Open bar: Q closure one-night affair

Q Bar had enough headaches from ongoing renovations in the hotel lobby below. Those became migraines after police closed the cocktail joint on Friday night. Fortunately, Q fans were not booze-less in Beijing for long. The shutdown appears to have been a one-night affair, and the Martinis, Margaritas and Manhattans are again flowing.

Speaking of martinis, M-dawg sends word that “James Bond had it right.” He refers to a study by psychologist Charles Spence and chemist Andrea Sell that claims shaken martinis are tastier and healthier than stirred ones:

To these aficionados, the creation and presentation of a cocktail is a true science. Take the all-important issue of shaking rather than stirring the martini. In Canada in 1999, a group of students at the University of Western Ontario decided to test Bond’s preference in a series of experiments on gin and vodka martinis. They studied the martini’s ability to deactivate hydrogen peroxide, a substance used to bleach hair or disinfect scrapes and a potent source of the free radicals linked to ageing and disease. The detailed chemistry is not fully understood but martinis were much more effective than their basic ingredients, such as gin or vermouth, at deactivating hydrogen peroxide – and about twice as effective when shaken.

In their analysis of the results, published in the British Medical Journal, the team concluded, reasonably enough, that Bond’s excellent state of health “may be due, at least in part, to compliant bartenders”. And Sella believes that shaken martinis are not only healthier but also taste better. This is due to what experts call “mouth feel”. The shaken martini has more microscopic shards of ice, making its texture more pleasing. He plans to test this hypothesis at the Cheltenham Festival, where he is expecting no shortage of volunteers.

The article is worth a read for its look at how color, glass shape, and other factors affect our perception of alcohol. For example, Spence is quoted as saying, “Researchers have shown that people drink up to 88 per cent more when consuming drinks in short, wide glasses than in tall, narrow glasses that hold the same volume,” and, “Surprisingly, even experienced bartenders fall prey to this vertical-horizontal illusion. One study showed that veteran bartenders pour 26 per cent more alcohol into tumblers than highball glasses when measuring out a shot of spirits.”

This suggests more research is needed and, to that end, my next visit to Q Bar will include side-by-side comparisons of stirred and shaken martinis.

It’s in the e-mail: Nightlife, bar, wine info coming up!

Many people have asked what happened to my biweekly email about the Beijing nightlife and wine scenes. Apologies all around – I am about a month behind with the latest, but I promise to send it out within the next week and to load it with information.

If you are wondering what the email is about, see this sample. If you would like to receive it, simply send a “sign me up” message to

Beijing Olympics thought 11: Going, going, gone

For each of the 88 days until the 2008 Olympics, I will [try to] strip-mine my brain to unearth a thought related to Beijing and The Games. That’s one thought per brain cell. It’s called teamwork, people!

Bloggers, forums, and local media are talking about how China’s new visa policy is affecting business, tourism, and the Olympics. Even the New York Times is on the case. Oddly, while the paper’s article is about visas and tourism, it doesn’t mention how the policy might impact the thousands of foreign visitors who plan to rent apartments in Beijing during The Games. On the other hand, it does inform America that Centro is “hip”, that the nearby Horizon restaurant is home to “power dinners” (who knew?), and that the Kerry Centre Hotel lounge is “plush” (that would be the one that links to the bar, the mall, and the toilets).

In any case, while security concerns are cited as driving the visa policy, those with friends who are freelance teachers, consultants, writers, and so on in Beijing have probably figured out the hidden agenda: China is trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for most going-away parties in a month. Mission accomplished! So, how about returning things to normal? (Please? Pretty please with red bean paste on top?)

My own going-away party, assuming the nature of my departure allowed one, would follow a simple plan: 1) gather the piles of mao and fen lying about my apartment; 2) invite people I like; 3) have fun. I would hope the itinerary included these three stops:

- A tasting of Chinese wines at Sequoia Café: This should be no problem as owner Frank Siegel is a huge fan of the local vino. We would drink wine from Grace, Yunnan Red, Sino-French and Taillan, all while watching locally based wine maker Alain Leroux evaluate them with his 100-point shrugging system.

- A visit to Sanlitun: I have a love-hate relationship with this place, but would at least stop at Cheers for a shot of Wild Turkey and live Xinjiang music. Other options: The Tree for pizza and Belgian beer, Kokomo because they’d probably play Let’s Get It Started by The Black-Eyed Peas (incidentally, this ranks among the top housecleaning songs of all time), and The Saddle Cantina, where I would order an ice-cold Stella and then carry it over to sibling establishment The Rickshaw and have some medium wings.

- A visit to Q Bar: My Beijing bar days started with First Café, where Q co-owners George and Echo once worked. At some point in the night, I would like to have a dry martini as George spins blues music (and a Morrissey tune or two, for old time’s sake).

Add in a few other stops – perhaps a late-afternoon wine tasting at Palette Vino, happy hour at Aria or The Den, a final stroll down Nanluoguxiang – and, well, this might be a going-away party that requires more than one night.

Thought 1: If they build it, we may come
Thought 2: “Whether or not” in Sanlitun
Thought 3: Living the lowlife on Lotus Lane
Thought 4: The F&B scene takes a pre-Olympics breather?
Thought 5: Flaming Fuwa
Thought 6: Continental drink
Thought 7: The Parallel Bars?
Thought 8: No kangaroos, and other guidelines
Thought 9: A few good men
Thought 10: Someone call programming

Sips and slurps: Cafe de la Poste, OT Lounge, I/5 Taverna, and more

Last night, I had a T-bone steak so big that it needed a postal code. The place: Cafe de la Poste. The price: 96 kuai. The context: We were two ravenous souls in search of solid stomach filler after tasting 15 wines in western Beijing (writeup soon). Our slabs of meat came nicely cooked and with perfectly seasoned potatoes, thus providing an antidote for a wee too much Shiraz. (Thanks to WG for the suggestion.)

Last week, I parked on the deck at OT Lounge during happy hour and had a tasty glass of Cabernet-Shiraz (25 kuai, 5-8 PM daily; 35-45 kuai regularly) and a plate of Macanese-style beef noodles (28 kuai). This is a nice spot to chill out and watch life go by – the locals, the expatriate residents, the tourists loaded down with shopping bags, the traffic (well, maybe not the traffic). OT also offers regular live music inside.

I recently tried the lunch special at 1/5 Taverna, in 1949: The Hidden City. The mozzarella and tomato salad and the risotto both ranked as “OK.” What helps make the meal worth RMB68 is the restaurant’s ambiance – the sedate lighting, high ceilings, and natural materials (stone, brick, etc), as well as the grass and trees visible through the window, combine to lower workday stress.

I still think Revelations offers one of the best-value set lunches in town – and I emphasis lunch, since several people told me, “Hey, I went for dinner and it isn’t that cheap!” While the place no longer provides complimentary water when you arrive, RMB48 is still a good deal for homemade bread, soup or salad, and a main course (coffee can be tacked on, from RMB10).

Finally, another plug for Pacific Coffee, which offers its largest size of daily brew for RMB22, a tasty roast chicken and avocado panini for RMB22, and comfortable sofas and armchairs.


Luga’s: Shut down last week, this place has re-opened.

Enoteca: Opened two weeks ago, this place has closed, but hopes to be pouring wine again in a few days.

Get paid to eat: City Weekend seeks dining editor

City Weekend is in search of a dining editor to “cover the best of Beijing’s cuisine, high end restaurants and fine wines.” Media experience, decent writing skills and functional Mandarin are among the skills desired. “Competitive salary and full benefits” (and a Z visa) are among the benefits offered. Those interested, should send their CV and cover letter to Lee Mack at