This bustling Chinese metropolis is also one of the country’s most Western. Filled with skyscrapers, glitzy hotels, and a diverse array of restaurants serving food from around the world, Shanghai also has a budding cocktail scene. Craft cocktail bars have been steadily increasing over the last few years and the city now boasts multiple bars shaking and stirring impressive drinks. From swanky speakeasies to rooftop lounges, Shanghai's cocktails scene has something for all drink lovers. Read on for some of the best places to sip the night away.
The newest brainchild from Speak Low’s Shingo Gokan, this multi-concept space houses a restaurant, cafe, and cocktail bar: Sober Café offers small plates and all-day brunch, Sober Kitchen is a restaurant with modern takes on Chinese dishes, and Sober Society is cocktail bar, serving creations like the Godfather III made with Laphroig 10 Year Old, hojicha green tea, apricot brandy, and bitters, garnished with a chunk of candied prosciutto. Sober Company opened in 2017 and managed to land at number 45 on the World’s Best Bars list in 2019.
This speakeasy bar is hidden behind a sliding bookcase in a bartending tools shop and spans multiple floors, each with their own concept—the higher you go, the pricier and swankier it gets. The first bar is lively, with solid cocktails. To get into the second bar, go up another flight of stairs and find the city you’re in on the map and press the button—voila! The third bar is the most exclusive, a Japanese whiskey members-only bar. This bar is one of two owned in the city by Japanese bartending genius Shingo Gokan and is number 35 on the 2019 World’s 50 Best Bars list.
Union Trading Company
This unassuming spot has been quietly serving handcrafted cocktails for five years on a quiet corner in the Xuhui district. The extensive menu offers creative and tasty concoctions, many of which are on tap and include homemade infusions, like The Inquisitor, made with London Dry Gin, PX Sherry, lime, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and a lager, garnished with a bouquet of mint. If you’re feeling puckish, call for an order of the Sichuan spice chicken, fried chicken tenders strewn with hot peppers and mouth-numbing Sichuan peppercorns.
The Prohibition-era of the United States is the inspiration here and it’s easy to tell when you notice the tin roof ceilings, wood paneling, and menu stacked with classic cocktails like a Bee’s Knees, Negroni, and Vieux Carre. There are also a couple of house-aged cocktails, including a barrel-aged negroni and a barrel-aged maple old fashioned.
Take the elevator up to the rooftop of the Peninsula Hotel on the Bund and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic skyline views, cozy red blankets, and a lengthy mix-and-match gin & tonic cocktail menu. First, choose your gin from options like Peddlers Shanghai, Monkey 47, Kew Organic, and Ki No Bi Kyoto Dry. Then select a tonic like east Imperial Burma Tonic or Fevertree Indian Tonic. Finally add fruits and botanicals like cucumber, grapefruit, basil, ginger, pink peppercorns, and coriander. Other cocktails and a robust whiskey list are also available and if you’re staying sober, you can try one of the nine spring waters on the menu.
The theme here is plants, and the drinks reflect that, with ingredients like fresh herbs, edible flowers, and lemongrass. There’s also a lengthy bourbon list and some craft beers as well. The décor is futuristic, a kind of science lab meets greenhouse with a lovely living plant wall. Grab a seat at the long bar or snag a spot on the cozy, bright blue couch.
Yes, this is a roller rink, complete with skate rentals, neon lights, and ’80s music coming through the speakers. But it’s also a great place for craft cocktails, especially if you’re after the rum-filled tiki variety. Try the Abstract Mojito, made with a honey-grapefruit-truffle syrup, or the Tikki Riink, which mixes cherry-infused cognac with pineapple rum.
The Odd Couple
This tiny bar is a partnership between Shanghai favorite Shingo Gokan and US mixologist Steve Schneider, formerly of Employees Only. Opened in March 2019, the neon-light-filled space is 1980s-inspired, with a wall of compact discs and an LED screen projecting Pac-Man. Drinks are also retro, with a Long Island iced tea on the menu, as well as an espresso martini—scented with truffles.