New Year’s Eve: Take it or leave it…

Relaxing with mates at a pub, writing blog posts in a lounge, having “just one drink” with an associate – it’s usually on those occasions that, through a twist of fate, you end up on a bar crawl that merits entry into the “One of Those Nights” Hall of Fame. It is unplanned, it is (at least partly) unforgettable, and it is usually costly, both financially and physically.New Year’s Eve is different. The pressure is on. You’re pretty much a failure unless you emerge with at least one tale of your craziness… your zaniness… your wackiness.

Like getting completely wasted with your girlfriend and her visiting mother, accidentally French-kissing the latter at midnight, and going back for seconds.

Or drinking two bottles of Champagne, blowing your nose on a stranger’s qipao, and waking up covered in carrots on a cement bathroom floor while wearing someone else’s thong.

Or discovering the next day that everything smells like chloroform, you have six inches of stitches on your lower torso, and you feel lighter by a kidney.

Or that you have cigarette burns in your socks, lipstick stains on the back of your knees, and a Cincinnati bowt… well, I guess some tales are better left untold.

(Note: These are examples, not my experiences. I’ve never been to Cincinnati.)

In short, I don’t like such pressure. If I’m to end the night as a fool, I don’t want to see it coming, let alone be involved in the planning.

For me, New Year’s Eve is time to invite over friends, get out some cheese, crack the seal on a nice single malt, and watch Team America, Beerfest and – “for the ladies” – Steel Petunias (or Magnolias – I always forget that movie’s name). Thong exchange is possible, but that’s as far as the craziness goes.

For everyone else, here are some Monday night goings-on.

Jade of Lush / Pyro in Wudaokou notes my weak coverage of what he calls “The Wu” (my apologies) and plugs the Yen party (should be big):

“The main point of the night is to get a great dose of dance music without all the bling that comes with the LED locales of Gongti,” says he. “Last year we had close to 2,000 revelers going hard, mainly expats, but a stronger following from the locals every year.”

The party is at 706 (798 Art District) from 9 PM. Lush is running the bar and the Japanese are handling the cash (sorry, that’s a terrible Yen joke). Advance tickets available around town.

If you are pining for snow, the closest you might get is the frosty confines of China World Hotel’s temporary Ice Bar, just outside Aria. RMB180 gets you two drinks, one inside and one outside (I recommend Belvedere martinis).

Song (The Place) will hold a “throwdown” from 10 PM with DJ Jonty Scruff. RMB480 gets you eats and a half-bottle of Champagne.

Meanwhile at Café Europa, DJ Herbie will be spinning tunes. RMB380 gets you free-flow red, white and sparkling wine, and tapas.

Bed features DJ Loman as well as Champagne / sparkling wine specials – no cover charge.

Houhai wine bar La Baie des Anges has “buy one bottle, get one free” from 9 PM. If you are looking for Champagne and jazz, then Centro might be your flute of Moet.

And Bubble Café+Bar in Jianwai Soho is doing… something. The email I received was light on details – call 5869-2770 for more info.

For those who wish to start earlier, The Rickshaw kicks things off at noon with 12 hours of specials:
– 12-1 PM: Tsingtao bottle / draft – RMB8
– 1-2 PM: Wine, Prosecco RMB25, Tsingtao – RMB8
– 2-3 PM: Corona – RMB15
– 3-4 PM: All cocktails – RMB20
– 4-8 PM: Happy hour; shooters – RMB10; wings – RMB2
– 8-9 PM: Margarita pitchers – RMB25
– 9-10 PM: Belgian fruit beer – RMB30
– 10 PM-midnight: Stella – RMB20; Moet Chandon – RMB500

RSPV on The Rickshaw Facebook group. Details on a slew of other parties is available from that’s Beijing’s 7 Days or City Weekend’s events schedule.

Finally, check out the James Bond party – the last three digits of this year are 007, get it? Dress up as your favourite character, drink martinis all night, and enter a draw to be shot into space for a make-out session, just like in Moonraker! Wait, there is no such party. Instead, this year’s collective New Year’s Eve marketing genius is promotional lines such as “Let’s party like it’s 2008!”

Seriously, the plays on that Prince song are tired. Let’s save them for rare occasions, such as a tasting of 1999 Grand Cru, parties to remember the championships of the Denver Broncos (NFL), Dallas Stars (NHL), New York Yankees (MLB) or San Antonio Spurs (NBA) that year, or to mark Beijing’s air pollution index coming just a single point of hitting that 2000 parts per million mark.

Twenty-four hours until 2008 my friends…

Wherever you go and whatever you do tomorrow night, eat, drink, be merry and be safe.

Happy New Year!

Walkabout: Toper, Kokomo, Golden, Q Bar, The Den

The Cellar Rat and I did a quick walkabout last week. Here’s an equally quick write-up:

Toper: The beers are fresh and only 25 kuai for 300 ML / 35 kuai for 500 ML. This place is small – a few meters wide and a dozen deep – and slightly over the top with the mirrors and gilt picture frames, though it is nice to see the copper tanks. The staff speaks little English. A bottle of Dragon Seal red table wine is 188 kuai – I’d stick to the brew.

Kokomo: The deck is enclosed, which is good for keeping out the cold, but bad for air circulation. I don’t know, but the dim lighting / loud music combination doesn’t work for me, although the place does make a decent Mai Tai.

Golden: It’s in the same space as Taniwha, but with WAY more shiny stuff. We decided to move on…

Q Bar: Is it me or do the owners seem more inclined to play DJ than bartender? Even so, the staff is adept at mixology and this place is hard to beat for a good drink in Beijing.

The Den: According to a sign out front, the cover is RMB 30 and gets you a drink. According to our experience, walking away gets that cover reduced to zero. The Cellar Rat describes the Den as “a poor man’s Suzie Wong’s”, though I find it great for late-night eats. I’ve heard a few people criticize the service there, but I’ve never had a problem. The staff may not always gush with enthusiasm, but it is polite and efficient.

Where’s Lido? Good luck finding your way in this, uh, ‘weather’

Like a mysterious fog slowly drifting in from the Grand Banks… like a heavy morning haze that like an unwanted guest forgets to leave for three days… like baby mice playing in cotton balls… I’m trying to find a way to describe Beijing’s record-breaking air pollution for this year, which hit 421 parts per million today. Perhaps a fellow patron describes the scene best: “It’s like watching a [figurative] skull and crossbones cross the sky.”

The past three days are by far 2007’s worst stretch, as measured by China’s government, which typically ranks Beijing last of the 84 cities it monitors. Check these before and after photos – the latter is for yesterday, 140 parts per million better than today. (Not surprisingly, China is far more liberal in defining pollution levels than the United States, Europe and Hong Kong.)

So, why am I writing about pollution on this blog? Because if you’re planning to hit a bar tonight, you better make sure your taxi driver has GPS.

(My guess is that the goal is to hit 888 parts per million because, well, 8 is a lucky number in China.)

Note: Just when we thought it couldn’t get worse, we beat yesterday’s record – today it’s 500 parts per million, which is the maximum on the pollution chart.

Ay caray! Saddle to have China’s ‘best selection of tequila’

You heard it here.

Bruce Willis lookalike / Rickshaw manager Chad Lager today thrice stated, while sober, “I guarantee you that the new Saddle will have the best selection of tequila in all of China.”

All of China – that would span the decimated factories of the northeast to the crop-burning plateaus of the southwest, the shining seas (Buddha bless that chemical sheen) in the southeast to the yangrou chuna’r heartland  of the northwest. (I’m cynical today due to Beijing’s horrible air pollution.)

Prepare your limes, prepare your salt…

By the way, the new Saddle will be in Nali Studio, just a shooter glass’s throw from the old one. More on this soon.