Ruby Wong's Godown Is Sure to Shake and Stir Manila's Cocktail Scene

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
You will find all sorts of interesting places in Manila nowadays—from cafés tucked in 400-year old cisterns to rooftop restaurants adjacent to cathedrals—but I have to say that my newest discovery, a speakeasy hidden at the basement of a luxury hotel is easily my favorite. Ruby Wong’s Godown, situated at the Admiral Hotel Manila, playacts as a noodle bar, but a detour into the elaborate doors on the left transports you to a different time and place.

Even before you reach this noodle bar, you must go through a secret door—a bookshelf right at the hotel lobby. It then opens into a space where you are given two options: take the stairs or ride the elevator. I suggest the former as it gives you a chance to slowly marvel at the new world being revealed to you.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
The design at Ruby Wong’s is undeniably Chinese: from the red curtains and lamps to the cushioned booths and wall detailing. Everything looks lavish down to the ornate details—even the uniforms. It feels like an underground Chinese bar, an Asian prohibition, a refuge for drinkers during a certain era. War-time, perhaps, as suggested by some things from the libations menu. Whatever era it is, I just need my own sanctuary, and I certainly found it here at Ruby Wong’s.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
It’s so easy to get lost in this secret bar, so easy to forget that the chaotic Manila roads are just a few steps away. Some places have that magic, that power to transport you and Ruby Wong’s is such a place. Wherever you choose to sit, I’m positive you will have a great time, but I highly suggest you scoot over to the bar and talk to the men behind.

I met bartenders John Silva and Wil Bautista when I sat there to drink. Initially my friends and I were on a table but they left early and I stayed behind to sample some more. Naturally, I wanted to talk to the bartenders and get insights about the drinks—so I had a chance to chat with these talented guys. I understood the concoctions better, and they helped me choose my poisons.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
If you’re a fan or sour and smoky drinks, the Fiery Dragon is sure to delight with its bell pepper, lime, and grapefruit flavors, punctuated by firewater tincture—giving the drink a touch of heat. The drink is also rimmed with Sriracha salt, upping the spice level a notch more. To elevate each sip even further, this cocktail is smoked, but not too heavily, just enough to bring out and complement the mezcal, the base of this drink.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
John puts a twist on the classic cocktail, paloma, with the Quirk N’ Squirt. I must say I’m not a big fan of paloma, but this reinterpretation is solid. There’s dragonfruit-infused tequila mixed with grapefruit cordial and lime, then topped with elderflower tonic. A tower of salted dragonfruit air sits on top. How to drink this spectacle? You’re supposed to stick your nose right there into the bubbles and take a sip, making sure you’re getting some of the black olive salt on the rim as well. If you get all the components together, I swear, it tastes incredible. And the drink just keeps getting better as you finish it because the elderflower kind of settles below!

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
A riff on Bee’s Knees, the Flying Ganesh is another must-try. Dragonfruit is introduced to the usual gin-lemon-honey combination, giving the drink another layer of tartness and sweetness. There’s also some blended whisky and thyme liqueur, steering the drink away a bit from that “candy” flavor profile.

Ruby WRuby Wong's Godown Admiral Manilaong's Godown Admiral Manila
It’s all about playfulness with the Ruby’s Rehab—a drink that resembles a rootbeer float with limes. It has rum, homemade calamancello (like a limoncello, but using calamansi), lime juice, pandan, and a spiced sarsaparilla foam. On the side, a lime jelly replaces the actual fruit. I would never have thought of these flavors together but they work so well—the drink was gone in sixty seconds.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
The Rising Sun is a complex drink and it reflects the story behind it. If you like cocktails that tends to be a little on the bitter side, you will enjoy this one. It has yuzu gin, umeshu, lime, and blossom bitters so it’s both sour and bitter. A nori sheet garnish provides some aroma. For a light and refreshing option, try the Pawpaw Morning Wood which has vodka, lime, and papaya. Although this one, I thought lacked a distinct personality.

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
If you’re feeling adventurous, the barmen can definitely whip up a bespoke drink for you. I asked Wil if he could make me a smoked apple pie-inspired drink and he definitely could. I got a fascinating rendition of the old fashioned, featuring Sazerac rye whisky, maple, and carbonated apple juice, finished with smoked cinnamon and garnished with an orange peel. You can’t tell that it’s an apple pie drink from its appearance, but it definitely tastes like a smoky apple pie, as requested! And no, this drink is not too sweet (you know me).

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila

Of course, if you’re simply in the mood for the classics, you can certainly order them. I got a White Lady as recommended by John, but he put some twist to it by adding raspberry and bitters. Just might be a new addition to my growing list of favorite gin cocktails!

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
The food, although delicious, needs more spunk if they were to be on the same level as the libations—although I completely understand that they are accompaniments to the drinks and not the stars in this venue. The Battered Soft Shell Crab is a little bland and the batter we got was a little chewy; the Thai Fish Cakes could use more herbs (and perhaps a sauce, although the avocado and mango situation underneath was good); and the Lumpiang Shanghai was given a twist with duck liver, duck confit, and plum sauce. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad. It’s just my annoying habit of always looking for the extremely good, the wildly delicious, the orgasm-inducing. They were not. Their adobo peanuts, I must mention though, is so addicting with its sourness and mild spiciness!

Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
Ruby Wong's Godown Admiral Manila
I had initially thought of not writing about Ruby Wong’s, of keeping it to myself until some TikTok video of it goes viral, but a place as beautiful as this deserves to be known by the people who I know would truly appreciate it. The drinks are innovative, and I always appreciate when a lot of thought was poured into anything served to me. This bar is definitely my kind of place, and I can’t wait to get lost inside its lavish walls once again.

Ruby Wong's Godown
Basement Level, Admiral Hotel Manila, 2138 Roxas Blvd, Malate, Manila
Budget: around PhP2,000

Have you been to Ruby Wong's? What do you think of their cocktails?

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