Article By Mike Leaner
No.9, Si Fu Street, Tai Yang Miao Gate.
Average Price per Person /人均消费: 70RMB
PROS: Pleasingly middle-of-the-road; super chill and great for intimate outings
CONS: Needs to ginger up its Moscow Mule; not for larger groups
“It’s not necessary to be sober,” says the plaque that adorns Never Sober’s storefront. I’d never before heard my life’s philosophy so cleanly distilled into words, nor had I ever seen a bar so willing to make its business model’s subtext into text. But Never Sober is a much chiller experience than its myriad suggestions to get shithoused would imply.
Sitting just east of the always-bustling Xiaonanmen, Never Sober is a quaint little spot that one might confuse for a coffee shop, were it not for the legions of liquor bottles behind the bar. It’s got a number of stools for barflies, and a couple of meet-cute tables lining the walls for people who want to actually look their drinking companion in the eye.
The menu is extensive enough for each patron to find a drink that’s just right for them, but not so vast as to sink you into an indecisive tailspin. One thing I found interesting and unique to this bar (I say “unique” with total confidence; I have probably been to more Xi’an bars than any other laowai in town) was a rating system for each cocktail. Every listing has an approximate ABV, alongside star-ratings for sourness, sweetness, bitterness and overall strength. Taken in context with the bar’s apparent mantra, it’s a shortcut to finding which drink will get you wasted the fastest; but the other side of that coin is that it’s a much-welcomed précis for the more cautious or unadventurous drinker to find a suitable cocktail, or perhaps a new favorite. I tried a whiskey sour, a Moscow Mule and a mojito—all three were competently made, nothing earth shattering but better than a lot of other bars, though I wish my Mule had had a bit more of the spicy ginger kick that I normally expect from it. Price-wise, the three drinks ran me about 200RMB; not the cheapest, sure, but seeing as the price of a cocktail in Xi’an has rocketed skyward in the last couple years, it was nice that it was basically affordable.
Atmospherically, Never Sober is the opposite of, say, Park Qin—you won’t be inundated with noise or subpar bar acts or anything resembling a desperate attempt to make the bar’s feeling “high.” You and your friends are your entertainment for the evening, aside from some pop and hip-hop hits spilling out of a Marshall speaker at an appropriate volume for good conversation. It’s this quality that started to win me over—it’s a bar that wants to be a chilled-out watering hole, not some garish PARTY PARTY PARTY place falling over itself to impress you.
And it’s for that reason you should seek out Never Sober; for those nights where you say to a friend, “Hey, want to grab a drink?” and your friend says, “Where should we go?” and you can reply, “Let’s take it easy tonight. How about Never Sober?” It’s a nice little paradox—not where I thought we’d end up, but here we are.
Mike Leaner likes to get dirty but not for free. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org