D o you ever feel like bars in Xi’an can be a bit… serious? Many a cocktail bar here in the city tends to aim at the higher-end, more refined audience, with bartenders in vests and ties carefully mixing classic combination. And while there will always be a time and place for that kind of thing, there are also times where you just want to relax in a fun and creative atmosphere.
That is exactly the goal of On Trip, a bar named after a famous Japanese movie. In this bar you won’t find any overstuffed leather chairs or perfectly dressed waiters. Instead, what greets you in this small side alley bar is a brightly colored and cartoon filled mishmash of different styles that still manage to come together in a wild, but harmonious way. Everything from the decorations to the menu screams of a creative spirit.
The creativity also extends to the cocktails on the menu, which features a wide variety of innovative cocktails of a variety of strengths and flavors. The menu is almost entirely in Chinese, but there are enough hand-drawn picture and clues to show you an idea of what you will get, though it might just be fun to go at random and see what you end up with.
The first drink of the night was chosen for the coconut palm and peanut symbols in the description. The drink that came out was far different than any cocktail that I had tried before. It looked more like a Thai dessert that a cocktail, with an assortment of tiny mason jars full of ingredients to add and a spoon. This would be a first, drinking a cocktail with a spoon, but the rum accented coconut milk mixed well with the peanut flakes, red bean, coconut jelly and watermelon. Honestly, you almost don’t recognize the rum inside, but the overall effect is quite pleasant, and it is fun to eat.
We also had another drink that tasted of watermelon, passion fruit, and peach, mixed with a bit of vodka. It was exceptionally light and fruity, and once again not very strong. It was then that we noticed that each of the drinks is labelled according to their strength, with many having a low (less than 10%) alcohol content.
Looking for something stronger, we ordered the two strongest drinks on the Creative Cocktails menu. The first promised whiskey, cinnamon and smoke and delivered nicely on all three. The drink came under a glass dome that was clouded by the smoke within. Unveiling the drink was a show within itself, and the drink that was revealed was a mix of whiskey, clove, and cinnamon, with a nice hint of the smoke that the glass had been coated in. It was a nice sipping cocktail, with a large clear ice cube that melted slowly with the drink, so you could take your time without it being watered down.
The other drink to arrive was labeled as having white wine and osmanthus flavors to it, and came neat in a simple martini glass. This one tasted heavily of vermouth and would have been refreshing on a hot day.
The bar also serves different kinds of food, with a variety of delicious snack to keep you at the bar and drinking. We decided to try a few different varieties of snacks, including delicious fried chicken pieces, which were boneless and juicy. The chicken had been wrapped in shiso leaves before being battered and deep-fried, with added a pleasant grassy note to the chicken. We also tried their version of a Scotch egg, which was very lightly-seasoned, with a runny yolk and accompanying side-salad. Finally, there was a dish called ‘Octopus Meatballs’ which consisted of small sausages cut to resemble octopi, octopus balls, and plenty of shaved bonito flakes. All of the food was good and went well with the drinks.
To add to the creative vibe, the bar plays host to minor ‘exhibitions’ of non-serious art. The work currently on display is a series by an artist called ‘Dirty Monkey’ titled ‘Small Fart Little Dog’. The paintings cover some of the mirrors and other parts of the bar, and there are also little postcards and other memorabilia available if you want to take something home.
Overall, this is a nice little place, and if you are looking for something less serious, want to try some lower octane creative cocktails, or if you just want to check out something a little different, this might be a good place for you. The creative cocktails start at around 68RMB and go up from there, while the classic cocktails average 58RMB. The food is not that expensive either, with most items coming in at less than 30RMB. So if you’re in the area, and want something different, this place is for you.