Fangjia Hutong's summer demise claimed many of our favourite cocktails bars, but all is not lost for hutong drinkers. Over on Beiluoguxiang, already a zone littered with worthwhile watering holes, a whiskey-focused bar is mixing up imaginative drinks in a cosy setting.
Hoper hopped into the hutongs a few months ago. Tucked away on an offshoot of Beiluoguxiang, the frontage has an inviting glow, a feeling that’s seconded by the warm interior, which is full of red lanterns and small nooks and crannies to hide away in for an intimate drink. The formula isn’t particularly imaginative, but it’s executed well and creates an atmosphere of deliberate insouciance.
What is imaginative here is the drinks selection. An extensive cocktail menu features classics, a range of whiskeys and some neat house specials. The Hoper (80RMB) is made with lemongrass-infused vodka, pandan-infused gin, amaro, vermouth and lemon peel. This sounds exciting, but all we could really taste was the gin and lemon, and none of the promised leafy aromas. Similarly, the Thinker (80RMB) is a heavy-hitting, negroni-like drink, but it was so strong on the Campari that we could taste little else.
The lack of promised flavours isn’t to say the drinks are bad – and they’re certainly strong and well-presented – it’s just that they don’t live up to the ambitious menu descriptions. The menu also deserves and honourable mention for pairing each cocktail with a special... poem? Aphorism? Prayer? We’re not sure what 'Plum flowers, few of them residing at the corner of wall, blossoming proudly against icy coldness' or 'Linger on, linger on, things will come' really mean, but Hoper is a sweet spot to ponder in.