Get Boozy With It: Bars In Downtown Kuala Lumpur To Get Your Drink On

Downtown Kuala Lumpur marries the traditional and modern for a unique charm, which is why it plays host to some of the best bars in KL, old and new. (Left: Image by @baijiu.kl. Right: Image by @thedeceased.)

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From old school biscuit shops, old kopitiams, and inns, all the way to hidden corners with bars and craft stores, the heritage district of Downtown Kuala Lumpur (KL) is seeing something of a revival of late. Teeming with historical significance, one will find that the businesses in the area are a mish-mash of diversity and colour with its design savvy that preserves the old and ushers in the new.

To dive into the unique charm of this urban treasure, we list out the new and the old bars that you shouldn’t miss out on on your next trot around this part of town.

Shhhbuuuleee

Perched on the top floor of RexKL, Shhhbuuuleee is the latest hangout spot in Downtown KL. The name is an onomatopoeia mash-up of two words; ‘Shhh’ because the space is shared with a bookstore, and ‘Buuuleee’ which can be roughly translated to mean ‘don’t care’ in English.

The premise’s ceiling and walls retain its old, rugged look, while the overall laid-back atmosphere offers a quaint charm. The food menu is one of small plates, grilled items, and noodles, but beyond its eats, drinkers will delight in its beverage menu with highballs, shochu, and natural wines (among others).

Note: Shhhbuuuleee is currently open for bookings only, so be sure to call in or book online in advance to secure your spot.

Address: 80 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6012 612 0786
Operating hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 5pm to 12am

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PS150

PS150 is not a new spot by any account, but it’s one not to be missed out on, especially if you’re seeking a dash of nostalgia. Co-Founder and Head Bartender Angel Ng leads patrons on a journey at PS150, with its setting reminiscent of old fashioned Hong Kong dens alongside open-air spaces and an intimate bar area.

The cocktail menu is divided into the different eras of the drink’s history, offering original concoctions and classics with a contemporary twist. The focus is on Southeast Asian flavours and ingredients, so be sure to bring along your sense of adventure to explore all that the bar offers.

Address: 150 Jalan Petaling, Ground Floor, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 7622 8777
Operating hours: Daily, 5pm to 12am

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G-String

Risqué nights await you at this playful speakeasy, laced with provocative cocktails and art. Not a spot for the faint of heart, the drinks and snacks at the bar are created to empower women, with playful names like Bubbles & Panties (vodka with a tropical twist of lychee and grapefruit) and bar-bites such as Cum On My Lace (fresh fuchuk stuffed with fish paste, showered with bechamel). It’s a go-to for those yearning for a naughty girls’ night out with its painted walls and neon signs!

Address: 147, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6013 938 6322
Operating hours: Daily, 4pm to 12am

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Baijiu

Roughly translating to mean ‘white liquor’, Baijiu is not just China’s national drink, but also the name of a contemporary dim sum and cocktail bar in Chinatown. Oriental-inflected potions laced with Tie Guan Yin oolong tea, Sichuan peppercorns, red dates, goji berries, and five-spice powder can be sipped here while savouring after-dusk dim sum like shrimp and chicken dumplings.

If you’ve always got an eye out for a good ‘gram photo, you’ll be pleased to know that art installations pop up within the vicinity now and again. We’d call this a win-win!

Address: Lorong Panggung, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6010 266 6093
Operating hours: Daily, 5pm to 12am

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The Deceased

Speaking of social media, this Asian-horror and spiritual-themed speakeasy bar in the heart of Chinatown has probably popped up on your feed once or twice in the past. With outdoor seating and a rooftop view, The Deceased serves cocktails with spooky presentations, names, and descriptions inspired by traditional Southeast Asia and Chinese folklores, and dinner service in its haunted house until 9pm.

Great effort is put into the presentation of the cocktails, and if the bartender isn’t too busy, ask them to share the haunting stories behind each drink.

Address: 55 Jalan Sultan, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Contact: +6018 200 0262
Operating hours: Wednesday to Monday, 4pm to 12am

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Pahit

Tucked away in a quiet backstreet of Bukit Bintang is a charming Malaysian shop lot dating back to the 1920s. Beautifully refurbished with a slightly industrial feel, the decor of wrought iron and wood furniture is what welcomes you into your re-education of all things gin.

From various versions of classic G&Ts to innovative contemporary Gin-based cocktails and the malleability and finesse of Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite tipple, Pahit will school you for sure. Go for any of the infused G&Ts if you’re looking for a lighter touch, or if you’re more partial to cocktails, the house signature Gin Pahit #2 is a good choice.

Address: 3 Jalan Sin Chew Kee, Bukit Bintang, 50150 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603 2110 0776
Operating hours: Daily, 3pm to 12am

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Pisco Bar

To the uninitiated, heading to Changkat will see you lured into bars with whatever promotions sound most appealing. But take just a short walk down the hill and you’ll find Pisco Bar, a cool space that doesn’t seem hard-pressed to compete with its flashier neighbours.

Practically an institution in KL, having been around for years, nights at Pisco are often soundtracked by a rotation of local and international DJs. Its menu? A trim yet inclusive selection of cocktails, wine, beer, and liquors alongside a fusion food menu. A simple visit will have you coming back for more, as many of their regulars will attest to.

Address: 29 Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +603-2142 2900
Operating hours: Daily, 3pm to 12am

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Gatsby Mansion

As its name suggests, the bar takes its inspiration from the book and film of Fitzgerald and Luhrmann fame – The Great Gatsby. Previously known as Brixton 23, the bar has recently rebranded with a new look and name. It’s now a sophisticated restaurant and lounge that serves Malaysia’s only high-tea with Hendrick’s Gin & Tea. With a fancy interior and live bands lined up to set the mood, you’ll enter and exit feeling pretty posh if we say so ourselves, old chap!

Address: 23 Jalan Sultan Ismail, Bukit Bintang, 50200 Kuala Lumpur
Contact: +6018 322 6000
Operating hours: Monday to Saturday, 3pm to 12am

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Whiskey drinker. Whimsy finder. Word writer. Sue May is a fan of big words and arcane definitions. Fascinated with stories, this honorary Geordie enjoys stumbling down well-trodden paths, roads less travelled by, and meeting new people. (Sometimes she writes about them.)