As the team’s resident imbiber who has gone to her fair share of cocktail bars in KL, consider me GRAZIA Malaysia‘s go-to person to guide you on where to go for a good drink and not be disappointed. Our cocktail scene has come a long way, with several of these bars at the fore of putting us on the world map—two listings on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 awards and four in the 51-100 list is not too shabby at all.
Below, you’ll find a list of some of the cocktail bars in KL worth visiting for several drinks. Not only will you find that the signature cocktails won’t disappoint, you’ll also notice that some of these bars are exceptionally beautiful. All the better to be photographed in?
Tip: Feel free to ask for a cocktail that’s off-menu, especially if it’s a classic cocktail. But never, ever, ask the bartender to make you a Ramos Gin Fizz.
Try out these cocktail bars in KL and Petaling Jaya for a great night out
Newly inducted into the Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 list at number 50, Penrose is one of the best cocktail bars in the city. Helmed by a fantastic team behind the bar that boasts accolades from some of Singapore’s best bars, every cocktail at Penrose is a winner. Looking for it, however, may prove to be a challenge. Located along Petaling Street, you might even miss the front door—a futuristic-looking, geometrical door and window conceals the bar. Inside, it’s dim and cosy, with a long bar and seats against the wall. It’s small, so call ahead to make a reservation so you won’t be disappointed.
Editor’s drink of choice: Xoco Negro
Address: 149, Jalan Petaling, City Centre, 50000 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Penrose)
Some would say Coley is the godfather of the modern cocktail bar scene in KL, and I’m inclined to agree. When I first visited Coley, they occupied only half the space in a shop lot in Bangsar. Years after, they finally settled into their own space, a beautifully designed one by local interior designer Karen Mok, who wanted to “create the feeling of an underground bar that’s still open, not hidden.”
Gorgeous space aside, Coley has also gotten into the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list several years back, earning them a steady stream of visiting fans. The bar is famed for their easy-to-drink “Koktels” like the Gin & Coconut, a refreshing tall cocktail that tastes just like having coconut water—albeit spiked. It’s a great starter for your night there, but don’t discount their other spirit-forward cocktails too, like the Hanky Panky, a tribute to the bar’s namesake, Ada Coleman. Coley also has a great selection of hot food that you can order to make your drinks last longer.
Editor’s drink of choice: Hanky Panky
Address: 6-G, Jalan Abdullah, Bangsar, 59000 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Instagram/ @rodsandcones_studio)
Another personal favourite of mine is Rakh, located in The Five @ KPD. Helmed by a strong bar team with award-winning bartender Akshar Chalwadi at the fore, cocktails at Rakh are like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. Sustainability is at the heart of their creativity, and the bar team constantly finds innovative ways to reuse ingredients from their sister restaurant upstairs, Jwala. This, combined with their fond use of distillates and fat washes, creates cocktails with incredible depth in flavour, belying their clear appearance.
At Rakh, the cocktails are listed in numbers (as of December 2023, there are 23 cocktails), with the drinks’ key ingredients listed under their respective number. A must-try for first-timers is their signature rasam cocktail, which, as the name suggests, tastes just like the South Indian spicy soup. Using the leftover strained ingredients from Jwala, the rasam cocktail (number 10 on the menu) also uses house-made vodka infused with herbs and flavoured with a seven-day fermented tomato puree. The cocktail is served with a warm rasam foam and will challenge your palate with savoury cocktails—yet, they’re incredibly pleasant to drink. As you continue exploring the menu, you’ll find that the concept prevails, with unusual ingredients such as wakame, miso caramel, popcorn distillate, ancho chile peppers, and more.
Editor’s drink of choice: #4 (Gin, Smoked Salmon, Fennel, Basil, Chilli Oil, Salt)
Address: E-1-01, Level 1 The Block E, The Five, Kompleks Pejabat Damansara, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Instagram/ @rey.winter.s)
Reka:Bar is swanky, with its long strips of neon light accentuating the dim bar located in a quiet area of Damansara Heights. It might look like a party bar, but the team behind it, spearheaded by Joel Poon, is serious about their menu. It’s more than just mixing drinks here—the bartenders experiment with different methods including fermentation, distillation, and more, evident by the number of fermentation jars behind the bar. Perhaps that’s why the menu here is constantly changing, reflecting the seasons and its produce, not unlike a fine dining restaurant. While their core menu is impermanent, you can also request for a classic cocktail if the mood calls for it.
Address: 67M, Jln Setia Bakti, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: The World’s 50 Best)
Three X Co opened its “doors” in 2017, the fruits of three friends’ labours. I say “doors”, because looking for its entrance may prove slightly difficult, as it’s hiding behind the facade of a barbershop. The bulk of the bar’s cocktail direction is conducted by award-winning bartender David Hans, who is one of the three owners here. Throughout its existence, Three X Co has solidified its reputation as one of the most innovative bars in the city. However, it wasn’t until recent years that it finally gained the international recognition it deserved, earning the #47 spot in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023. The cocktails here are excellent, but you cannot leave without trying one of their experimental, almost mind-boggling cocktails with ingredients you wouldn’t have thought to include in a cocktail. It’s not for the faint of heart.
Address: Lot T6A, Level 3, Bangsar Shopping Centre, 285, Jalan Maarof, Bangsar, 59000 Kuala Lumpur
Come here to really impress the company you’re with. Located in the Four Seasons Hotel KL, Bar Trigona is one of the most opulent bars you’ve seen in the city. With undulating floating lights, views of the Petronas Twin Towers and a bar area that’s literally glittering thanks to the reflective mosaic, there isn’t a place like this in KL. It’s named after the Trigona stingless bee, which can be found in Malaysia. The cocktail menu, naturally, is also inspired by the honey that these bees produce, alongside our local flora. Expect excellently executed drinks crafted from thoughtful recipes out of respect for local flavours and produce. After all, that’s how Bar Trigona has managed to win numerous awards throughout its existence.
Editor’s drink of choice: Trigona Old Fashioned
Address: Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur, 145, Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, 50450 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur)
Bar Mizukami is not your regular cocktail bar in KL. There is no menu. There are only 10 seats available at the bar, which means you must make a reservation if you don’t want to be disappointed upon arrival. There is only one bartender at work: Shawn Chong, who also happens to be the owner. So, how does it work here? Step one: make a reservation on your preferred date. Step two: go to the bar and take your seat. Step three: Chong will ask you for your preference in flavour and base spirit. If you have any allergies, dietary restrictions, or you don’t fancy a certain ingredient, now’s a good time to mention it. In fact, you don’t even need to order a cocktail here—Chong is very adept in making low-ABV or zero-ABV drinks, so you don’t have to miss out on the fun with your friends. Repeat step three after every drink you’ve completed, or until closing time.
Editor’s drink of choice: Espresso Martini
Address: Bangunan Ming Annexe, 50100 Kuala Lumpur, Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: Instagram/ @tipple.my)
Bar Terumi is female-owned, female-led, and has a team of all-female bartenders. But there’s more to the cocktail bar than just that. Stepping into the upstairs bar in Taman Paramount, it’s almost as though you’re transported into a different world—specifically, a Japanese zen garden. The cocktail menu also reflects the provenance of its country of inspiration, featuring ingredients such as yuzu, matcha, and sakura, as well as Japanese whiskies. The three main ladies behind the bar—Shirmy Chan, Caden Chua, and Kah Mun—handle each drink with gentle elegance. After all, the bar is dubbed “the tender bar” for a reason. There is also a small food menu with izakaya-style dishes, such as sashimi, yakitori, and more.
Address: 9a, Jalan 20/16, Taman Paramount, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
(Image credit: Bar Terumi)
Ikiya 2.0 is yet another Japanese bar, but it’s extremely different from Bar Terumi. With smooth wooden floors and Mid-century Modern furniture pieces in different corners, this cocktail bar feels like someone’s stylish living room instead. It is, after all, Japanese-owned—which explains it. The menu features Japanese-inspired flavours alongside innovative executions, like the Adzuki Martini which uses red bean-infused vodka, or the Saketini, which adds sake to a classic Martini recipe. If you’re feeling adventurous, give the Tamagozake a try; it contains sake and egg with sugar and bitters for an interesting mouthfeel and flavour. Their classics are also worth ordering, which showcases their flair and precision in bartending. Don’t go hungry while you’re here—there’s a generous food menu that not only has izakaya-style bites, but also kissaten-style dishes such as Japanese curry rice and mentaiko pasta.
Editor’s drink of choice: Endo Gimlet
Address: 14a, Lorong Datuk Sulaiman 1, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, 60000 Kuala Lumpur
Did you know that the Jungle Bird cocktail originated in Malaysia? It’s the one and only classic cocktail that hails from this country, and the tiki-style drink is well-suited to our tropical climate and penchant for flavours. This bar in Damansara Heights is inspired by the drink and adopted the name, creating their own legacy here in the city. What you need to know about JungleBird is this: the team there knows how to have fun. After all, you can’t walk into a tiki bar and not have a good time. With its palm-leaf wallpapered walls and rattan furniture, rum is at the heart of JungleBird’s drinks. There is also an extensive food menu—the Cubano sandwich is to die for—for you to grub at your pub.
Address: 61M, Jalan Medan Setia 1, Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur
(Image credit: JungleBird)