Cool Bar Hang-outs
3/F Greenbelt 3, Ayala Center, Makati City, Metro Manila
Straight up: The poison of choice for the trendy set.
Greenbelt, clearly, is still up there as the hangout of choice of the see-and-be-seen crowd. And just when you thought Greenbelt’s bar scene couldn’t get any bigger and hotter, along comes Absinth.
Tucked away in a corner of the third floor of Greenbelt 3, Absinth has become one of the hottest bars of the moment. Named after the French liquor made from wormwood believed to cure stomach aches, Absinth is also the drink of choice in the Hollywood musical Moulin Rouge. Little surprise then that the key word at Absinth for people who love to party is liquor. One interesting Absinth mix is the green fairy, a combination of absinth, vodka and the energy drink Red Bull, obviously a picker-upper for the hard-partying crowd that frequents Absinth. Ask for your poison at the bar, and you’ll most probably be served absinth mixed with sugar and chilled water.
Although absinth (the liquor) is clearly the star of the the drinks list, the people behind this hot, hot bar have come up with other potent liquor combinations like the butterscotch brownie, a drink mix of butterscotch vodka, kahlua and choco liqueur.
The bar is also known to draw crowds because of the music it plays. It is one of the rare local bars where there is actually a DJ booth where guest DJs spin music according to the mix and mood of the crowd.
1820 Maria Orosa St., Malate, Manila
Straight up: Hands down, the prettiest bar in town.
Never mind its reputation for being a gay bar. Acquario suffers not from its address in the bohemian (and unabashedly gay) capital of Metro Manila. In fact, it has held up pretty well in the face of more brazen competition from the new bar of the moment, the gay bar Bed. Acquario is the brainchild of the dynamic brother-and-sister team of DJ and Maraveli Montano (the same team responsible for the Indian restaurant Raj).
The music sets much of the mood at Acquario; the selection hardly varies from deep house to chill-out to lounge, giving the place a more relaxed, laidback atmosphere.
The bar is packaged as a “liquid lounge,” and its design reflects the spirit of its identity. Acquario has been the setting for more than half a dozen shoots and it’s quite easy to see why: the bar is nothing like anything you’ve seen before in Metro Manila. And that is why you’ve got to see it to believe it.
Chef & Brewer
Paseo de Roxas cor. Legazpi Sts., Legazpi Village, Makati City
Straight up: A friendly, unassuming bar with lots of music and more conversation.
It’s easy to open a bar in Metro Manila; the trick is staying open. The city’s trendy party crowd, like migrating locusts, party in the newest and hippest bar of the moment this month, and depart for the newest and hippest bar of the moment the following month. That’s why when a bar manages to develop an uncommonly loyal crowd, it is one worth taking notice of.
Chef & Brewer started at the ground floor of the AIC Gold Tower along Emerald Ave. in the Ortigas district. There it built its reputation as a straightforward, no-wild-parties bar where the Ortigas crowd could drop in and have a drink in peace without the noise and confusion associated with bars of the hip and trendy set. Its strong base of loyal clientele emboldened the owners to forego a Greenbelt address in favor of the quieter, but no less prominent, space formerly occupied by Cafe Rizal at the corner of Paseo de Roxas and Legazpi streets in Makati.
“Chef & Brewer is unpretentious; we have no celebrity owners, and the people who run this place are friends. Maybe that’s the reason even our customers end up feeling like they’re part of the barkada, too,” said Joel Aguada, who, along with JunJun de Ocampo, Vince Medina, John and Angie Rodriguez, and Nelson Morales, pooled together their resources to open the restaurant-bar.
Although Chef & Brewer has plenty by way of musical entertainment, the owners observe that they get the crowd that would head straight for the bar and strike up a conversation with fellow customers, the bartenders or the bar owners who, more often than not, are themselves hanging out at the bar and chatting.
“People sometimes mistake us for customers because we act like we’re just there to hang out,” said Mr. de Ocampo. “It just shows how comfortable people feel around this place,” he said.
6750 Ayala Ave., Makati City
Straight up: A talk bar for those who want their music strictly in the background.
Dreambar took over the former residence of Giraffe last year, and it couldn’t have been a greater study in reversals. Whereas Giraffe buzzed with the dizzy whirl of the young, social set, Dreambar became that sought-after bar of the more laidback: a talk bar with none of the frou frou but all of the class associated with this prime address in the Makati CBD. Dreambar isn’t the trendy watering hole most bars aspire to become, and judging from its originators Bubut Quicho, Tonyboy Cojuangco, Bill Camack, Ito Feliciano and their partners, it doesn’t have a pressing need to be included in that set. It’s in a class all its own: a bar without the loud music and unruly crowd, and all the nooks and crannies to carry out a little more conversation.
Mezzanine level, Edsa Shangri-La Hotel, Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila
Straight up: A bar for the working crowd of the Ortigas CBD.
In the late ’80s, when the Ortigas business district was still in its infancy, professionals from the smattering of offices around the area had little in the way of after-work entertainment. Fast-forward to 2003, the Ortigas business district has been transformed into a bustling commercial and business district, and still the after-office crowd is still undermarketed in the way of bars and lounges.
That is, until the opening of e’s Bar at the Edsa Shangri-la Hotel. The 250-seat bar is owned by the hotel, and thus sports the sleek and studied decor that has lately been the signature of its refurbished food outlets Nishiki and Summer Palace. The bar is lined on one side by floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering a view of the Ortigas CBD. Pastel etchings serve as accents on the walls, as do matte gold frames. Coves alongside the bar’s walls are used as display nooks for contemporary and traditional Asian art.
Resident and guest DJs spin a relaxing mix of jazz and chill-out music to set the mood for unwinding and chit-chat, and occasionally, the bar is filled with retro music from the ’80s and early ’90s, obviously the music of the generation of this bar’s regular habitues.
One of the bar’s best features is al fresco trellis where guests can relax alongside a Zen-inspired water fountain and sip their drinks with a view of the nighttime sky and the Ortigas skyline.
And why the name “e’s”? Martin Brenner, Edsa Shangri-La’s F&B; director explains that the name represents everything one does at a bar — eat, enjoy, entertain. As for the negative connotation of the letter “e,” especially with today’s club-going generation, well, that’s what the apostrophe is for, joked Mr. Brenner.
146 Jupiter St., Makati City, Metro Manila
Straight up: The workaday crowd’s haven for unwinding.
Probably the best thing to happen to the Japanese restaurant Ebisu was its conversion into an izakaya, a Japanese-style tavern that serves as a hideaway for ordinary workers on their way home from work. It was the perfect fusion for Ebisu: the spare, laidback decor and Japanese food combined with relaxing chill music made for an ideal spot for kicking up the heels after a hard day’s work. Small wonder then that Ebisu has become a favorite among the work-weary of Makati.
Ebisu is named after one of the Seven Gods of Fortune, whose image always shows him carrying a fishing rod and sea bream. The deity’s origins, said owner Paolo Abaya, can be traced to the provincial fishing villages where he is considered to be the patron deity for abundant catches. And Ebisu’s abundant catch is its steady workaday crowd looking for a place where they can simply chat and ease the worries of the day away with a freshly made plate of sushi and a cold beer.
G/F Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City
Straight up: The spirit of jazz lives on.
Whoever said Rockwell is dead must have missed the action at Monk’s Dream. It’s that and the fact that he may not be a dedicated fan of jazz. That’s because this is where jazz lives in the city, and this is also where new Fillipino jazz artists are born.
Monk’s Dream is owned by IT executive and pioneer Augusto “Gus” Lagman, who named the bar after Thelonious Monk’s 1963 Blue Note recording. Make no mistake about it: this place harbors some of the most rabid fans of the genre you’ll ever come across in a Metro bar. Just hang around the bar on a Friday night, when probably jazz songbird Lynn Sherman or the Ugoy Ugoy Band are on stage, and hear the chatter drift to names you hardly hear anymore: Sarah Vaughn, Errol Gardner, Bessie Smith. Its closest predecessor might have been Jazz Rhythms or Rhythms & Booze, but it is much more serious about the music. If you’re looking to hear some Kenny G, maybe it’s best to look elsewhere.
2216 Pasong Tamo, Makati City
Straight up: Two words: Mustang Girls
After the release of the movie Coyote Ugly came a slew of bars touting the same concept of hiring as bartenders very attractive women who can, at the drop of a hat, leap onto the bar and start gyrating their hips and generally partying with the crowd. Too bad some bars missed the mark a little to the left by either being too racy or just getting the wrong mix of girls. Having names that sounded like “Camote Bar” or “Coyote Bar” didn’t help either.
No sir, Mustang Bar is special because it had the Mustang Girls, or MGs. The MGs are very pretty, and yes, they do dance on the bar. The original MGs were mostly a mix of Fil-Am-Eurasian girls who could easily turn heads while walking down Greenbelt. And oh, yes, they can also mix drinks and hold a decent conversation, if you’re ever interested in one the way you’d chat up a bartender named Caloy or something.
There are two rules at Mustang Bar, as the ladies themselves will emphatically tell you. You can’t get up on the bar unless the MGs invite you, and you can’t touch the MGs (no, there is no “unless they invite you” in that one). No doubt about it: Mustang Bar was easily the best executed concept in the Coyote Ugly arena.
Tavern on the Square
2/F Greenbelt 2, Ayala Center, Makati City
Straight up: Remembering the good old days.
Tavern on the Square is best known as the venue where today’s big-name performers had their first break. The very first Tavern on the Square opened 21 years ago at the LPL Tower in Legazpi Village in Makati. The bar succumbed to hard times and had to close shortly after the first EDSA revolution drove the economy into a tailspin. In January of last year, though, original Tavern owner Sandra Chavez was offered a prime Greenbelt address where she could reopen Tavern on the Square. She wasted no time in putting together the original team that made up the sorely missed entertainment institution.
Now sporting a West Hollywood ambience, the new Tavern has a dining area for the lunch and dinner crowd, and an entertainment area for those who wish to enjoy the nightly musical performances. And like the old Tavern, which had among its alumni Gary Valenciano, Zsa Zsa Padilla and Kuh Ledesma, the new Tavern on the Square features on its stage future legends like Lani Misalucha and Ogie Alcasid. It has also become a venue for up-and-coming artists to showcase their talents.
G/F Glorietta 2, Makati City, Metro Manila
Straight up: Party members, unite.
The bar that refuses to die. Even in the face of competition from the trendy Greenbelt strip, V has firmly established its staple crowd, and as far as the party meister Louie Ysmael is concerned, it’s the crowd that matters.
For those who haven’t heard, V is the reincarnation of the fabled Venezia, that paparazzi’s heaven known for hosting some of the wildest, most mentionable parties in town. Yet the only remnants of the old Venezia are the five gilded, golden masks which have now been framed and displayed in strategic corners of the bar. Needless to say, much of what has changed from the old Venezia has to do with the look of the new bar.
V’s crowd, though, is still one-of-a-kind. They are well-dressed, polished and raring to party until the wee hours. The bar already has its regulars and it is these people that give the bar its unmistakable ambience. They’re the ones who enter the bar, take one look at the crowd presently inside and pronounce it a party night for all those present. It’s definitely not for the young, hip-hop crowd, and that’s the way they like it.
Autohaus, 184-A E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave., Libis, Quezon City, Metro Manila
Straight up: The only place where you can safely mix cars and alcohol.
Zeno Bar is named after Franz Zeno Diemer, the legendary German test pilot who, in 1919, set the first BMW world record by reaching 9,760 meters with an aircraft powered by the BMW IV engine.
And why would a bar be named after the hero of such an obscure feat? It’s because Zeno is the lounge lifestyle bar of Prestige Cars, the dealership tasked with representing the German automaker in the Philippines. The bar is located inside a glass-enclosed section of the Libis BMW showroom, allowing patrons to appreciate the bimmers from the comfort of the bar’s leather sofas while sipping their Johnnie Walker blues. The decor is austere and straightforward, with only the leather sofas and streamlined lamps offering personality and accent to the bar. The real stars of this bar are clearly on the other side of the glass window.
The bar is owned by car enthusiasts Peter Carlos, Mikkos de Dios, Lord Fernandez, Ardee Dumlao and Tarlac congressman Hermie Aquino. With the exception of Mr. Fernandez, who also runs the Libis watering hole Famous Mike’s, the group’s shared love of the automobile is enough to fuel the enthusiasm of every car-related discussion in the bar. Zeno becomes more alive when the BMW Z3 club descends on the bar for its regular meetings. The decibel level is raised even more with the regular meetings of the BMW bike enthusiasts. Clearly, Zeno is a bar where drinking and automobiles make a potent (and safe) mix.