I remember it as if it were yesterday, my first sip of a Forget Me (忘我) in H-Lounge. It was with that very sip that my passion for cocktails and its culture really began. That night was just under two years ago, and since then, they have continuously improved and remained a favorite among many here in Hangzhou. They’ve now undergone their biggest change yet, rebranding as Vesper and creating a new design and bar concept.
The location is the same, on quiet Paomachang Road near Huanglong, but with a redesigned stylish exterior. Inside, apart from some new artwork, much is the same. The bar counter seating in Vesper has always been my number one choice, comfortable seats with the added enjoyment of watching your drinks get made right in front of you (perfect for a date night). Aside from the counter, seating is tightly packed into the small space, giving it a nice buzzy atmosphere.
The biggest changes take place on the menu, with the addition of lower-priced classic cocktails and some great new, creative additions. The waiter presented me with a Vesper Times, their new menu in the style of a newspaper. Instead of the normal over-the-top selection found in most cocktail bars, Vesper has simplified it into two short lists of specialities: Classic Cocktails (68RMB) and Signature Cocktails (priced from 78RMB).
We tried out some of their newly added signatures, starting with the Kingsman (88RMB) – a combination of Dalmore whiskey, espresso, truffle honey and bitters and served in a rather unusual fashion. The bartender brought me a book containing a flask placed inside a cutout; it may just be the coolest drink I’ve ever been served. Another particularly special drink was the Garden of Eden (78RMB), a smokey melon flavored cocktail made using Japanese liquor. It comes in a glass tube with holes in the top so that as you drink from the straw, you simultaneously inhale the smoke, creating heightened sensory experience.
Although the signatures offer something out of the ordinary, you’ll still not go wrong ordering a classic. We tried The Corpse Reviver (68RMB) and a chill-infused vodka Moscow Mule (68RMB). Each had an enjoyable twist on their standard recipes. Aside from cocktails, they also have well-priced beers and a great selection of whiskey. Street parking available. Smoking permitted.