The best bars to experience Manila’s budding cocktail culture
When it comes to fine food and cocktails, Manila stands as Southeast Asia’s up-and-comer. Like most major cities in Southeast Asia, Manila is home to a steady stream of quality tippling clubs. In fact, more than a few are on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. It just goes to show that cocktail bars in Manila know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it well.
In this list of cocktail bars in Manila that you can’t go wrong with, you’ll have a variety to choose from. There are hidden bars, Prohibition-style bars, swanky and award-winning bars in hotels, as well as a particular bar that focuses on homegrown ingredients and pays homage to the Filipino culture.
So allow us to guide you in the right direction, and you won’t regret any of your cocktail choices.
- According to Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, The Curator Coffee and Cocktails is the best bar in the Philippines. The bar got into the iconic awards list back in 2016 and has stayed there ever since. Serving up specialty coffee by day and cocktails by night, this bar won’t disappoint with its selection of craft cocktails. Try the Ube Milk Punch, a creamy number made with ube (yam) infused bourbon, bitters, sherry, and butterscotch liqueur. If you like something more refreshing, try The Grape Escape, the bar’s version of a wine spritzer made with cognac, citrus, and vermouth.
(Image credit: Facebook/ The Curator Coffee & Cocktails)
The Curator Coffee & Cocktails
The Back Room may be a hidden bar, but you’ll definitely know where to find it within the ground floor area of Shangri-La at the Fort, Manila hotel. It may be pretty new in this list, but it’s already made a name for itself especially since its debut in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019, coming in at the 50th place. The drinks, as well as the decor, take on a 20s Prohibition Era-style look, which is always a crowd favourite. Gin is king here, with over 150 labels of the spirit as well as a gin laboratory with the bar’s own in-house distilled Bee’s Knees gin.
(Image credit: Shangri-La)
Hidden bars are a popular phenomenon worldwide, and Manila isn’t spared of it. Proof, previously known as ABV, is another one of the hidden bars in Manila. Recently refurbished, the new menu now serves up your regular classic cocktails as well as seasonally inspired drinks. There’s a live jazz band playing on Monday nights, and a food menu ensures that you never have to drink on an empty stomach.
(Image credit: Facebook/ Proof Manila)
Yet another bar on the list that’s dedicated to audiophiles, OTO (which means ‘sound’ in Japanese) is the place for both booze and beats. You know the bar is taking its music seriously when there’s a top-notch audio system, a good selection of vinyl records, and even proper insulation to ensure that the music won’t bounce off the walls. As for the drinks, try out some creative craft cocktails such as the Bacon Old Fashioned, a savoury take on the classic with – you guessed it – bacon fat. In the same vein, try also the Breakfast Martini made with the usual suspects and homemade orange marmalade.
(Image credit: Facebook/ OTO)
Now, this is one hidden bar that you might have more than a little trouble locating. It’s actually through an inconspicuous stock room door inside the 7-Eleven of the RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center in Makati. Once you enter the bar, you’ll feel worlds apart from the outside. With its high ceilings and loft-style design, the Bank Bar is extremely swanky. As for the drinks? Equally as hip, with perhaps the widest selection of spirits in Manila – there’s sake, absinthe, single malt whiskies, gin, grappa, and more. Try the Truffled Whiskey Sour or the Irish whiskey cocktail mixed with truffle oil. Also, order the Pinay Colada, a Pinoy take on the classic cocktail with Philippine-made rums and fruit essences.
(Image credit: Facebook/ Bank Bar)
One of the rare cocktail bars in the city that pays homage to the Filipino culture, the name “Agimat” itself is Tagalog for amulet or charm. The bar itself is mystical with traditional magical markings, liberal usage of native wood, and even the large tree growing behind the bar. Even the drinks come with dramatic flairs, like the Anting Anting ni Malvar (a gin-based cocktail with Dalandan liqueur, Jigsaw Batangas honey, turmeric, ginger, and citrus bitters) that comes in a smoking glass.
There’s also the Ritwal ng Agimat cocktail with calamansi liqueur and lambanog (traditional Filipino distilled palm liquor) served flambé-style and with some chanting involved. Ordering drinks might be confusing as the menu is in Tagalog, but don’t be afraid to ask for help or recommendations.
True to its name, the drinks are inspired by foraging trips, and most of the food and cocktail ingredients come from the province of Batangas. Admire the selection of homemade infused spirits, syrups, and bitters on the shelves. It’s truly an experience by itself.
(Image credit: Facebook/ Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen)
Agimat Foraging Bar and Kitchen
It might be difficult to remember the number combinations of this bar, but there’s an endearing story behind it. The number is actually the phone number of the home where owner Jay Amante grew up with his siblings. Nostalgia aside, you’ll almost wonder if you stepped into a vinyl record store or a bar. It’s both, as the concept of the bar came about because Amante needed more space for his 10,000 records (and counting).
Needless to say, this hidden bar is the perfect tippling playground for audiophiles. Even the sound system is astounding: custom-built Altec speakers, a Garrard 301 turntable and Fidelity Research arm, as well as Dynaco amplifiers — all vintage.
But of course, what you’re really here for are the cocktails. Classic cocktails are what they do best here, but do go for the bar’s signature – In A Silent Way – named after the eponymous Miles Davis album. The drink has a Japanese whisky base with cinnamon schnapps and orange liqueur, making it a full-bodied drink with fruity nuances.
(Image credit: Facebook/ 78-53-86)