Johor Bahru is no longer a stop along the way for people travelling between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. It’s now a destination. With hip cafes and boutiques mushrooming along Jalan Dhoby and the opening of Legoland Malaysia, the city is seeing more traffic from both Singaporeans and Malaysians. Which is why it’s only right that you check out the nightlife scene at these Johor Bahru bars.
Like other capital cities including Georgetown and Ipoh, Johor Bahru (lovingly called JB) is quickly taking on the cocktail bar scene. As always, there are your usual two: hidden bars and Chinese-themed bars. JB has their very own too, but these bars are anything but gimmicky, as proven by this extremely creative rose cognac cocktail.
But before all these creative cocktail bars, the older beer pubs reigned supreme. We’ve included in an iconic one that most JB denizens will recognise, especially since its bright blue exterior is extremely eye-catching. This is where you go for some good pub style food to have with your lager. Finally, one of the Johor Bahru bars we’ve included is a rooftop one for great views of the city. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a drink from high up whilst looking out to a sea of lights and the wind in your hair. All this and more when you continue reading below.
These days, when most people mention a retro-themed bar they immediately think of a vintage Chinese-style interior. 90洋服.龟来bar (or 90 Tailor Bar) is visibly retro but steers away from the red Chinese interior that most are familiar with. Instead, it focuses on vintage props such as the manual sewing machine, rattan chairs, and concrete floors that our grandparents loved having. Sip on some cocktails while basking in the retro concept of it all.
Did we mention that 90 Tailor Bar is also a boutique? The shop provides suit rentals and sells some tailor-made suits — hence the name.
(Picture: 90洋服.龟来bar Facebook)
Love Salt Bae? Then you’ll love this hidden bar in Taman Molek and its tribute to the chef in the form of a mural. Its selection of crafted cocktails will satisfy your palate and the relaxing ambience of this bar will soothe you after a long day of screaming kids at the theme park you probably visited.
If the name seems familiar, it’s because bartender Justin Tay of Cabinet 8 by JWC was the Malaysian finalist in the La Maison Cointreau 2018 cocktail competition. You’ll find this hidden bar at the back of The Bear & Fish cafe, where sexy-looking cocktails are concocted. The interior is equally as stylish, just begging to be taken photos of and displayed on social media.
(Picture: Cabinet 8 by JWC Facebook)
Also within the same compound of Cabinet 8 by JWC is Gin Bar by JWC, Johor Bahru’s first gin bar. This hidden bar has a different look than its sister bar, adopting a very neon-filled, Chinese-retro theme harking to the 60s and 70s. Naturally, gin-based cocktails are the mainstays here, each lovingly created by the bartenders.
(Picture: Gin Bar by JWC Facebook)
Another hidden bar to check out in JB is Haiiro Usagi, which takes on a Chinese-Japanese retro concept as well. It’s pretty well hidden, so look out for the 75A letterings above a metal door. Go for the Instagrammable interior, but stay for the more than decent cocktails. “Earl”Mazing is one of the popular selections on the menu, featuring an earl grey tea-infused gin with orange liqueur and salted milk foam.
Quite the opposite of hidden bars, you definitely won’t miss Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro thanks to its extremely bright blue and yellow exterior. This Irish style pub serves up classic beer and stout on tap, alongside an extensive food menu that will keep you full and wanting more. Think hearty pies, potato and leek soup, and more that go perfectly well with beer. Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro is definitely the kind of no-frills bar you’d want to go in and relax with a pint.
(Picture: Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro Facebook)
Love a good view? Then Sky 26 is your kind of bar. Located on the topmost floor of the Holiday Villa Johor Bahru hotel, it’s the only bar in the city that will give you unparalleled views of JB. There’s also a DJ playing sets on certain days, so come prepared to party. Naturally, drinks here will cost more compared to other bars on the ground level, but it’ll be worth it for the view you get.
(Picture: Sky 26, Holiday Villa Johor Bahru Facebook)
We last saw T15 Bar create a rose cocktail for us with the Martell Noblige. This hidden bar draws inspiration from its historical location by adorning its interior with an oriental and traditional Shanghainese decor. The bar is also inspired by a Chinese tea house, which is why you’ll see an array of dim sum available for your snacking pleasures. As for the cocktails, expect only the best of craftily creative cocktails with hints of Chinese ingredients, such as Chrysanthemum tea.
(Picture: T15 Bar Facebook)
By day, The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen is a stunning sunlit cafe, filled with the delicious aroma of coffee and brunch meals. By night, transition your appetite to its sunset tapas and a good selection of craft beers that you will otherwise be hard pressed to find in this city. The cafe still looks just as good at night as it does during the day, and the extensive food menu will ensure that you continue staying on through the night.
(Picture: The Replacement – Lodge & Kitchen Facebook)
It’s not just KL that has a good selection of whisky bars. Whisky House in JB doesn’t fall short, especially with over 300 whisky and cocktail choices available. It’s also Asia Pacific’s first whisky ambassador bar, which means they take their spirit precision very seriously. But whisky is not all they’re good at. There’s also a delectable food menu comprising hearty selections such as lamb rack and pasta dishes, so you won’t need to drink on an empty stomach.
(Picture: Whisky House Facebook)