To Drink the Drink

Tiring of the all night drinkathons, we looked for ways to refine our enjoyment of a good night out, learning how to savour our drinks rather than shoot them down. Talk checked out a few ways around town to up your enjoyment of your libation, whether it be a beer, a wine or a cheeky cocktail.

Shanghai nightlife is known for its chug-a-lug good time. One needs only to visit a convenience store in the former French Concession on a Saturday or Sunday morning to see entire refrigerators of beer emptied and rabidly drunk revellers facing the dawn. But there’s a silent majority in Shanghai that takes things much easier, and a lot of them are interested in savouring the beverages that grace their lips, not seeing how fast they can throw them back. And Shanghai has heeded their call.

Let’s start on the brewed side of things, shall we? Shanghai now has its fair share of bottle shops and breweries offering beers that offer more than a cheap thrill. Of course, a night out at any of these venues might well prove enjoyable, but you still might not know your double IPA from your pilsner, and grow glassy eyed over a talk about hops.

Which is why Pubcrawl Shanghai’s Brewery Tour provides a tour of some of Shanghai’s most well known beer venues led by the brewmasters themselves.

It’s a somewhat ironic twist considering that these folks originally made a name for themselves for their hangover inducing Drunken Dragon pub crawls ( Nevertheless, the tour does a good job of introducing the beer making process and Shanghai’s micro beer industry. It starts with a talk on the basics of beer at Dean’s Bottle Shop (37 Shaoxing Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu), followed by a trip out to The Brew at the Kerry Hotel Pudong (1388 Huamu Lu, near Fangdian Lu) for a meet up with local brewmaster Leon Mickelson for a tour of the brewing process among the brewing tanks. The tour finally rounds off at the Boxing Cat Brewery (82 Fuxing Lu, near Yongfu Lu) for a chat with brewmaster Michael Jordan about his seasonal brews and the art of brewing.

And don’t worry, with a solid meal of pub food along the way it’s a relaxing afternoon and not an all day rager.

Pubcrawl Shanghai’s Brewery Tour. RMB 380. Web: E-mail: [email protected]


For getting a true, behind the scenes insight into the world of cocktail culture, Urban Bar’s Shaker Experience is noteworthy. Though tucked down an alley off of Wulumuqi Nan Lu, Urban Bar is anything but noticeable. The name of the place is also somewhat of a misnomer; it isn’t really a bar. And while you’ll find a fully stocked bar with a pool table when you eventually find the entrance, the facility is mostly used for training.

Walking further into the space, there’s a teaching area with eight bar stations used for educating would-be bartenders from five-star hotels or other hospitality venues around town on the art of making cocktails. And what makes the Shaker Experience particularly worthwhile is that you and your average group of friends can also learn how to make cocktails from French mixologist Geoffrey Gayton, one of the trainers at Urban Bar. Geoffrey knows his stuff; his knowledge goes from knowing how to mix ten mojitos in just one minute, to creating more specialist molecular cocktails, where libations are jellified or turned into spheres.

During our visit to the bar, Gayton taught us how to make a mean Lemongrass Martini, combining lemon juice, pineapple juice, fresh lemongrass and vodka. With all the proper ingredients and utensils on hand, mixing up one of these proved to be miles away from a shoddy house party G&T. Plus, it gave all of us an appreciation for the planning and skill that goes into fixing a good cocktail.

Urban Bar’s Shaker X-Perience (makes three cocktails). RMB 200. Lane 183 Wulumuqi Nan Lu, near Jianguo Lu. Tel: 6266 7969. Web:


Last, but not least, there’s the wine. And let’s face it, finding a place to take a wine class in Shanghai is far too easy. Looking to tap into the burgeoning Chinese wine market, practically every wine distributor in the city holds some kind of wine education class. Unfortunately however, many of them prove to be quite dry (pardon the pun).

But to our surprise, the folks at Vinosensia’s Wine School did a good job of creating a wine tasting that challenged, but didn’t bore. The wine school holds two hour sessions once a week that teach about different wines, including quizzes on wine culture and the art of tasting wine. As your humble nightlife reviewer is anything but wine-wise, the whole experience was a bit over his head, but not in a bad way. It was like looking into a wine glass at a new world (pardon the pun again).

The session began with everyone gearing up their palate by taking a sniff of some standard scents used for making perfume, etc. All of these scents were numbered and we had to guess what flavour was associated with which smell. (It’s not an easy task at all.)

After that, we were partnered up and thrown into a blind tasting, trying to match up five wines with their tasting notes. It was a big fail on my part. The difficulty wasn’t that all the wines tasted the same; far from it, the difficulty was in articulating the differences and using the correct wine lingo to describe everything. But nibbling on some hors d’oeuvres and testing out my taste buds in itself was a welcome effect, miles away from drowning them in a sea of Tsingtao.

7 - 9pm every Wednesday. RMB 200. Vinosensia Wine School. 1 Xiangyang Bei Lu, near Julu Lu. Web: E-mail: [email protected]

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