The beat in Shanghai never stops, which is why it’s truly considered one of the more exciting cocktail cities in the world right now. Just like how the classic song “夜上海” (Ye Shanghai) sings about the early beginnings of the city’s glitzy nightlife, the tempo never lull with increasingly trendy cocktail bars popping up over the years.
Birds of Paradise
Birds of Paradise sounds like a perfect name for a tiki bar, let alone one that also serves up Polynesian-inspired grub. Steered by industry luminaries Yao Lu of Union Trading Co. and Austin Hu of Heritage by Madison, this quirky laidback establishment on Yanping Lu playfully toes the line between cheekiness and retro fun (look out for the large collection of Hawaiian shirts). You’ll find tropical standards like the Mai Tai and Suffering Bastard, but it’s the original drinks by Lu that has our attention. Think a ceramic Hermit (RMB95) crab filled with a concoction of hawthorn marmalade, absinthe, and yoghurt with powdered sour plum on the straw rim.
Birds of Paradise is located at 98 Yanping Lu, near Wuding Lu, Shanghai, China, p. +86 21 6260 7587. Open daily 12pm – 2am.
The epitome of Chinese speakeasies when it opened in 2014, Speak Low still holds its spot for being one of the best in the city. The only bar in mainland China that clinched a spot in the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2016, the bar has been carrying its winning formula forward through the years, and serves as an inspiration for many bars that have opened in the city since. Find the entrance at the back of a fake bar supplies shop to discover a three-level cocktail heaven, each with a distinct contrast. With expert concoctions by Japanese mixologist Shingo Gokan, it’s not hard to understand why guests return to this elegant venue.
Speak Low is located at 579 Fuxing Zhonglu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China, p. +86 21 6416 0133. Open Sun-Thu 6pm – 2am, Fri-Sat 6pm – 3am.
Epic is the kind of upscale cocktail lounge that’s good for a classy date night. Headed by industry veteran Cross Yu, who’s been mixing at Muse on the Bund for the last few years, the deceptively large space spans across three floors, so you might have to wait a while for your drink. Whether you’re on the intimate roof terrace or bar room, the cocktails are fairly straightforward: top-notch and well-considered concoctions derived from the standards. For one, their Penicillin features a housemade honey-ginger syrup that tones down on the medicinal punch. Alternatively, Yu’s signature Move West is a pleasant whisky-based drink with coffee and fruit.
EPIC is located at 17 Gaoyou Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China, p. +86 5411 1189. Open daily 6pm – late.
LAB Whisky & Cocktail
An anchor bar along Wuding Lu since 2013, Lab is a charming and suave two-level bar. A backdrop of illuminated wall of bottles makes an impressive impression of the well-thought out interiors, and for what’s to come from the bar. As the name obviously states, the focus is on whiskies. Order a bottle to begin a nice long evening in the popular bar, or a cocktail like the signature Kyoto, a lovely whisky-base cocktail balanced with Japanese matcha. Perfect for a wind-down after work or romantic night out.
LAB Whisky & Cocktail is located at 1093 Wuding Lu, Near Jiaozhou Lu, Jingan District, Shanghai, China, p. +86 21 6255 1195. Open daily 6pm – 2am.
Barules Cocktail Club
Barules, like countless other speakeasies, is hidden behind a bright red English-style phone booth. It’s a little conspicuous for something in this part of the world, but it’s a place that’s actually good. There are variations on classics, like a St. Rooise Sidecar with fresh fruit and rooibos tea leaves, alongside signature creations such as the Boyhood, blending Barules’ own ginger beer with Dewar’s White Label Whisky and Suntory’s grape liqueur Kyoho Murasaki.
Barules Cocktail Club is located at 51 Fenyang Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China, +86 138 1713 1574. Open daily 8pm – 2am.
Punch might technically be the wonderful precursor to the modern cocktail, but here at the Punch Room, the drinks come jazzed up like their cousins over in London and Barcelona. This sophisticated reincarnation of a 19th-century gentlemen’s club in London is reservations-only, but it’s worth the extra effort for an intimate night away from the bustling Bund. The magical Coconut Coffee Punch is always sweet fun, but hotter nights call for a zesty lime and grapefruit juice Mexico City Punch, or a Rum Punch with Diplomatico Planas and Mantuano rums, blended tea, honey essence and lemon.
Punch Room is located at 28/F, Heritage Building, 199 Nanjing Road East, Shanghai, China, p. +86 21 5368 9999. Open daily 5.30pm – 2am.
Sober Company is separated into three concepts (Sober Cafe, Sober Kitchen, and Sober Society), but really, any of them are good for a solid tipple prepared by primarily Japanese bartenders. In fact, the mastermind behind Sober is the same man behind Speak Low, Shingo Gokan. Once you’ve enjoyed drinks like an Oolong High or a Hojicha Whisky Sour, collect a token from each of the three spaces to gain access into a hidden speakeasy, Tipsy, inside. We wouldn’t do it any other way.
Sober Company is located at 99 Yandang Lu, near Nanchang Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China. Open Sun-Thu 10am – 2am, Fri-Sat 10am – 3am.
It’s always aperitivo time at Arch, the two-in-one bar from dream team Daniel An and Vincenzo Pagliara (formerly of ZUK Bar). Ready with modern oriental elegance and Instagram-ready wall of bottles behind the bar, drinks here are a melding of Eastern and Western flavours, like an easy yuzu soda with Malfy gin and Cocchi Americano. At the back is where they play with fancier craft cocktails that utilise all sorts of distillates and infusions — sometimes a bourbon with hawthorn wine, buckwheat, and tonka bean, or gin with oxidised fennel Riesling, grilled lemon, and strawberry gomme syrup.
Arch is located at 688 Shaanxi Bei Lu, near Kangding Lu, Shanghai, China, p. +86 138 1802 1597. Open daily 2pm – 3am.
Also launched by prolific cocktail bar maestro Daniel An, Atelier caters to Shanghai’s elite drinkers with cool barrel-aged cocktail creations and wines. It’s a tad gimmicky, but you can’t deny using a blow torch to reveal a hidden cocktail menu is quite the sight. A chic wraparound bar with plenty of copper and exposed concrete serves up sensible and unique liquors to the mostly formally-dressed, like the Truffle Chocolate with black truffle-infused Chivas Regal 12, chocolate syrup, lemon juice, and chocolate bitters.
Atelier is located at 758 Julu Lu, near Fumin Lu, Jingan District, Shanghai, China. Open daily 6pm – 2am.
The Odd Couple
The eponymous Odd Couple is speakeasy-king Shingo Gokan, who you’ll remember from Speak Low, and his longtime colleague Steve Schneider, the legendary New York City bartender who later opened Employees Only in Singapore. You could also say they’re also rivals, as you might glimpse from the menu at this very red retro-futuristic bar: Steve makes a cocktail to his taste, and Shingo plays off the same flavours with his own interpretation. In an example, the former’s Sound Off! clarified cocktail of rum, cinnamon, and earl grey is pitted against the latter’s Speak Loud, marrying bubble tea and match with rum and sherry. Fun!
The Odd Couple is located at No. 25, Lane 181 Taicang Lu, near Xingye Road, Shanghai, China. Open daily 8pm – 4am.
The Union Trading Company
The Union Trading Company promises great menus and big laughter, and is the brainchild of chef and restaurateur Austin Hu and cocktail veteran Yao Lu. The casual and relaxed cocktail lounge spreads itself out across two narrow but cozy levels, serving both inventive cocktails and good ol’ classics. Drinks are consistently good and stiff with a mix of classics, creative seasonal specials, and barrel-aged cocktails, perfect with an original menu of hearty bar snacks that get their own legion of fans.
The Union Trading Company is located at 64 Fenyang Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China, p. +86 21 6418 3077. Open daily 6pm – 2am.
Top Image: Sober Company
Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.