soju sunrise


bars | April 12, 2017 | By

I probably spend as much time drinking as I do eating, but as this blog focuses mostly on restaurants I don’t tend to blog (or Instagram) my boozy exploits very much. (Also, I have a public image to uphold!) It would be remiss of me, though, not to comment on a great little bar that opened up in the last weeks of 2016 in the back streets of Itaewon.

[Note: No money, free food or drinks or other inducement was asked for or received in return for this post. Soju Sunrise accepts freebies only very occasionally and will always explicitly state if this is the case.]

I’m not generally one for super fancy hangouts, and where food is concerned I tend to think that the grungier the place is, the better. But where cocktails are involved, atmosphere does matter; what I am looking for is somewhere that’s upscale enough for me to justify dropping 10,000+ on a drink, but not so starchy as to be uncomfortable.

For me, Blacklist hits that sweet spot. Perched on the third floor of an otherwise nondescript building, with seating for no more than a couple of dozen people, owner Chris Shin (formerly bartender at Libertine) has managed to craft a smart but low-key space; think subdued lighting (which makes taking decent photos challenging, as you’ll see) and Etta James in the background, though when the bar is full the volume and music choices can be dialled up.

The menu offers beer and wine options, but the main draw here is the spirit and cocktail list, which leans heavily on a fairly diverse range of American whiskeys. These guys know their cocktails. The gin and tonic is very solid (seriously, you’d be surprised how many bars in Seoul screw up this simple drink) and at 8,000 KRW is fairly priced by the standards of such establishments.

Whisky cocktails are strongly represented on the menu. The Old Fashioned (14,000, above), as you’d expect, is right on the money, and made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, which isn’t always easy to find here in Seoul. They also do a good Rusty Nail (13,000, top photo) which comes garnished with a flamed orange peel that initially had us looking for the source of the burning smell before we realised we were idiots.

There’s also a fine Negroni (above) for those who don’t care for whisky cocktails – the herbal hit of bitters balancing out the sweetness and a big block of ice to chill it down without diluting it. Perfect.

If all of that’s not your speed, you may prefer the slightly sweeter charms of an Airmail (14,000, above) – a sparkling wine cocktail set off with lime, honey and a bit of rum. Luckily I’ve reached an age where I can drink girly cocktails without compromising my masculinity, but I’d probably pass on it next time, though – just too sweet for my liking. Your mileage may vary.

While Blacklist is very much a bar rather than a restaurant, they do have some snacking options. We were given some beef jerky (below) on the house, and while this isn’t really my thing, I ended up scoffing the whole lot – spicy and addictive, it made me want a beer to wash it down.

There’s also a charcuterie platter which has attracted a bit of attention. For 28,000 you get a selection of cured meats, pickles and cheeses, along with some home-made sauerkraut, mustards, crackers and toasted bread, served on a long oblong wooden block.

The platter has clearly had a lot of care and thought put into it, and offers a variety of tastes and textures; if you like pickles and sauerkraut you will love it. Personally I can do without any form of cauliflower as an anju, but the sharpness of the excellent cheese (from Waeg Farm here in Korea) and the pungent mustard made this a winner.

It’s difficult to fault Blacklist; great service, great atmosphere and very well-made drinks. I liked everything about this place and it’s becoming a firm favourite.

  • Category: Whiskey / Cocktail bar
  • Price: $$$$
  • Must try:  Old Fashioned (14,000 won)
  • Subway: Itaewon Station (이태원역) exit 4
  • Directions: Blacklist is on the back street running parallel to the Itaewon main road that also houses Wolfhound, Bull and Barrel and so on. From Itaewon station exit 4, head down the road opposite Hamilton Hotel and take the first right. Blacklist will be on your right after three or four minutes. You can also head down the steps to the left of Rye Post and turn right at the bottom, and you’ll be right there. Put 용산구 보광로59길 36 3층 into Naver maps to get an exact location, or see the map below.
  • Hours: Open from 7pm until 2am or later, every day except Monday. For more details check out their Facebook page.


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