South Korea is famous for its traditional foods and nightlife that has evolved for many years throughout history. Koreans often have a “work hard play hard” mentality, drinking and partying deep into the night after working late hours.
Koreans drink many types of alcohol, but among the most common are “soju,” which is a type of rice wine that is sold at any market or restaurant you go to in Korea. Recently, different flavors of soju (yogurt, strawberry, raspberry) have been introduced for young adults and women who find regular soju a bit too strong to drink.
Koreans also drink a lot of cocktails and imported alcohol from all around the world. They have been largely influenced by America and Europe to include American cocktail bars, pubs, and even speakeasies in their drinking culture.
With that said, here is a guide to 3 of the unique cocktail bars in Seoul, South Korea.
1. Bar Sahm
Bar Sahm is an upscale cocktail bar that serves a variety of imported premium whiskey from all over the world, and the bartender crafts amazing cocktails that are also customizable to the customers’ preferences. The bar is very cozy and has a warm ambiance that makes people feel like they are at a friend’s home.
This photo says, please wink at the manager if the cocktail tastes good. There is also a list of unique rules that the customers are to keep inside the bar.
The bar was featured on famous global magazine websites such as Time Out for being a bar in the middle of one the richest districts in Seoul (Sinsa-dong), and for having delicious old fashioned drinks made by educated bartenders. (Time Out, https://www.timeout.com/seoul/bars/sahm)
How to get there:
The bar is a bit hard to find because it is in a hidden alley, and it is also behind a screen entrance deep inside the building. To get there, take the Bundang line exit and exit out of number 6. Then walk west until you meet the Paris Baguette on the right. Walk a little bit more, then you will see the bar on your left-hand side.
What to drink:
There is a wide range of Bar Sahm’s signature cocktails that the bartenders craft. There are also cocktails that you can order even if they are not on the menu. Cocktails cost around W12,000 (~$10 USD), and customers each need to order at least one drink as a minimum. Many women order fruity drinks such as the Sahm Peach Crush made with lemon juice, cranberry juice, malibu, peach liqueur, and peach, or the Lovesome is also a popular choice.
Another wonderful cocktail is the Sparkling LA, made with lemon, apple, and soda.
A famous one that is loved by the men are their old fashioned drinks. Foreigners are pleased to find that the bartenders create unique drinks they have never heard of before.
2. Boxing Tiger
Boxing tiger is truly a unique bar, because it is a low-key speakeasy that is located in a hidden underground basement past the punching bag on the first basement floor. To get into the bar, you need to ring a bell at the window and the bartender will let you in through a secret door.
Once you get in, the bartender in a fancy tailored suit will cordially guide you into the dimly lit bar. He will take your coats and hang them in hidden closet space. The atmosphere is warm and cozy, with the interior dimly lit with a lamp post in the middle of the room, with photos of famous boxers hung neatly on the walls.
The bar resembles a mob bar from a ‘70s gangster film, with a television playing famous gangster movies like “Scarface” and “American Gangster” in the corner of the room.
How to get there:
The way to Boxing Tiger is pretty simple. Take the subway and get off Sinsa station in Gangnam city at exit 6. Walk north until you hit the 7-11 and make a right on Gangnam road 156. The building to enter the bar will be on the left-hand side across from Pink Co.
What to drink:
There are many types of whiskey, wines, imported scotch, champagne, and other types of unique cocktails you can request. Many locals sit at the bar because the bartenders are very friendly and fun to talk to throughout the night. The drinks are around the same as Bar Sahm, ranging from 10,000-15,000 Won.
A popular drink is the “Secret Night,” which is a cocktail that is served in a clear skull glass bottle, lit on fire at the tip for an intense eye-catching presentation.
3. Alice Cheongdam bar
Alice in Cheongdam bar is a mystical bar that is named after the popular Korean drama, “Cheongdam-dong Alice.” The drama is centered around the luxurious neighborhood of Cheongdam district in Gangnam, Seoul. Similar to the drama, the bar is actually located in the middle of the posh neighborhood of Cheongdam-dong.
The entrance to the bar is led by stone steps surrounded by a neatly trimmed green brush. The top of the stairs does not have the bar name, but has a bunny poster that is out of the classic Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland.”
The photo leads you down a beautiful staircase that guides you to the bar. The staircase resembles the rabbit hole from the classic film, and it leads to a beautiful flower shop where you can buy flowers. When you go deeper inside, the server will lead you to a secret room where the bar is.
The bar’s wall is covered with a projector screen that plays the animated movie “Alice in Wonderland,” and the green, burgundy, and gold furnishings to match the film make up the elaborate color themes of the bar. There are many decorative white rabbit paintings that are hung on the wall. The bar also has a secret trap door that the server has to open for everyone who needs to use the restroom.
How to get there:
To get to Alice Cheongdam, get off Apgujeong station, exit 6, walk west until you meet Apgujeong road 50, then make a left. Make a right on the road 46, then you will meet the bar on the left in a small alleyway.
What to drink:
Alice in Cheongdam is known for their posh and extravagant cocktails. Their drinks are much pricier than other bars, with a cover charge of 10,000 Won plus cocktails that are around 25,000 Won each. One of the most popular cocktails among the ladies is called Dry January, where the cocktail is served in a cute white rabbit cup.
A secret cocktail that a lot of Cheongdam locals drink is a drink that is served with a ring pop in a mini straw bag. The cocktail is red to match the candy, and they are both served on lit up reflective, golden stand.