There's something evil in the air. Walk up a dank, pitch black stairwell past rooms containing rows of stainless steel refrigerators and you'll encounter a triangle with a keypad. Enter the correct code and gain access to beautiful cocktails. If incorrect, may God have mercy on your soul.
Infusion Room! So, yeah there's another private bar/speakeasy in Sanlitun area. Whaaaaaaaaaaat?? Yes, another.
Design scheme is, without any doubt, The Illuminati. Completely and fully. So many triangles, dark corners, secrets and possible lizard overlords. Don't ask too many questions. Like, why is some of the seating 1997 waiting room sofas? Why are the staff trained like violently efficient SS soldiers in bow-ties? Or why are all the clientèle sexy villains from Melrose Place, rich and gorgeous, wearing unbleached, ironed linen and gold?
No questions. Shhhhhhhhhhhhh........ :-X Plug that mouth shut with a damn fine cocktail.
There is a strong savory/dry streak in the drink list here, which is nicely accompanied by the complementary homemade shrimp crackers. Started with a kombu soup (110rmb), with soup being the operative word. Japanese seaweed, olive oil and salt water dress up Talisker 10 year. All these dry-as-a-bone support ingredients act as supporting characters for the Scotch whiskey, gently exploiting it's inherent qualities rather than risking an entirely new flavor profile. It's an excellent, but conservative, way to deal with a top shelf alcohol.
I'm now watching an outrageously handsome bartender pour foamy liquid into a square pine box. No questions.
An Aged negroni (100rmb) was next, which uses Dubonnet for the vermouth, adds osmanthus flower and switches out Campari for Aperol. The “aged” is misleading in that this is more a fruity, summery negroni variation. All this is crowned with a thick, luscious grapefruit foam, which creates texture and an almost creamy mouthfeel. Great.
Lots of home runs, but the rumartini (110rmb) was too all over the place. A slab of Chinese cedar and a blowtorch is plopped on the bar to smoke the glass. Havana Club 7, sweet vermouth, dry sherry, white cacao and chocolate bitters are stirred. Accompanying the whole affair is a tiny bowl of dark chocolate and green olives. I understand the intention, but the result is a confusingly smoky, but cloying sweet, affair, like drinking chocolate milk in a forest fire. A for effort, though.
The Take-Away: So, definitely a yes for Infusion Room. It's a great date spot in spite of, or more likely because of, the sinister vibe. And all joking aside, the expertise and professionalism behind the bar made for a very pleasant evening. Just make sure your hot lizard overlord date has some deeeeep pockets. And asks no questions.
Infusion Room is upstairs at D Lounge in Courtyard 4, off Sanlitun Nan Lu.