“I want this place to draw a neighborly crowd,” A Rong said, standing confidently behind the bar. I quickly understood that this isn’t just idle conversation. The owner of Bar Blend, although a young man, is no newcomer in the business and knows that good cocktails aren’t enough to make a place successful. He understands that Bar Blend needs to be a place of respite where customers can unwind and enjoy a drink (or more) in peace and comfort.
Cozy, bathed by the warm copper hue of neon lights lining the shelves behind the bar, Bar Blend feels inviting right away. A Rong advises us to get a beer on tap, something he does with most of his customers. It is meant to give us the time to consider what we really want to drink. Long or short drinks, classics or originals, A Rong listens with the patience and wisdom of a true professional. I tell him that I enjoy whiskey drinks and have a preference for classic cocktails.
In response, he serves me my first glass of the evening: a “Boulevardier” (¥78). This is his take on the classic “Negroni.” He mixes bourbon (Four Roses), Vermouth and Campari, then pours it over a large ice cube and a slice of orange peel. The result is a smooth, syrupy mix blending the sweetness of the bourbon and the bitterness of the Campari.
A Rong is striving to convince the younger crowd that a bar experience is something to savor, not rush. Doing so requires some specialty drinks, and he regularly infuses bottles with original flavors.
My second drink is a fine illustration. “A Rong’s Choice” (¥98) is made of Oolong infused gin, pine infused vodka, dry Vermouth and sherry. He defines it as his version of the “Vesper.” As a final touch, he smokes the cocktail lightly with applewood. It’s a powerful drink, but hints of vermouth and tea permeate under the smokiness.
No doubt perceiving that I was winding down a bit, A Rong offers me a glass of Blanton’s Bourbon (¥136/glass) as his third and final offering. Never losing sight of my preferences, the last drink topped off a very pleasant evening in style.
Address: No. 110, Bldg 11, Kaisheng Jing Yuan, No. 33, Dongsheng Rd, Dongcheng / 东城区东升路33号凯晟景园商业楼11栋110号