What do you do after dinner on a date night? No, no, not that! That comes later (sorry, mom). After dinner, we like to go somewhere dark and loungy for a good cocktail. This island may be small, but there are a lot of places to go for a drink. These are the Best Hidden Bars in Penang for a date night.
So you just went to one of the fabulous restaurants I recommended in my last post, and now you’re wondering where to go next.
The easy answer is Love Lane. The place where sailors and businessmen would have their trysts and house their mistresses back in the early 19th century.
Although it’s appropriately named for date night, Love Lane is in no way a date night kind of street. It’s fun for any other night of the week, but on date night, you want something sexier. Luckily, Penang’s got you covered! Thanks to the hidden bars or speakeasies that are all over George Town.
There are loads of them in Penang, but of course, I have my faves. Here is my list of the best hidden bars in Penang for a date night. And some secrets on how to find them.
What’s a hidden bar?
Before I get right into my list, let me explain what a hidden bar or speakeasy is. Back in the 1920s, the US government banned booze. But come on, no one was REALLY going to stop drinking just because of a little ban. Whenever something is forbidden, it just gets naughtier…forbidden fruit, right? It always tastes better.
So instead of not drinking, people just opened up underground or hidden bars to get on with their nightcaps. They were dark, illicit, sultry, and glamorous.
Flash forward 100 years, and hidden bars are popping up all over the world. What was once old is new again. Just as bellbottoms return to the runway every once in a while, there has been a resurgence of speakeasies. But let’s be real, I’m happier about the return of speakeasies than bellbottoms.
What makes these hidden bars stand out is that there are never any signs or windows. They often look like a closed shop without any way to get inside. But push the right brick, crack the code, say the right word, and voila a door slides open, and you enter another world.
Without further ado…
1. Out of Nowhere (OON): Best Narnia entrance to a hidden bar in Penang.
This speakeasy’s entrance is actually in a café called Hold Up. By day it’s a minimalist café serving coffee and tea. Everything is cold grey cement. The only color in the place is a bright orange fridge, which also happens to be the color of my childhood kitchen. Gotta love the 70s.
That fridge is not for keeping milk cold. It is the entrance to Out of Nowhere. Walk through it. Once your eyes adjust to the darkness, you’ll find unfussy décor with the bar as the star of the show.
Between the soft pink lighting and the tall palms, the whole space has a warm glow to it. They’ve got ambiance down.
It is always crowded, and if you can get a seat, they are very close together.
They have an inventive drink menu. Thorn to be Wild was my fave of the evening. The base of it is whiskey that is infused with berry, cinnamon, and ginger. It’s spicy and warm tasting. Instead of using ice, they use a frozen apple. It’s brilliant.
Another option is the Roti Satu, which is served in an old-fashioned champagne glass with jackfruit foam on top. The base is smoked rum with coconut espresso. It’s smoky, creamy, and slightly sweet.
2. 12 senses: Best hidden bar in Penang for ambiance.
Housed in a common shophouse, 12 Senses is easy to miss. The unassuming entrance has no sign. You’ll see a door that’s a little cracked open, head inside.
Once you walk into the anteroom, there is a pic of Bruce Lee and a door that won’t open. I don’t want to give away all the clues, but somewhere in that room is something that will open the door.
Once inside, you’ll see a mysterious but colorful room. Some trees slowly change color from light pink to purple to blue and green. Combined with dark woods, they give the room a warmth that feels perfect for a speakeasy.
12 Senses Facebook
The theme here is Ancient-China, and they’ve done it well. Traditional Chinese lanterns hang on wooden beams from the ceiling. There are large paintings of beautiful Chinese women, some covered in roses, some in traditional robes. Each picture is more beautiful than the next, and I was totally transported to a different era. The room is simply stunning.
They have live music nightly. Nothing raucous, just mellow loungy stuff. When we went, there was an acoustic duo named Jingle and Xavier. They were amazing. She had the voice of a songbird, and his soft voice complimented hers like an excellent pick-up line.
I can’t remember the name of my favorite drink (I’d had a few at this point), but I know it had Whiskey from Islay, honey, and fresh thyme. I’ve named it Where’s My Whiskey, Honey? It was very smoky with a hint of sweetness and a little herby aftertaste.
The other drink we tried was a Spicy Paloma, which had tequila, cayenne syrup, grapefruit juice, and sparkling water. Sour and spicy and utterly divine!
12 Senses Facebook
3. Golden Shower/Beso Rosado: Best hidden bar in Penang to see and be seen.
When this speakeasy first opened, it was called Golden Shower (*cue the giggles). At first, I assumed there was no way the owner, ChinChin, knew what a golden shower was. I mean, this bar is in Penang, not Boys Town in Chicago.
If you don’t know what a golden shower is, you’ll have to look it up; I will not be defining that one on this site–it’s not that kind of blog. Anyway, I couldn’t believe that such an innocent Malaysian would knowingly name a bar after that kind of thing. I assumed he took the name from the décor in the foyer. What else would you call a place with a golden toilet, a clawfoot bathtub, and a golden shower handle?
Not until I was writing this post, did I look at their website, and CLEARLY I was fooled!
“From your first step through our pristine, faceless doorway into a dark, defiled back alley, to its climax in the vulnerably-pink recesses of our lounge, Golden Shower ushers you into a layered visual representation of human sensuality. Designed to provoke the interest and seduce the senses of even the most hedonistic of pleasure-seekers.”
So now that I’ve cleared that up, let’s move on.
Golden Shower meet Beso Rosado
I can’t imagine why, but after a few years as Golden Shower, ChinChin decided to rebrand. Beso Rosado, which means pink kiss in Spanish, was opened earlier this year. It is more food-focused than before. This new iteration is all about wine, tapas, and cocktails.
The main room is the same as Golden Shower, but the entry no longer has a golden toilet or clawfoot tub. The whole place is millennial pink, yep, that’s an actual color. From the ceiling to the plush velvet bar stools, this place is beyond insta-worthy. Everything is soft and pale, and it oozes sensuality.
Beso Rosado Facebook
Drinks to try are the Golden Desire, a cardamom and chamomile infused gin, laced with lemon, and a splash of apple juice.
One of their most popular drinks is the Tokyo Sour, a Japanese whiskey mixed with a hint of agave, lemon, egg white, matcha, sweet vermouth, and fresh mint.
Beso Rosado Facebook
They also have a large selection of wines if you’re not in a cocktail-y kind of mood.
4. Magazine 63: Best hidden bar in Penang for transporting you to another era.
This was one of the first hidden bars in Penang, and it’s still going strong today. The address is Jalan Magazine, number 63.
Magazine 63 Facebook
Apparently, there is a white flag that says “alcohol” in Mandarin, but that’s of no use to me. From the outside, it is a rundown building. Walk through the metal gates, and I’ll let you work it out from here. But trust me, even though you can’t hear anything, there is another world waiting for you inside.
Like 12 Senses, Magazine 63 has an old-world Chinese feel. There are brick walls, red silk lanterns, and dozens of ornate paper parasols hanging upside down from the ceiling. The entire room is bathed in a sexy red glow. There is live music nightly that plays from a floating stage that overlooks the bar.
There are random murals and art strewn throughout the bar, so everywhere you look there is something to snap a picture of.
The cocktail menu here is minimal but innovative. And the presentation is by far the coolest in Penang. The hit of the night was called Not Shootable; gin infused with lavender and served in a decorated Chinese porcelain bowl. They have a few other signature cocktails that are served in old porcelain sake bottles.
Magazine 63 Facebook
5. Mish Mash: Best “hidden” bar in Penang that’s not hidden at all.
Ok, this isn’t a hidden bar by any definition, yet somehow it’s still called a speakeasy. There is nothing hidden nor underground about it.
However, they make such great cocktails that I had to add it to the list. This place is whiskey-centric. It has a full bar, but they have more than 80 whiskeys from around the globe. They also sell cigars and pipe tobacco.
Mish Mash Facebook
Mish Mash has a full food menu. I have eaten there a few times, and the food is good. But I couldn’t tell you what I ate. I’m too focused on the well-crafted cocktails they make. I remember each and every one of those.
These guys are good at what they do, and they’ve won bartender awards throughout Asia.
With sunny yellow walls, it’s a little brighter than I would like. But that is my only complaint.
My favorite drink is seasonal, and it’s called Turkey Chasing the Mule. It’s not always on the menu, but they make it for me anyway. The base is Wild Turkey 101, with homemade spicy ginger syrup, bitters, and absinthe. It’s served in a rocks glass with a clove spiked lemon rind. The spice from the clove is gorgeous with the ginger. That turkey goes down way too easy!
They also have Strong as F*ck Iced Tea, really, that’s what they call it. It’s their take on a Long Island Iced Tea.
One of the prettiest drinks I’ve seen there is the Jungle Bird. It’s a Malaysian classic from the 1970s made with dark rum, Campari, and pineapples. It is sweet and bitter at the same time. But look at that thing… it’s a work of art.
Mish Mash Facebook
The Final Nightcap
There you have it. The best hidden bars in Penang. There are more cocktail bars opening all the time but have no fear, I’ll be happy to go to every single one and give you the full report!
Now you know where to eat and drink on a date night. If you can’t figure out the rest, we need to have a talk.