Dapper men – the kind who wear tailored suits and custom bow ties – are naturally fussy with their beverages. Thus they drink at Glen Classic, sister to Sanlitun’s whiskey-centric Glen Bar. Located at the back of the Face compound, the exclusive gentleman’s lounge – sorry, we mean cocktail bar – keeps out the riff-raff both subtly, by requiring a smart-casual dress code and a 200RMB per head minimum spend, and blatantly, by locking the doors to anyone without a reservation. There are Cuban cigars and aged Iberian ham for purchase, cashmere suits on display, leather-backed sofas and drinks served in glassware that has been custom-made to enhance the ritual of sipping really, really good cocktails.
Enter Glen and you’ll most likely meet co-owner, barman and sartorially superb gent Daiki Kanetaka. For him, the drinks are everything: with a ten-year stint at the distinguished Star Bar in Tokyo under his tuxedo, he’s got a professorial attitude towards drinking. When he says he likes sherry, he means he spent two years in Spain and stocked the bar with his favourite reds. He knows his stuff, but thankfully he’s never obnoxious or showy – even when he’s mixing up the kind of high-end, bespoke cocktails on which Glen Classic is based. But rather than presenting a regular menu, Glen gives you a list of prompts that talk you through your personal alcohol tastes and feelings, allowing Daiki to select something tailored to you – or even make something entirely new. It’s so personalised some drinks might end up with your name on the label.
So how much of a savant is Glen Classic’s Japanese master-of-the-shaker? We showed up with our own list of challenges to see what he’d invent.
‘…like I’m someone that cries during airplane movies, but not funerals.’
Our drink Aviation
An Aviation is a great choice for someone who just can’t keep it together in the air. The old drink dates back to the days of biplanes, but would equally suit those about to get on a 747. The sharp nose of lemon juice and Tanqueray 10 gin is crisp and bitter, enveloping the mouth with a floral, refreshing aftertaste lightly tempered with a dash of fruity cherry Maraschino liqueur. It’s not quite enough to inspire crying, but we certainly shed a lonely tear of refreshment.
‘…like I’ve just come out of a 40-year coma. Give me something to wake me up.’
Our drink Spring feeling
After passing out for a few decades, we’d expect something from a more familiar age. That desire is filled by the use of herbal Chartreuse, giving this short drink a charming green tint that belies the heavy-duty Beefeater 24 gin, while lime juice adds a citrusy bent to the booze. It’s an alluring mixture, though with a deceptively strong front that’s as startling and refreshing as a bucket of cold water over the head – but thankfully less messy.
‘…that’s as pretty as I am.’
Our drink No name!
Laugh all you want; we know inside that Daiki’s inability to think of a pre-existing cocktail is because our good looks transcend all known drinks. We can say for sure that the new beverage he created out of thin air was mighty handsome: Armagnac infused with vanilla beans and orange peel results in a sweet tone that lingers in the mouth, and a pink colour that is fairly dashing, if we do say so ourselves. Fresh cream and vanilla add a smooth richness. Aww, yeah.
‘…like I thought someone just waved at me and so I waved back, but they were actually waving at someone behind me. Now I feel awkward.’
Our drink Rob Roy
The bartender recommended the Rob Roy, a cocktail dating back to the 1890s. The drink’s subtly shifting flavours are rather like a case of mistaken identity, as a sweet beginning, courtesy of a Yamazaki 12-year whiskey, delicately shifts away into a lingering, tart aftertaste. The end result is a warm contrast that soothes the throat with its distinctive tail.