This venue has closed.
El Coctel is a bar that takes its drinks seriously. Very seriously indeed. The original inspiration for the cocktail list was David A Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks, first published in 1948, which has become a classic text for making quality cocktails. These are drinks done the old-fashioned way, with the right ingredients – just be prepared for strong drinks which don’t rely on excessive sugaring and gimmickry.
The Spiced Rum Treacle (68RMB), which takes the unusual mix of spiced rum and a spoonful of treacle syrup as its base, is surprisingly light and refreshing thanks to the addition of muddled apple and lime. Harada’s Japanese expertise is shown through drinks such as the Dr M (70RMB), a potent yet supposedly medicinal mix of four digestif liqueurs (Jagermeister, Underberg, Cynar and Picon) which was first concocted in Ginza’s Mori Bar. The more familiar drinks are done with equal attention –a Hendrick’s Gin dry Martini (98RMB), for instance, features three ounces of the spirit mixed with cucumber before being strained and served dry with a delicate rose flower garnish.
While the drinks menu is serious, it’s not intimidating, and neither is the relaxed space, which feels warmer than many of the clinical Japanese-style cocktail bars in town. The touches are beautiful, from the divider made from cocktail shakers to the painted floral ceiling by Barcelona artist Veronica Ballart Lilja. The stylish custom-made brown leather chairs provide a sense of clubby masculinity to offset the bar’s lushly feminine pink and red sofas and soft reddish lighting. With a laidback soundtrack of soul and funk, and a light menu of Willy-esque light bites (from homestyle toasted sandwiches at 45-55RMB to 36-month cured Iberian ham at 280RMB for 60grams and chocolate truffles for 48RMB), it’s a combination that works.
More recently, El Coctel has been criticised for a strict door policy and the surliness of their bouncers, but if you go early and get a seat, it's still a quality cocktail bar.