Updated: Sep 30, 2022
I've been out in Chinatown in KL twice over the past two weeks.
I knew the company would be good. Fun-loving girlfriends. I knew the food would be good. It's hard to go wrong in Chinatown. But the question was, as always: will there be anything nice for me to drink?
Because yes, it does make a huge difference to me. No matter the company and the atmosphere, I will likely be downright bored if there is nothing but soda water, orange juice or diet coke on the non-alcoholic drinks menu.
We were off to a bad but funny start. My friend Ling and I ordered a watermelon mocktail at Crane KL. It turned out to be the sweetest thing I have ever tasted. Basically an artificial watermelon syrup in a glass rimmed with sugar. For those who don’t know it, I’m high maintenance when it comes to alcohol-free drinks! Sugary syrups mixed with juice or water just don’t cut it for me!
On to Penrose, a brand new, trendy cocktail bar in Petaling street. They have 3 AF options - and honestly they were all delicious. Interesting, tangy, not sweet. Thumbs up!
Another place that just opened is XO. The only alcohol-free options on their menu were - yes you guessed it - soda water, coke and fruit juices. I learned, however, that they could also make a virgin mojito. Ok better than nothing.
BUT when I asked the mixologist whether he could make me an alcohol free version of what my friend was having, he really delivered! He created a tasty, velvety drink with egg white and beautiful garnish.
The most creative mixologist in town, in my opinion, is McKay Jiplin from Concubine KL. He crafted the 3 AF cocktails featured at our very first Classy AF Masterclass and blew participants away with his inventions. So, how could we not drop by Concubine for a “Laura the Naughty Nun”? A fresh, flirtatious yuzu and ginger flower drink rimmed with sour plum powder (see the recipe here).
The uber-cool speak-easy bar called PS150 usually has 3-4 good alcohol-free drinks on the menu but I was slightly disappointed that my favourite (the Lyre's negroni) was not available.
Our bar-athon ended at G-String - an odd but lively osé-style bar. The barman here was sort of annoyed when I asked him to create a delicious alcohol-free drink. But, to my surprise, he served me 2 drinks with pretty garnish. Not quite the fresh taste that this high maintenance non-drinker was after - but A for effort!
On our first night out, as my girlfriends started booking taxis at 1 am to go home, I was actually keen to keep going. I felt, at no stage, bored or left out.
And, there you have it. To me, the difference between a boring and a fun night out lies in whether I feel catered for. Whether a restaurant or bar has a menu that feels inclusive and exciting - or whether they are willing to create something for us non-drinkers. It takes training, open mindedness and a mental shift that is still to happen here in Asia. Because, let's face it, the US and Europe are lightyears ahead when it comes to alcohol-free choices. I say, give it some time - and if you're ever in KL, let me take you by the hand and show you what the progressive mixologists here are capable of!