From circus bars to burlesque theaters to cross-dressing cosplay restaurants to nightclubs shaped like airliners and staffed with women in flight attendant uniforms, Shanghai has seen plenty of nightlife gimmicks. So when a craft cocktail bar / magic theater opens it’s hard not to roll your eyes. A lot of things come to mind when you hear that concept: tophats, capes, magic wands, rabbits out of hats, beautiful assistants sawed in half, Europe's chart-topping hit, "The Final Countdown" or, even worse, this guy
But like any good illusionist, Anson Chen, the heir to the Bund 18 fortune and owner of Blackstone, pounces on your skepticism and quickly gains your trust. Before long, you’re falling hook line and sinker for card tricks, making cocktails disappear, getting buzzed and loving every minute of it. Cocktail specialist Chris Xi (formerly of Epic) makes the mind more pliable and susceptible to illusion with the cocktail list. Signature drinks are allusions to famous illusions and misdirections. They're new drinks named after the oldest tricks in the book, like the “Classic Force,” a sweet and deceptively strong mix of brandy, maraschino, lemon juice and bitters with a foamy peak on top (RMB95).
Or there is the “Milk Can,” which gets its name from a famous Houdini escape act. It's an elaborate, creamy concoction made with turmeric-infused rum, custard apple puree, coconut cream, sago and a crown of toasted meringue (RMB95).
These are supplemented with a list of familiar classics like the old fashioned and the martini, too (both RMB80). You can drink all of the above at the bar a la carte. But the main event here is the regular magic shows that they put on in a small amphitheater behind a curtain on Friday and Saturday evenings. That's RMB240 per person, and the cost includes one drink. When there isn't a show, they have magicians working the floor with card tricks, and they put on mini performances behind the bar. We've yet to see a proper show, but we've seen the magicians work the floor, and they're pretty great—very professional. Chen is hoping that Blackstone will become a stop on the magician circuit. So if the word gets out, expect ever more international acts coming in, too.
For obvious reasons, don’t count on this place being your regular watering hole. Do you want to be asked to pick a card, any card every time you get your drink on? Probably not. Still, it’s a good time and worth a visit, especially if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking to wow some out-of-towners.
Where: Blackstone Magic Bar
Address: Found 158, 158 Julu Lu (near Ruijin Lu) 巨鹿路158号B1层5152 (近瑞金路)
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