Bar the Vortex

Article By Jason Rogers

3F203, Basement Square, WanZhong International, No.333, Qujiang Chi East Road.
(029) 8121 2580
7:00pm-2:00am (Mon-Thur,Sun)
7:00pm-3:00am (Fri-Sat)

Average Price per Person /人均消费: 85RMB (Cocktails) / 160RMB (Whisky pours)

I’m sure most of us have heard a saying or two about first impressions. If you haven’t, I assume you have access to the internet and can look a good one up. The main point of all of them is about how you present yourself. Whether it’s your best foot forward or making your mark, you always have to consider what story you are telling when people walk your way. It was something I thought about a lot during my evening at Bar the Vortex. I think the story this bar is telling is a good one, I’ll try to convey it here.

Located near the W hotel, as you walk down a set of stairs from the hotel to a sub-level outside you, will see Bar the Vortex tucked neatly to the left with a few other watering holes. Over the years, I’ve had a lot of experience with bars of this type (Whisky Bars), so I can say it definitely had all the staples: clean, dimly-lit interior flush with mahogany wood and leather seats. A mix of old and contemporary jazz and blues hits hum in the background, while finely dressed staff move around to meet with customers. It’s all the things I’ve come to expect from a place like this, so I was interested in seeing how this bar “stood out”.

As I arrived, I was greeted and shown to the bar, which housed an excellent selection of whiskys, both single malt and other varieties. I would say the concentration was on single malts, with some harder to find bottles, which is great for all the scotch aficionados. I was happy to see they also had a decent selection of other spirits, so it wasn’t a one track bar.

I started with a classic, a Manhattan. I’d been craving one and a classic is a good way to gauge the skill of your bartender. I’m glad to say I was not disappointed. My bartender, Arron, quickly started on my drink, hand chipping pieces of ice into the crystal mixing glass before grabbing a bottle of Rittenhouse Rye, which showed me this man knew how to make a proper classic Manhattan. And it is my preferred whiskey for the drink. A deep blackish red hue, balanced flavors, with a velvet feel in the mouth; it was perfect.

I proceeded to try some of their snacks. He recommended their spicy wings, which came crispy and moist. I made my way through the menu, tasting a couple more drinks, when Arron recommended a cocktail to me to go with the wings. Phuket Vacation was the name and it was a drink I almost overlooked. A simple combo of gin, coconut and lemon grass leaf served in a tall glass. When I took my first sip, I realized what sets this bar apart. They have clear root in making classics and serving whisky, but what they do they do very well. The drink had few moving parts but came together with a tropical sweetness yet zesty taste, that was light and refreshing like Thai curry. Paired with the wings it tickled the tongue and enhanced the drinks profile. As someone who has been to many whisky bars, it was nice to have a pleasant surprise like this drink.

The night finished with a cigar (which they sell and get shipments of regularly) and a taste of some whisky recommendations from Arron; all in all the night was a great affair. Bar The Vortex provides a solid atmosphere and quality drinks, an easy pick after a long day or out with a couple friends. The staff speaks some English and the menu has English descriptions so you won’t be at a loss. The service is all professional and accommodating so add this place to your next venture on the town. You won’t be disappointed.

If you give this a try, let us know about your experience by messaging us at

James is currently living in Xi’an and loving it, from the food to the people.