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Winter getaway is just a sip away

Keith Motsi poses during an interview with The Korea Herald on Nov. 30. (Park Hyun-koo/ The Korea Herald)
Keith Motsi poses during an interview with The Korea Herald on Nov. 30. (Park Hyun-koo/ The Korea Herald)
The end of the year is almost here, but relief from the two-year disruption to life as we know it still eludes us. A hidden location in central Seoul can perhaps give you a moment of escape, to take comfort in the familiar.

Opened in 2015, Charles H. at Four Seasons Seoul is a speakeasy bar behind an unmarked door, downstairs from the hotel lobby. The bar is named after Charles H., an avid traveler and cocktail book writer in the early 20th century. The bar is based on New York’s subterranean drinking establishments of the 1920s, but also features tones and textures inspired by Korean royal dress.

On Wednesday, Charles H. ranked 42nd on Perrier’s list of the World’s 50 Best Bars, climbing up from No. 49 in 2020. It is the only bar in Korea to make the annual list. It also ranked No. 13 among Asia’s 50 Best Bars.

Known not only for its cocktails, the establishment is also an intimate gathering ground for those looking to socialize over fine food and drinks.

“Friends of Charles H.” is a project initiated a year after its opening that invites guests to experience Charles H.’s drinks with specialty cuisine prepared in collaboration with foreign chefs in town.

According to Keith Motsi, head bartender at Charles H. since 2019, the project has become a mutual learning experience. “For us, it is about exploring and learning from talented peers. We have learned so much from the chefs we have hosted so far,” Motsi said during an interview with The Korea Herald.

Earl Grey gimlette, a cocktail recommended for the cold season at Charles H. (Charles H.)
Earl Grey gimlette, a cocktail recommended for the cold season at Charles H. (Charles H.)
For this New Year’s Eve cocktail, Motsi suggests the Earl Grey gimlette. The Earl Grey gimlette reimagines the classic flavor and explores the age-old debate of how one should have one’s tea -- with or without milk? The bar adds an unconventional element in the form of milk pearl and Solomon’s Cordial, and adds a hint of cacao.

Motsi hopes to dispel common misconceptions about cocktails through his work at the bar.

“There is no feminine or masculine cocktail, although many ask for such,” Keith said, insisting that the fun of cocktails is not in their volume, but in the joyous mixture of spirits and ingredients the imbiber prefers.

By Kim Hae-yeon (hykim@heraldcorp.com)
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