drunk by the early evening. To adjust, he is now only opening the bar in the evening.
According to the bartenders, the owner emphasizes the feeling of a ceremony. Each step, from greeting the customers to introducing the drink menu and serving the drinks, is the small details that Vivid Hermit Saloon focuses on.
There’s neither a minimum order requirement nor a limit on the number of guests, but there are only 14 seats. If you’re looking for bars in a less populated area of Taipei, Vivid Hermit Saloon would be a good choice. It’s a bar full of surprise and special treatment for those who visit alone.
Address: No. 29, Lishui Street, Da’an District, Taipei City
4. Bitter Burro: Unleashing different levels of bitterness
A lot of theme bars line the alleys and lanes along Chengde Road. Compared to many other unassuming bar fronts, Bitter Burro’s storefront painted in teal gives off a strong sense of freshness. There stands a figurine walking a donkey at the door.
Classics and specials each account for half of Bitter Burro’s drink menu. Allen, the bartender, is particularly good at utilizing fresh ingredients and getting creative with the characteristics of each kind of alcohol.
Among all senses of taste, bitterness is less commonly accepted, but it gives layered flavors to each cocktail. In order to enrich the flavor, Allen would make bitters on his own and extract the elements from herbs, vegetables, fruits, and more.
The interior space of Bitter Burro is not big or small. It is a leisurely bar where one can visit alone or in a group. Seatings include bar seats, double seats, and a private room in the very back that can accommodate up to eight people. The blackboard on the wall would show the exclusive cocktails of the month. If you’re not sure what to drink and would like to give something new a try, you can check out the blackboard or ask the bartender directly.
Address: No. 2, Lane 24, Section 1, Chengde Road, Datong District, Taipei City
5. Nul: Feeling the excitement of others
Nul, which is in the Da’an District, just opened at the end of 2019. Raving reviews aid the bar has good lighting and a nice atmosphere that’s suitable for a couple of friends to get together over drinks or for a date.
Nul is a rather chic dining bar. It serves such special dishes like shrimp noodles, which have been rated by the Internet users as the most delicious of its kind in Taiwan. Nul gets busier when it's late, so if you'd like to go for a drink alone, you can go around 6 p.m. when it opens. You can sit at the bar having a drink, order a plate of shrimp noodles during dinner hours, watch the people around you and listen to the uplifting indie music.
Rumor says that the owners of Nul have connections with Underground, a legendary live house in Taipei that is now closed. Hence, Nul has unknowingly become the place where musicians, their friends, and their friends’ friends often go. Customers here often give off an indie vibe.
Address: No. 22, Lane 160, Section 2, Fuxing South Road, Da’an DistrictTaipei City
6. AHA Saloon: Unity of people and alcohol
Those who have been to AHA Saloon, which is located on “the street of rice porridge and side dishes” (Fuxing South Road), all gave raving reviews for its cocktails. Many agree that AHA’s cocktails are one of the top five in Taipei.
The pronunciation of "AHA" feels like an interjection of someone who has an aha moment. Upon pushing open the thick and heavy door, you'd feel like you've stumbled into a British gentlemen’s club. Yet the Chinese plaque behind the bar reads “Just Drink,” reminding you what on earth you're here for.
AHA’s cocktails are not ostentatious. They don’t have too much decoration or gimmick. What they have is nothing but good taste. AHA was ranked 24th in “Asia’s Top 50 Bars” in 2019. The capacity of its team of bartenders allegedly stands on the same level as that of the national team. Leading the team is the bartender Yin Te-kai (A Kai), who is the champion of World Class Asia, and ranks third in the world, with team members including Yang I-pin (Victor), champion of 2013 World Class Taiwan and Chang Hsun-chin (Jeffrey), who ranks 8th in the world. Given their reputation, how could their cocktails fail anyone?
AHA is the type of bar where you'd go with a bunch of friends. It neither takes customers in a party of more than five nor accepts reservations. Overall, the bar feels more on the quiet side. It’s suitable for spending time alone or having a heart-to-heart with someone. Being here would put you in the mood for wanting to concentrate on tasting cocktails and have a carefree time: the perfect unity of people and alcohol.
TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)
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