There’s a certain satisfaction in enjoying a drink in a speakeasy. Perhaps it’s a sense that it’s well earned after a long search. Maybe it’s that tiny bit of smugness knowing you are having what most others do not know about. Whatever the underlining psychology, it’s a feeling I undeniably get when sipping on my Kyoto Spa cocktail in the bar at Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage.
Like all memorable nights at a speakeasy, my evening begins with a search. After exiting from the subway station at Taoyuan, I make my way along the main road following the map on my phone. Reaching the corner of a crossroads, the map tells me I am near my destination. A young Ukrainian man, who introduces himself as a bartender at the speakeasy, asks if I am looking for the speakeasy. He leads me from the street and through a shop front of an old massage parlor.
I pass through the massage parlor façade onto the floor of a traditional Chinese restaurant. Low round wooden tables are dotted around while overhead there are lanterns hanging. Off to the side, there is an open kitchen where a chef is busy preparing dinner.
As I look around the restaurant, the Ukrainian bartender heads to a shelf full of different sized and shaped ornamental vases. He pulls gently on one in particular. The wall begins to slowly slide. There is a cheeky grin on his face as he says to me, “This way”.
The speakeasy boasts a strong industrial look with long wooden benches running down the middle, exposed foundations along the walls, and iron wrought railings surrounding the bar. The place is soaked in neon from the violet lights that illuminate the bar from below to the burning messages scrawled across the walls such as ‘When life gives you lemonade, add vodka’ and ‘Trust me, you can dance’.
It seems like the sort of joint where you would expect a pop-up party to be held. The kind you only find out through a friend of a friend and you have the password written on the back of your hand.
Before I have a chance to take in my surroundings, I am invited upstairs. Here, the bar more closely resembles a private member’s club or a luxury hotel bar. The long wooden benches are replaced with leather sofas and the neon lights have been swapped out for classic light fixtures on the wall. The bar here is a much more open affair, with cozy armchairs to sit in while the bartender makes your drink in front of you.
It’s the kind of spot you would take your clients after a business dinner or even somewhere to go enjoy a fine bottle of Single Malt after a long day at the office.
Between the downstairs and upstairs, Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage must be one of the most stylish bars in the city. Between the attention to the smallest detail and the well-thought-out layout, the whole place is class.
If it is a whiskey you are after, then Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage is bound to have something for you. From renowned Islay whiskies such as Caol Ila and Laphroaig, to the finest imports of the Highland in Dalmore and the Lowlands in Auchentoshan. There is quite simply an embarrassment of riches when it comes to whiskies hailing from Speyside with connoisseurs being able to choose from Balvenie and Singleton Dufftown.
Yet, it is their range of cocktails that Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage keep bringing back the clients looking for the speakeasy time after time. The name of each concoction is associated with the massage parlor the bar is called after. From the mysteriously named Sakura Bath to the intriguing sounding Massage Of The Tongue, the only thing more original than their names is the mix of ingredients that the bartender has incorporated into the drink.
All the cocktails on the menu are worth at least one try, but if pushed for a personal favorite, I would be torn between the Da Bao Jian, Sakura Bath, and SZ Bay Sunbath.
The Da Bao Jian rounds up a cast of roguish ingredients including Seaweed Talisker, Caramel Sale, Egg White, and Ardbeg 10 Years. Together, they make one dastardly fine cocktail. The Sakura Bath is a different animal altogether, which utilizes Tequila, Sakura Syrup, and Cherry Tonic to make the sort of drink you won’t forget fast. Finally, it’s the SZ Bay Sunbath. With Dark Rum, Cinnamon Whisky, and Coffee Liqueur, it’s not hard to see why this dark and broody concoction attracts a lot of attention.
If after a few cocktails or whiskies, you feel like trying your hand at something else, Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage also offers beer pong. The speakeasy boasts tables that utilize the latest beer pong technology. Great for those with a competitive streak or just friends who like a fun excuse to drink more.
So whether you are trying to get into the most exclusive party in town or if you are just looking to sit down with a cocktail or two with a work colleague, Ci Yuntang Traditional Massage is a speakeasy worth finding.
Place：慈云堂传统推拿 Ciyuntang Traditional Massage
Address: 南山区桃园路1号西海明珠花园119商铺 3011-16 Nanhai Dadao, Nanshan District
Metro: Taoyuan, Line Luobao
Business Hours: 7pm-2am Mon-Fri, 7pm-3am Sat-Sun
Price: RMB35-98 per drink