Article By Mike Leaner
#26 Gaoxin 1 Road.
7:00pm – 2:00am
Average Price per Person /人均消费:50RMB
PROS: Huge whiskey selection, perfect atmosphere
CONS: If you’re not into whiskey you might find your options a bit limited
If you do as much drinking as I do, you probably think you’ve seen all the bars that Xi’an has to offer, and you probably also think you understand the local bar playbook pretty well—they’re all noisy places on main thoroughfares next to other noisy places, swarmed with people yelling at each other. It’s a reductive way to think about the Xi’anese drinking scene, certainly, but you wouldn’t exactly be disproven if you took a walk around downtown. If you’re not in the mood to party hearty, your options become sharply limited. There are some places around to sit down and act like an adult and enjoy a drink and some company and some conversation, but not many, and I think I’ve just found the very best of them—it’s a place called Spirit 1919 and if you want to enjoy a slow evening with a good drink, this is definitely the spot.
Spirit is a short walk from the Keji Lu stop on Metro Line 3, but tucked away in an alley a block south of whatever the hell is happening on Keji Lu these days; it’s very accessible but you’ll still feel like you’re away from it all. There’s a small patio if you want to try to while away the summer night, but you’d be just as good inside, which has a big swanky booth for a larger party, or you can just sidle up to the bar to take in the platoon of liquor bottles on their shelves.
This is a whiskey bar through and through—at the time of writing there are between two and three hundred varieties available, from Ardbeg to Yamazaki, and I was assured that in a couple more months they’ll have accrued more than six hundred varieties in total. This is a whiskey lover’s paradise, for sure, and they’ll also let you have a Cuban cigar to go with it if that is your inclination. If your companions aren’t the type to sip Islays with you all night, the bartender can whip up a cocktail. There is no cocktail menu, but the owner and bartender told me to just say a drink I liked and he’d make it. I said a Chinese word and ended up with a black tea liquor cocktail—not what I was expecting but tasty all the same.
Mostly what I wanted was to channel my inner Ron Swanson and drink some Lagavulin 16. Lacking companions for the night I used my limited Putonghua skills to make friends around me and enjoy some light conversation. A few glasses later I was feeling warm and ready to go home. Whiskey bars aren’t everyone’s speed, and the price point may seem steep, but at 55RMB a glass my three shots of scotch ended up roughly equivalent to what you’d spend trying to get shithoused at other more frequented bars. I didn’t want to party that night. I just wanted to drink something nice and have a chat—accompanied by the nice jazz playing at a low volume on the bar’s PA, I found an oasis in the wasteland of noisy, drink-‘til-you-drop Xi’an party bars, one I’m sure I’ll be returning to over and over again.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org