It's winter again and China's answer to the young Beaujolis - a sort of Nouveau Great Wall - is being quaffed in ritzy hotels where the foreign business community lives.
Outside, locals are mostly preoccupied glumly with laying in winter stores of coal and cabbages.Yet it is no longer only privileged foreigners who can enjoy some high life: Peking's entrepreneurial class is getting out and making the most of a blossoming social scene.
A big evening of night clubbing starts with sauna and massage at the local equivalent of a health club. Qinghua Baths, a brief rickshaw ride from Tiananmen Square, offers Finnish sauna, Chinese massage and steam plus pedicure for around US$4.
I can now afford to come here two or three times a week these days. I like to sweat - it's so dry in Peking, observes a steam-shrouded figure who opened his own restaurant two months ago.
All the people who come here are taxi drivers or 'getihu' (private enterprise households), explains chief masseur Zhao as he kneads pressure points.
They're the ones with money and they like to throw it around. They gamble a lot, too. Last week one told me he lost 2,000 yuan (US$40) in one night, he recalls.
This being China, the baths are not just for trendy restauranteurs; many individuals don't have them at home. Part of the complex doubles up as a hostel at night.
After one's bath, the hot social spot is newly opened Yueyou Jiuba (literally, Music Amid Amity) wine bar, which appears to cater entirely to young folks on the prowl.
I make 5,000 yuan (US$1,400) a month from my restaurant - and I try to spend it all, boasts one fellow sporting a British-made training suit and bouffant hairstyle.
For the jaded palates of Yueyou's clientele, the menu lists chicken curry (under the somewhat grand heading of Table d'Hote); the drinks list includes vermouth and port.
Ostensibly a Japanese-style karaoke bar, where clients are welcome to sing into a microphone, the Yueyou is run by the Musicians' Society in cooperation with the Public Security Bureau (state police), which is purported to have
investments in a number of Peking hotels and restaurants.
We have good relations with them. If there's any fighting, we phone them and they come immediately, says a waiter.
Obtaining foreign cigarettes seems to be the consuming passion among the customers. Foreigners are constantly pestered to change money.
Smoking has become a major health threat in China, where 70 percent of men smoke and coronary heart disease is the No. 1 killer.
The Yueyou is one of a growing number of night spots open past 11 p.m., something unheard of only a few years ago.
It hasn't all gone without incident. The popular Yile, with its own floor show, was closed because of of rowdy behavior by customers despite the presence of a few bouncers at the door.
Whistling greeted the star singer, an exuberant, heavily made-up lady in red velvet cape, as she crooned Hong Kong pop songs with lines like: If you were the sea, I'd be the beach forever by your side.
The New Times cocktail bar boasts Cuba Libre, Gin Fiz, Saucy Sue, Black Russian, Manhattans - and hamburgers; it has been joined by the Ya Yuan (Elegant Garden) cocktail bar, which stays open till midnight.
In keeping with the growth of private enterprise, pimps have returned to the streets confident enough to tout for business outside the Friendship Store, where the foreign community shops. Prostitutes are to be found drinking coffee in the bars of the Western hotels.
It's all a far cry from Mao's orthodoxy and the all-enveloping tunics.