There isn't a shortage of bars in Shanghai, but the oversaturated market can mean it's tough for a newcomer to tell the good eggs from the bad. So we got down to crafting our own Shanghai drinks bible; without further ado, here's City Weekend's carefully curated list of the best cocktail bars in the city.
Address: 2/F, 268 Wukang Lu (near Hunan Lu) 武康路268弄2楼 (近湖南路)
For a drinking experience like no other, you could do worse than the loosely Qing Dynasty-themed Taste Buds Cocktail Palace, helmed by famed mixologist Daniel An. All of the drinks on the extensive menu (and extensive is putting it lightly) come with pleasingly unexpected presentations, endearing embelishments and a creative use of ingredients. Two nice patios are attached to the space, with interiors stuffed full of palatial furnishings and flamboyant color combinations that sound gaudy on paper but work surprisingly well in reality. This is matched by a level of service that, unfortunately, comes far too infrequently in Shanghai, with waitstaff that are courteous and attentive. All that comes at a price of course, but it's a price tag we feel is wholly justified.
Address: 6/F, 130 Beijing Dong Lu (near Yuanmingyuan Lu) 北京东路130号6楼 (近圆明园路)
This cocktail bar, backed by Grey Goose and MUSE Group, was one of the most exciting openings of 2014, largely thanks to their exceptional drinks menu. The bar team is led by Carson Xie, previously of Park Hyatt and an international finalist in the Bacardi Legacy Cocktal Competition. Standout drinks on the roster include La Rouge, Birds of Hermes and Viking's Breath, which show a refreshingly daring approach to the art of cocktail making. Even better, the drinks are below what you'd normally pay in this part of town, and together with a great selection of Nordic-inspired food (and one of the best oysters deal in town), it's no wonder it's so popular.
Address: 64 Fenyang Lu (near Fuxing Zhong Lu) 汾阳路64号 (近复兴中路)
The brains behind Union Trading Company are the stuff of Shanghai's F&B dreams—celebrity chef Austin Hu and mixologist Yao Lu pools their skills together for an impressive package of an extensive, well-crafted cocktail menu highlighted with a selection of delicious bar snacks. Drinks run gamut, from signature creations concocted by the bar staff to well-loved classics and gems salvaged by Yao Lu from the forgotten past. These are enlivened by entertaining descriptions, and the menu is switched up every few months to keep things fresh and appropriate for the season. For all that, there is something refreshingly unpretentious about the place - its interior design is sharp, yet welcoming and unfussy.
Address: 3/F, 99 Taixing Lu (near Wujiang Lu) 泰兴路99号3楼 (近吴江路)
The most recent nightspot from the el Willy group shares sibling el Coctel's devotion to highly crafted artisanal cocktails. The bartenders make use of homemade ingredients (like freshly smoked mezcal) in their list of creative originals, and are happy to make recommendations based on your palate. The interior reveals itself in the romantic attic space thanks to playful details and an intriguing music-nerd soundtrack. Of the cocktails on offer, the crisp and pungently gingery Gin Gin Mule serves as a perfect after-dinner stomach-settler, while the spicy, tomato water-based Rockin' Girl has a unique and surprisingly complex flavor. Any drink on the menu is an unexpected treat and the options change regularly, while the snack menu features everything from tapas to beef noodles.
Address: 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu (near Ruijin Er Lu) 复兴中路579弄 (近瑞金二路)
The last few years have seen a rash of Prohibition-style bars, to the point where the concept is wearing a bit thin. But some bars have the quality to rise above any such accusations, and Speak Low is certainly one of them. This hidden spot comes with a concealed entrance in a bookshelf in an otherwise ordinary looking shop. Once inside, you'll find a cozy second floor with meticulously prepared drinks. On this floor, the menu sticks to the standards, but ascend to the third floor for a truly premium experience. Standouts here include the bar's namesake cocktail (which mixologist and owner Shingo Gokan used to win the Bacardi Global Legacy Cocktail Competition in 2012), as well as the Cheek to Cheek, East of the Sun and Banana Foster Fashioned. The thought and care invested in the menu and service comes at a price, but as one of the city's finest establishments, it's most definitely worth it.
Address: 98 Wuyuan Lu (near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu) 武圆路98弄(近乌鲁木齐中路)
Owned by Michael Huang of Sichuan Citizen and Citizen Cafe, this excellent watring hole opened with little fanfare on the quiet corner on Wuyuan Lu, behind shuttered windows and without any signage to clue people in to its location (in true speakeasy fashion). Yet it steadily built up a loyal following as its reputation for strong, quality cocktails and tasty snacks grew. Today, it's a go-to for night owls seeking a place to catch up with friends or to impress. The interior is all dark wood tables and booths with warm burgundy and orange details. The ceilings are a special feature, as decoratively hammered aluminum tiles reflecting a warm glow on the patrons below. Order yourself an Old Fashioned and relax in the atmospheric surroundings.
Address: 17 Gaoyou Lu (near Fuxing Xi Lu) 高邮路17弄 (近复兴西路)
Two World Class China Bartender award winners, Cross Yu and Chris Xi, run this homey cocktail bar on a quiet stretch of Gaoyou Lu. Expect both tasty original cocktails presented with flair and expertly made classic drinks. Based in a converted former French Concession building, the bar has two cozy floors sporting couches and shiny silver pillows, plus a small outdoor patio space on the third. The warm and welcoming bar spaces are open to the public, with a romantic rooftop available only by reservations. The cocktails themselves are quirky twists on classic favorites, with a recent iteration of the menu featuring unlikely ingredients like squid ink. The bartenders are also happy to chat with you about your taste preferences and make recommendations.
Address: 4/F, 2 Huashan Lu (near Yuyuan Lu) 华山路2号4楼 (近愚园路)
Shanghai is all about the Bund panorama, which does get tedious after awhile; so if you're looking for an alternative but equally beautiful view, this hidden speakeasy by local cocktail luminary Eddy Yang offers just that. Jing'an Temple across the street looms large and glitters at eye level through the window of the fourth floor space, a gorgeous view that is further emphasized by the dark and stripped down decor. In lieu of a menu, bartenders tailor each visitor a personalized drink, hence its namesake.
Address: 376 Jianguo Xi Lu (near Taiyuan Lu) 建国西路376弄 (近太原路)
Three-storey Tex-Mex bar Pocho is the epitome of a casual, friendly neighborhood drinking hole, offering a small, focused and creative drinks menu based heavily around tequila. There's a selection of beers and bourbons too, but you'll really want to sample the cocktails, some of which take their names from comic book characters. In particular, make sure you try the Michelada Watermelon Surprise or Chavela. On hand to soak it all up are a few Tex-Mex snacks, including quesadillas and delicious lotus root chips, and together with the friendly, attentive bar staff, makes this one of our favorite bars on the list.
Address: 1/F, 462 Changle Lu (near Shaanxi Nan Lu) 长乐路462号1楼 (近陕西南路)
This speakeasy-styled bar tucked away on the first floor of United Valley is the latest venture by celebrated mixologist Daniel An (Taste Buds Cocktail Palace fame). The Catholic-themed bar is intimate and low-lit in a way that is ironically fit for sinful deeds, decorated with pops of animal pillows and playing card wallpaper. The menu sees a selection of numbered signature cocktails, plus a list of oft-overlooked 'vintage' cocktails with their histories written out beneath them. We recommend the Shrine No. 13, blending Irish whiskey, cinnamon and pineapple in a foamy mixture that goes down like fruit punch, and the vodka-based Shrine No. 7, sweet with a sour bite.
Address: 3/F, 46 Maoming Na Lu (near Jinxian Lu) 茂名南路46号3楼 (近进贤路)
Shake is a hip 1960s Mad Men-style supper club featuring retro chic vibes with classic soul and funk music, plus regular sets of live music (their sound system is amazing). The dinner menu includes a range of Asian-fusion sharing plates, headed by chef Danyi Gao, who had previously worked at Mr & Mrs Bund and Calypso. Behind the bar is Colin Tait, a veteran bartender who recently managed the cocktails at Bangkok's Vesper, which was named the best bar in Thailand and the 17th best bar in Asia. In short, the cocktails are stellar and the atmosphere smooth, making it one of the hottest new openings of the year.
Address: 2/F, 99 Taixing Lu (near Wujiang Lu) 泰兴路99弄2楼 (近吴江路)
Coming from Logan Brouse, former bar manager of M1NT and Muse, Logan's Punch combines a certain rowdiness with a bit of retro chic. That boisterous atmosphere comes from the music being played at club-worthy volume levels, free cigarettes, iconic party movies screened on a projector and patrons who aren't averse to keeping things going long after most other bars have called it quits. Each of the rooms also come with an antique telephone that you can use to put through your order. True to the bar's name, a range of top-quality punches are available, such as the Salted Caramel Old Fashioned.
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