A convenient spot for our weekend trips, Johor Bahru (a.k.a JB) is fast becoming a trendy destination in itself. With hip cafes and boutiques mushrooming along Jalan Dhoby and attractions like Legoland Malaysia — and not to mention, its close proximity to the popular coastal town of Desaru (just an hour away, FYI) — the city is seeing more traffic than ever before. If you’re planning a getaway there and are wondering where to go to stay hydrated, here are the best bars in JB to stop by for a stiff drink or two.
Like other capital cities including Georgetown and Ipoh, JB is quickly taking on the cocktail bar scene, producing some of the best mixologists the country has to offer.
As always, there are your usual two: hidden bars and Chinese-themed bars. But before all these creative cocktail bars, the older beer pubs reigned supreme. We’ve included in an iconic one that most JB denizens will recognise, especially since its bright blue exterior is extremely eye-catching. You’ll want to head there if you’re craving good pub style food to have with your lager. The list also includes a rooftop one for great views of Johor Bahru and beyond. There is, after all, nothing quite like enjoying a drink from high up whilst looking out to a sea of lights and the wind in your hair.
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These days, when most people mention a retro-themed bar they immediately think of a vintage Chinese-style interior. 90洋服.龟来bar (or 90 Tailor Bar) is visibly retro but steers away from the red Chinese interior that most are familiar with. Instead, it focuses on vintage props such as the manual sewing machine, rattan chairs, and concrete floors that our grandparents loved having. Sip on some cocktails while basking in the retro concept of it all.
Did we mention that 90 Tailor Bar is also a boutique? The shop provides suit rentals and sells some tailor-made suits — hence the name.
(Image: 90洋服.龟来bar Facebook)
If the name seems familiar, it’s because bartender Justin Tay of Cabinet 8 by JWC was the Malaysian finalist in the La Maison Cointreau 2018 cocktail competition. You’ll find this hidden bar at the back of The Bear & Fish cafe, where sexy-looking cocktails are concocted. The interior is equally as stylish, just begging to be taken photos of and displayed on social media.
(Image: Cabinet 8 by JWC)
Also within the same compound of Cabinet 8 by JWC is Gin Bar by JWC, Johor Bahru’s first gin bar. This hidden bar has a different look than its sister bar, adopting a very neon-filled, Chinese-retro theme harking to the 60s and 70s. Naturally, gin-based cocktails are the mainstays here, each lovingly created by the bartenders.
(Image: Gin Bar by JWC Facebook)
Another hidden bar to check out in JB is Haiiro Usagi, which takes on a Chinese-Japanese retro concept as well. It’s pretty well hidden, so look out for the 75A letterings above a metal door. Go for the Instagrammable interior, but stay for the more than decent cocktails. “Earl”Mazing is one of the popular selections on the menu, featuring an earl grey tea-infused gin with orange liqueur and salted milk foam.
(Image: Haiiro Usagi/Facebook)
Quite the opposite of hidden bars, you definitely won’t miss Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro thanks to its extremely bright blue and yellow exterior. This Irish style pub serves up classic beer and stout on tap, alongside an extensive food menu that will keep you full and wanting more. Think hearty pies, potato and leek soup, and more that go perfectly well with beer. Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro is definitely the kind of no-frills bar you’d want to go in and relax with a pint.
(Image: Mulligan’s Pub & Bistro Facebook)
Love a good view? Then Sky 26 is your kind of bar. Located on the topmost floor of the Holiday Villa Johor Bahru hotel, it’s the only bar in the city that will give you unparalleled views of JB. There’s also a DJ playing sets on certain days, so come prepared to party. Naturally, drinks here will cost more compared to other bars on the ground level, but it’ll be worth it for the view you get.
By day, The Replacement Lodge & Kitchen is a stunning sunlit cafe, filled with the delicious aroma of coffee and brunch meals. By night, transition your appetite to its sunset tapas and a good selection of craft beers that you will otherwise be hard pressed to find in this city. The cafe still looks just as good at night as it does during the day, and the extensive food menu will ensure that you continue staying on through the night.
It’s not just KL that has a good selection of whisky bars. Whisky House in JB doesn’t fall short, especially with over 300 whisky and cocktail choices available. It’s also Asia Pacific’s first whisky ambassador bar, which means they take their spirit precision very seriously. But whisky is not all they’re good at. There’s also a delectable food menu comprising hearty selections such as lamb rack and pasta dishes, so you won’t need to drink on an empty stomach.
(Image: Whisky House Johor Bahru)
(Main and featured image: Gin Bar by JWC)
This story first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore