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Places to Drink & Chill in Makati and BGC

Where to Drink in Makati
James Francisco

There’s nothing comparable to starting the weekend with your best buddies sitting around a table complaining about the week– fueled by a healthy amount of grog. 

And while there’s a time, place, and mood for crushing beer buckets and chasing shots with more shots, there dawn occasions where we want to treat ourselves, as well as our palettes. 

Rather than burning through the remnants of our taste buds with gasoline-quality tequila and shouting into our friends’ ears over the thud and flow of loud music and a crowd, there’s an ode to be made for quieter nights, half-hushed, with a glass full of something potentially incredible–something, the taste of which, we stand a half-chance of remembering.

While the perfect bar will remain elusive as a concept inseparable from subjectivity, there are a number of bars in the Makati and BGC areas which spring to mind as ideal starting points for finding your perfect bar. 

Consider this a check-list to tick off and add to, a guide. But by no means a definitive and exhaustive sampling.

Makati Spots

Golden Gibbon

Escala Salcedo, L.P. Leviste Street, Makati, 1227 Metro Manila

I’m not going to start with the drinks. Their Goi So Diep–a salad of lightly cooked scallop, bright pomelo, and chilli–is tangy, delightful, and a bloody good way to start an evening. It’s also a dish indicative of the Southeast Asian fusion of flavours embedded too in the drinks menu. Classics are available–Negronis, Mojitos, Martinis–but the signature cocktails are a gorgeous expression of Malaysian, Thai, and local flavours. Bokator Battle, a whisky forward coconutty drink, arrives encased in a glass jar housing both the drink and a healthy blanket of smoke–possibly the smokiest cocktail in the Metro.

Run Rabbit Run

4991 P. Guanzon St, Brgy. Poblacion, Makati City

Operating in Poblacion’s grisly heart since 2018, Run Rabbit Run is a multi-story cocktail bar built into what was a residential property for over 40 years. Tipping the venue from a Hozier-melted-candles-and-spilled-wine-sort-of-homey well into the region of kooky, the-Weasley-house-if-it-were-a-bar, the place is a hoot with friends but could easily cap off date night. They mix up a mean Martini, but the Kaya Toast is a unique jar of a cocktail. The garnish? A triangle of actual, sweet, and sticky kaya toast.

The Spirits Library

4963 Guerrero, Makati, 1210 Metro Manila

Sitting on a stool at the counter of one of the other bars on this list, I asked the bartender where they and the crew typically head after work. “You ‘gotta check out The Spirits Library. It’s just around the corner from here.” Perhaps you can call it your favourite bartender’s favourite bar. With its daunting, two-floor array of liquor, a metal spiral staircase to a second floor, and a long, polished, wooden bar counter, The Spirit’s Library upon entry smacks of entering some sort of chandelier lit fantasy. A venue to welcome the week as it winds down, Thursday nights are host to Jazz nights–a cool, smooth excuse to get an extra round.

The Curator

134 Legazpi Street, Legazpi Village, Makati, Metro Manila

Ranked within Asia’s 50 Best Bars from 2016 to 2021, The Curator has always struck me as one of our first best homegrown wonder-bars. I say wonder-bar as I leave having had a wonderful experience each time I’ve gone. From the fact it’s discreetly tucked behind a cafe, to its bartenders’ distinctive knowhow and laid-back yet peppy hospitality, guests embark on a real treat of an evening–egged on by dim lights and hushed voices, a perfect date opportunity. The Curator recently unveiled a new menu, but the best way to navigate the place in my opinion is talking with the bartender about what you’re craving.

OTO

5883 Enriquez, Makati, Metro Manila

One of Oto’s distinct elements, aside from the alternating line patterns covering the walls, is the massive set of speakers on the left as you walk into the bar. This multi-time entrant on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list is also a listening room, with stacks of vinyl on deck and an impressive roster of DJs manning the booth. Situated in Poblacion, adjacent some of the best places in town to get some grub, this is a great venue to enjoy a drink within the wavelengths of great music. Burning Love, one of their signature cocktails–a delicate, sweet balance of Bourbon whiskey and tropical flavours–per a shockingly small survey conducted among friends is one of the best drinks in Manila.

Bar 55

5903 Matilde, Makati, 1209 Metro Manila

A new entrant to the Poblacion bar scene, Bar 55 commands an unassuming presence from street view, but inside covers entrants in a dimly lit, chandeliered enclave–the sort of place that hands you a sense of “I discovered this”. Given its inventive cast of Indochine-inspired cocktails (think Tommy’s Margaritas infused with tom yum syrup), the Poblacion up-and-comer is well worth a trip.

BGC Spots

The Back Room

30th Street, Shangri-La The Fort, Manila, Taguig, Metro Manila

A gorgeous, luxuriously outfitted speakeasy hidden in BGC’s Shangri La, The Back Room was featured on Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2021. With an extensive selection of booze to choose from and the option to create your own gin and tonic (making use of the bar’s over 120 gin brand selection), guests have plenty to choose from even outside the signature cocktail selections. The team also crafted their own Bees Knees Gin–proudly featuring local ingredients like dalandan, malunggay, and sampaguita.

LIT

Unit 1C10, Ground Floor, Serendra Retail, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City

Guilty. I have a big soft spot for whisky. And while Scotch, Bourbon, and Irish whiskeys come ready to mind, there is an entire universe of beautifully crafted Japanese whisky to explore. LIT Manila has been operating since 2015 and continues to bring guests into the fold of trying, learning about, and appreciating Japanese whisky across a variety of serving options–tasting portions, flights, highballs, and cocktails. Go at the right time and you might even catch the incredibly knowledgeable Francis Tosei Hasegawa, partner and whisky concierge at LIT.

Hotel Bar

Ground Floor, Shangri-la at the Fort, 5th Ave, Taguig, 1634 Metro Manila

Consider this a “watch this space”. Hotel Bar will re-open in July. The original design of the bar found it situated behind a Pink’s Hot Dogs shop; you walked past a series of thick curtains and were transported ala-Narnia to a quiet, dimly lit, space of red carpets and wood. But here’s the part that leaves you feeling like a real hot-shot: walk up the small set of stairs to the toilets, and find the extra door. You’ve entered an even tinier doubly secret bar. 

But there are plenty outside these two cities

Living in a growing metropolis like Manila exposes inhabitants to dynamism–things are always changing. Businesses are opening, thriving, iterating, sometimes closing, and opening once again as refreshed concepts. And this, of course, holds true even outside of Makati and BGC.

There are stunning shops opening up towards the North and South of Metro Manila–it’s a matter of a few deft google searches or a willingness to ask your mates where they’re going this weekend.

In any case, these are places to enjoy yourself responsibly. In great company, or alone. While we may cluster around our drinking preferences like darts on a drunk amateur’s dartboard, we can all agree that weekends are made for enjoying. 

Here’s to finding new places to enjoy them.

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