Press Release Impresses With Inspired Sous-Vide Cocktails and Quirky Literary Decor
It's like a scene straight out of a boozy author's masterpiece: a classy bar hidden in shopping mall's basement; its cocktails being prepared in a sous-vide machine, and a bartender that loves rapid fire chatter and an even quicker free flow of ideas.
Such is the state of affairs at Press Release, one of the most compelling cocktails bars to open in Beijing so far this year. It's situated in the Topwin mall's basement and is a bit hard to find (a seemingly standard feature of Beijing cocktail joints these days), but is more than worth the search.
Owner Issey Lin (who is clearly enthused to have opened a bar of her own) uses a top of the line Anova sous-vide machine to vacuum seal and infuse her cocktails with fresh fruit and other ingredients, giving the drinks subtly complex flavors. Her cocktail list is short but heavy on inspiration, with each drink featuring fun literary references that sync up nicely with the typewriters adorning the bar's walls and its overall woozy wordsmith vibe.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Write Drunk, Edit Sober (and, like all of Lin's cocktails, it's priced at a more than reasonable RMB 65). Taking its title from an Ernest Hemingway quote, the cocktail is straightforwardly delicious in a way fitting of its muse. Its thornapple infused rum gives the drink a sweetly sour complexity that's enhanced by the chunk of grapefruit Lin throws in. But don't let that tastiness fool you: this is a ruggedly strong drink that'll leave you speaking in slurred, short, declarative, sentences. Just like the author that inspired it.
Another excellent choice is the Vegas Gonzo, inspired by none other than Hunter S. Thompson. Made with whiskey and honeycomb angostura, the drink is dry like a drive in the desert with Raoul Duke. Mixed deftly enough to not leave you flinching from its potent whiskey mix, this cocktail has an immediately apparent stiffness, giving it a hint of danger and adventure. Its cherry garnish smooths over those more intense elements, classing it up just enough to quell any of your worries about ape and lizard hallucinations on your way out of Topwin's basement later on.
That said, we were most impressed by the 032c. Lin says this cocktail isn't inspired by a time honored author but instead a cutting edge magazine from Berlin that features bold investigative reporting and lavishly artsy photography (she keeps its latest issue, along with other outside-the-box mags, on a shelf by the bar). That sentiment suits the drink nicely. It's made with Primitivo Feudi Di San Gregorio 2015, a wine lovers wine that's unabashedly fruity and gives the cocktail a creamy quality that is furthered with peanut butter infusion, of all things. That combination, along with a splash of rugged Jack Daniels, shouldn't work, yet it does, making the 032c a memorably distinct cocktail that's elegant, quirky, and wholly unique.
Other cocktails on offer include the Beat Generation (made with blanco tequila, tomato tonic and soda soy); Gin Gatsby (consisting of gin nut, melon thyme, Campari, and soda); the Dazed (featuring butter infused vodka and Aperol, as well as Prosecco) and the cheekily titled, bourbon filled Media Trap (a nod to Lin's marketing background; same goes for the bar's moniker).
Lin is more than eager to explain the process and inspiration behind these drinks, offering up fun mile-a-minute anecdotes and vivid descriptions that will leave guests charmed and entertained. Her passion and creativity makes this cozy hidden bar a haven for booze enthusiasts looking for strong, unique drinks in an equally distinctive atmosphere.
Aside from the impressive cocktail list, Lin is also hoping to make Press Release known for its wine list. The bar has a compact yet huge wine rack in its entryway, and Lin sells dozens of reds, whites and sparkling varieties that are rarities in Beijing (such as the aforementioned Primitivo Feudi Di San Gregorio 2015). Most of the wines on offer are about RMB 300 per bottle, though they range from mid 200-990.
Together these elements make Press Release stand out in Beijing's increasingly crowded cocktail scene. As you soak up its cozy ambiance and sip on the Beat Generation, or one of its other inspired cocktails, you'll feel like one of Jack Kerouac's "mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved" and mad enough to celebrate and booze the evening away in classy, creative fashion.
If you're having trouble finding the bar, just head to Topwin mall, go to the basement and enter L'Epasar restaurant directly in front of the escalator. Press Release is located behind a hidden door on the far left hand side of the restaurant, and you can enter by pushing a blue button on the wall.
Daily 6pm-late. B1-10 Topwin Mall, Inside L'Epasar Restaurant, Chaoyang District (Through the Blue Walls and push the blue button)
Photos: Kyle Mullin, courtesy of Press Release