Shanghai has its fair share of bars and coffee shops. But what about coffee shops that turn into cocktail bars after the sun goes down? Well, that’s exactly what you’ll find at Roark—a new watering hole at SOHO Liyuan.
Labeling itself as a “speakeasy,” you might be surprised to find the bar clearly marked, in the back of an office park near the Madang Lu metro station. It’s the last place you’d think to go for a night out but a solid option for nearby office workers in need of a caffeine fix by day, or stiff drink by night. Naturally, we prefer the latter.
Roark's menu focuses on traditional cocktails and a wide selection of spirits, with a heavy focus on whiskey. Two pages are dedicated to single malt and blended varieties, with prices ranging all the way up to RMB150 for a glass of Yamazaki 12-year (RMB2,880/bottle).
For cocktails, the bartender will likely suggest something from the “special” menu. It's eight deep with drinks like Plum Soup (RMB90)—a heavy pour of bourbon mixed with dry vermouth, Kahlua and lemon juice. Described as a playful take on traditional Chinese plum wine, the only correlation we can see is in its subtle fruity notes, thanks mostly to the addition of kumquat and lime peel as a garnish.
There is the The Merry Widow (RMB95), which is reminiscent of a cosmopolitan, due to the Cointreau and lemon juice, but with amaretto, brandy and dry gin instead of vodka. A cross between a dirty martini and a Manhattan, the Dirty Smoker (RMB95) is guaranteed to get you buzzed (or drunk, depending on how much of a lightweight you are). It comes topped with a lit cinnamon stick that looks like smoldering cigar.
The Lady Mary (RMB88) is a lighter option, made with rose water, gin, maraschino, bianco, lemon juice, homemade candy grenadine and topped with a creamy foam that's dappled with bits of rose petals. It’s a delicate contrast to the sturdier cocktails without being too cloying.
However, the space lacks charm—feeling more like a sparse, coffee shop than a hip saloon, even in spite of the handsome wooden bar at its center. While Roark is certainly not the speakeasy advertised, the team behind the operation is still does top notch drinks.
Address: SOHO Liyuan, 501 Liyuan Lu (near Jumen Lu) 丽园路501号 (近局门路)
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