Cosy hutong bar Nina has been mixing up cocktails for well over a year now in Beiluoguxiang, serving up a sunny array of spritzes, negronis and nibbles to Beijing's cocktail-sipping masses. With winter drawing in though, it's only fitting that its summery menu gets a cold-weather revamp which, in this case, comes in the form of plenty of comforting, carb-heavy classics and festive cocktails. Here are our picks of some of the best.
Important PSA: carbonara is great. We'd even go so far as to argue that carbonara can't be bad, except we're told that there are exceptions to every rule. Thankfully Nina's just-launched carbonara is very much not the exception, and continues to bolster our belief that carbonara is the perfect antidote to bitingly cold winter nights. Or bad days at work. Or just any day. Nina already serves up the likes of pasta genovese, bolognese and vegetarian ragu, however its latest – and greatest – pasta addition whips its way up the ranks thanks to its creamy, yet balanced combination of pancetta, egg, onion and sharp cheese. Carbonara purists may be sceptical at Nina's addition of caramelised onion to the Italian classic, however trust us when we say it definitely works. 60RMB.
A sultry Mediterranean take on the classic cocktail, Nina's Italian mule sees grappa replace vodka as the lead spirit, resulting in a tasty tipple that's smokier and more resonant than its buttoned-up Moscow counterpart. Mixed with the likes of housemade ginger and sugar syrup, lemon juice, ginger beer and mint, this one definitely warms the throat. 70RMB.
Filled with ricotta, spicy salami, mozzarella, tomato sauce and plenty of black pepper, these calzone's are the revved-up alternative to the cheese toastie. Unlike most calzones though, Nina's are baked, then fried, resulting in crisp outer shells and molten insides. There's also a vegetarian option (it's the same minus the salami), meaning that non-meat eaters can also get in on the fried bread action. 110RMB.
The backbone of Nina's cheery cocktail repertoire, summer favourite the negroni gets an autumn twist in the new apple negroni. Made with apple cider, campari and sweet vermouth, it's a fitting transitional drink for those reluctant to wave goodbye to summer. 55RMB.
Unlike the apple negroni, Nina's hot toddy is for those who are already fully committed to wallowing in the joys of winter. A spiced-up version of the traditional classic, this hot cocktail is made with bourbon, honey, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and lemon. We'd also point out that the inclusion of honey and lemon – and to a lesser degree, bourbon – is good for you, so really, it's probably in your best interest to sip on one of these this winter. 60RMB.