We scoured the city for the best places to have a drink (or five), plus their signature cocktails that will have you coming back for more.
Perhaps you are looking for a watering hole where you drop by after work for a few drinks to avoid heavy traffic, a place you will visit so often that the bartender talks to you about THEIR troubles. Or maybe you are like us, your regular partakers of libations and observers of the night scene— we tend to have our preferred go-tos depending on the mood or the occasion.
Every bar has its own distinct vibe, and when you show up at the right time— and hopefully with the right crowd— it is bound to be memorable. Or maybe you are really just looking for a place where you can decompress after a long day, then there are also lots of quiet pockets in the city where you can peacefully enjoy a drink or two. Whatever your requirements are for the evening, we got you covered, with a drink recommendation to get the evening started.
1. The Spirits Library
This Poblacion legend with a charming old-world aesthetic (it literally looks like a library in an 18th century London townhouse) is raging on weekends, but come early on a weekday and it lives up to its name. It is the perfect time to truly appreciate the talent they breed here, plus a bar so well stocked they will be able to deliver on the goods when you ask for something very specific, like a vesper martini or a sazerac. Their most popular cocktails are the Te Amo Paloma and Avoid This, but with so much talent on their roster (head honcho is prolific beverage consultant Lee Watson), their signature drink is whatever the bartender decides to make for you.
2. Salon de Ning
No other hotel bar has more character and sex appeal than this one at The Peninsula Manila. Inspired by the 1930’s art-deco night clubs in Shanghai, it really is a must-visit even if just to soak up the beauty of the place. Now open only for monthly events or special occasions, you can be sure the drinks will not disappoint, especially when you order their Ning Sling which is their version of the iconic Singapore classic. Most days (or nights), you can hang out at the iconic lobby or up in The Gallery Club for sips of Sunburst— an Arctic Gin-based concoction with the flavors of pineapple, mango, calamansi, and pandan.
3. Fat Cat
Follow the cat to Makati Cinema Square (now sans cinemas making the monicker Makati Central Square more apt) and you will find yourself in a low-key jazz bar that is heavy on the cool vibes and tasty libations. No food here, just booze and coffee, but right next door is a yakiniku joint in case you need to line your stomach before indulging in a couple of glasses of their Doja, named after one of their fat cats and is made with gin, orange juice, lemon juice, and clarified with milk.
4. Silong Lounge
The sign leads you to the basement parking of a nondescript office building in Salcedo Village, but once you find your way down the stairwell and into the door hidden behind a painting, you just might find yourself in one of Makati’s most interesting underground parties. Silong (which is Tagalog for basement) is a jazz club some nights, an invitation-only rager the next. Good to check what kind of night it is before you go, or maybe surprise yourself and go on a wild adventure, which is easy after a glass or two of their eponymous boozy sago’t gulaman cocktail.
5. Lotus Gin Room
This Kapitolyo haunt answers the need for a no-frills bar that serves legit cocktails without requiring pants (we mean you can come in shorts, not naked from the waist down). Housed in an up-cycled container facing Cheech and Chang HK Roasts, the al fresco set-up really does call for comfortable clothing and a chilled-out vibe. Regulars like to cool down with the Spicy Mango Diwata— a fruity gin-based cocktail enriched with egg whites and made caliente with fresh red chilis.
6. Toka Wine
There are many wine bars all over the city, but this QC neighborhood watering hole is so charmingly niche that it truly stands out. The casual joint hosts chefs that serve small bites to accompany their bottles that range from new world quaffable pours to distinguished burgundies. While the owners are truly proud of their wine selection, they also have cocktails on hand for those who might need something stiffer. Their lambanog cocktails are both playful and refined, like the Nog-roni and Manila Sunset (tapuey, lambanog, orange, and pineapple).
Situated in residential Julia Vargas, the cafe and bar is perfect for those looking to grab a bite with the great possibility of after-dinner drinks. Owned by the same people who operate fish and chips joint Cargo Fish, you can be sure that the beverages are meant to pair well with their hearty dishes. Have their pizzas and chips fried to perfection with glasses of the Daddy Yam, a deceivingly creamy yet potent Aperol cocktail spiked with both gin and whiskey. Weeeew!
8. Ruby Wong’s
Into a secret entrance from the beautiful lobby of the Admiral Hotel and down a flight of stairs is the equally stunning speakeasy playfully designed to look like Old Shanghai’s underbelly. Here, the Asian bar chow is spot on and the cocktails are expertly crafted by the likes of bar manager Duane Legaspi. With the mixologists working overtime producing an entire menu of signature drinks, first-timers are highly encouraged to experience the Green Opium Heaven which has two premium gins, sage-infused vermouth, and is served with an herb cigarette clipped to its glass.