Macau's bars have gone upmarket, and here are seven of the best

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 March, 2015, 6:15am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 March, 2015, 6:15am

Gone are the days when Macau's drinking holes were pretty much limited to beer, Portuguese plonk and Chinese rice liquor . The scene has changed as dramatically as the skyline in the past two decades. There are wine lists that can stand shoulder to shoulder with the best, and the number and magnitude of the "integrated resorts" is matched only by their drinking and eating options.

The trend will continue with several hotels opening in the next few years. Nonetheless, the existing inventory of watering holes is pretty good. Here are a few of the more popular bars:

Azul

If you enter the Four Seasons Hotel Macau through the Venetian Shoppes (rather than the lobby entrance), you can tell when you have crossed the threshold into the hotel. There is an air of calm along with the distinct feeling that a layer of kitschiness has been stripped away. Azul is an extension of this calm. Elegant yet fashionable, it has everything you would expect from a high-end hotel bar; a good range of cocktails and bottle service for spirits that include cognac and bourbon - ranging from 1,100 patacas to a whopping 51,888 patacas. Recommended for: Friday night wine tastings from 6pm to 8pm for 150 patacas plus 15 per cent service charge and tax

Bar Cristal

In typical Wynn hotel style, Bar Cristal can be a bit overwhelming initially. Decorated to look like the inside of a jewellery box, the bar is designed around a 19th century antique French chandelier that lends an air of historical elegance. As for drinks, all the classics are available, as well as a few signatures - try the Sinatra Smash, made with blackberries, sweet and sour, vanilla syrup, creme de cassis and bourbon. Recommended for: a pre-dinner glass of champagne or a nightcap.

38 Lounge

Come for the view and stay for, well, the view. 38 Lounge has a magnificent panorama from Taipa towards Macau Tower and Nam Van Lake (fog permitting) that can be enjoyed from inside or out on the modest terrace. They also have nightly live music that is a bit poppy, as a background to the menu of 38 cocktails and 38 single malts. Recommended for: stunning views of Macau.

MacauSoul

Run by expats David and Jacky Higgins with a taste for Portuguese wine and good music, this bar doesn't pretend to offer much more than that. The live music is good, but unfortunately seems to be quite infrequent. They have more than 400 Portuguese wines, and an elegant and relaxing lounge to enjoy them in. Recommended for: great wine in a historic setting at the foot of St Paul's Ruins.

El Pinball Mexican Restaurant at City of Dreams

Less than a year old, City of Dreams' Soho concept isn't going to win any awards for originality. The faux piazza in perpetual dusk is trying a little too hard, but in keeping with the fun nature of the Disneyland-like surrounds of the Cotai Strip, this Mexican place is good for a few drunken games of beer pong. It is a laid-back place for unpretentious fun. For those ready to get the weekend started, this is as good a place as any. Recommended for: Friday night free-flow wine (red, white and sparkling) and beers for 150 patacas from 7pm to 9pm.

The Roadhouse

This is not exactly a dive bar, but it certainly lacks the finesse of some of the other places, and that is why it is here. This is where you might see a local sports team gulping pints of Carlsberg. Roadhouse is welcoming and down-to-earth. Unfortunately, The Roadhouse is having licensing issues, so live music is currently out. The mixture of young, local professional types and expats give the place a buzz on Fridays and Saturdays, in particular. Daily happy hour runs from 5pm to 9pm with half-price beers and 30 per cent off wine and house spirits. Recommended for: Friday after work.

Sports Bar

This is the kind of place to visit earlier in the evening for a few drinks and some sport, especially live soccer. This place attracts a mixture of expats and Portuguese who come to watch matches from Portugal. If you want to get an idea of just how Portuguese Macau can still be, come during a derby game. The drinks are on the simple side, with Portuguese beer and some wines as well as basic cocktails. Recommended for: an evening of Portuguese beer and profanity. If you are in Macau until May 24, check to see if there are any live matches on. If so, you'll have plenty of company.