Bar Hopping: New Drinking Spots For Summer

A legion of new bars has opened up over the past couple months, most of them complete with sun-drenched porches just in time for Shanghai’s drinking weather season. Find your new favourite watering hole in town with Talk’s round-up, including all the info you need to know before you order your next round.
Union Trading Company
A down-home American bar, Union, brings together the culinary talents of Chef Austin Hu (Madison) and mixing madness of bartender Yao Lu (Alchemist, The Public). Although the inspiration is Prohibition-esque, don’t expect a speakeasy environment. Originally planned as a casual industry joint for an after service sip and bite, the idea has evolved into a place to build a community of regulars who come together for the love of good food and good drinks. Small plates of Southern-inspired comfort food will whet your appetite, while classic mixed drinks will wet your whistle. And some more good news: the whole bar will be non-smoking.
Opening Date: Bringing people together since late May
Damage: Cocktails RMB 65 – RMB 95, Barrel-Aged Drinks RMB 120
Signature Cocktail: Dead Man’s Gun (RMB 120). Made with ten year old Talisker whiskey and Famous Grouse Blended Scotch, this complex barrelaged cocktail steeped with Dollin Blanc vermouth, Benedictine liqueur and Angostura Bitters in a Russian oak barrel for a month before being poured over ice.
Signature Dish: Red Velvet Donut Holes (RMB 48). A modern spin on a Southern classic, these cake donuts coloured by beets and cocoa powder are sinfully encrusted in cinnamon sugar and served with rich cream cheese dipping sauce.
Drink Specials: Century Club. With a master cocktail list numbering 100, Shanghai’s most prolific imbibers are invited to drink their way through the menu. The reward for all that inebriation? A glass with your name etched on it and, inevitably, a fatty liver stamp on your next physical.
Union Trading Company. 64-2 Fenyang Lu, near Fuxing Lu
The little sister restaurant to Mexican favourite Maya, the Mexi/Cali-inspired lounge took over the space (and that epic terrace) from Fat Olive in Silver Court this March. Operating under the philosophy “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the menu and the drinks list are similar to Maya, although they’ve pared it down to the most popular orders from the original location, with a few new twists and a great view of the Shanghai Tower as it nears completion. You’ll want to spend your weekend downing bottomless sangrias and margaritas at their huevos brunch.
Opening Date: Sunning since early April
Damage: Cocktails RMB 58 – RMB 100
Signature Cocktail: The Killer (RMB 100/glass, RMB 500/jug). This deluxe version of Tommy’s Margarita uses 1800 blanco tequila, agave sec, agave nectar, limejuice and Gran Marnier. The rim is dipped in pink river sea salt.
Signature Dish: Bacon & Blue Cheese Quesadilla (RMB 52). With just enough blue cheese for a subtle funk, this folded tortilla is overflowing with house-cured bacon and sweet caramelised onions.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: weekdays from 5pm to 6:30pm. Standard cocktails and beer are buy one get one free.
Mayita. 6/F, 228 Xizang Nan Lu, near Shouning Lu. Tel: 6334 3288
This Yongkang Lu late night spot might be two years old, but a recent renovation, menu revamp and an excellent addition to their staff means that it’s time to check it out all over again and meet Becky Lam. The bar maven known for her work on Quinary, one the World’s 50 Best Bars from Hong Kong, has brought her expertise at distillation to the already infusion-heavy menu, as well as some much-needed femininity to the décor and a menu of fresh dips and desserts on the second floor.
Opening Date: Infusing (again) since April
Damage: Cocktails RMB 58 – RMB 98.
Signature Drink: Jasmine Phoenix (RMB 68). A refreshingly springy (and deceptively potent) cocktail that mixes Ketel One vodka infused with jasmine tea alongside maraschino and limoncello liqueur and sprigs of fresh mint.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: daily from 5pm to 7:30pm. 2-for-1 on mixed drinks. From 5-9pm, select specialty drinks will be RMB 45.
Ginseng. 39 Yongkang Lu, near Jiashan Lu. Tel: 6416 0069
Tiki China
With a name that gets straight to the point, this soon-to-open bar maximises SEO while underscoring the fact it’s the only tiki bar in the country (unless Bund Beach’s Tiki Bar reopens). Helmed by Jackie Ho (two-time winner of Asia’s Best Bartender competition and formerly of Cvrve), this bar will use only fresh fruit juice and boasts the largest collection of rum in China (at least 80 bottles). The food will be distinctly Polynesian – chargrilled pork and seafood – and expect a good burger as the chef is formerly of Gourmet Café and they’re importing beef from the beautiful country (Sh! Don’t tell!).
Opening Date: Expect mai-tais in early to mid June
Damage: RMB 50 (house pours) – RMB 600 (per glass for aged rum).
Signature Cocktail: Candied Zombie (RMB 88): Three types of rum (candied date infused, dark and golden) swirl together in this dangerously potent drink designed to raise the dead. Pineapple and apricot syrup add sweetness and a splash of baijiu will bring you back to life.
Signature Dish: BBQ Mud Crab (RMB 98 for whole crab). Pick your crustacean from the live seafood tanks and the chef will kill it and grill it for you.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: daily from 5pm to 8pm. Rail drinks for RMB 27. Weekly corkage free night.
Tiki China. Hengshan Fang. Hengshan Lu, near Tianping Lu
Just one floor down from T for Thai’s tuk tuk display, Cu2+ is the younger, more playful version of next door Cuivre – just look at the menu with small bites brought in from both the more food-focused venues for confirmation. The stools are covered in G Star Raw Denim and hard-backed chairs are lined up like movie theatre rows. For your viewing pleasure: Tin Tin-inspired comics on the walls and a small terrace for people watching. A rotating list of house cocktails is designed to be the perfect pre- or postdinner drink at the neighbouring eateries.
Opening Date: Adding to the experience since mid-April
Damage: Cocktails RMB 68, Aperitifs RMB 35, Beers RMB 45 – RMB 60.
Signature Cocktail: Fruit Ninja (RMB 68). This invigorating cocktail combines Hendricks and Get 27 (mint liqueur) with cucumber and mint, along with just enough freshly ground, tingly wasabi to wake up your taste buds.
Signature Dish: Pumpkin Wagyu Tartine (RMB 48). A cross between a pizza and an open-faced sandwich, the excellent crusty bread is topped with beef, black olives, charred bell peppers, basil and pumpkin, then finished with a gooey layer of mozzarella.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: 6pm to 8:30pm.
Cocktails RMB 48, Aperitifs RMB 25, Beers RMB 25 – RMB 40.
Cu2+. 1,502 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Wulumuqi Lu
Replacing O’Cocktail after it couldn’t quite find its footing last year, L’Etage is a mojito bar with more than 30 twists on the Cuban highball (and they’ve kept a dozen or so of Yao Lu’s cocktails from the O menu). You’ll smell the mint as soon as you open the door – one wall is adorned with four seasonal varieties and pots of the herb are table centrepieces. They plan to change the menu with the seasons, so expect mojito-inspired teas once the temperature drops, but for now it’s all about fresh fruit infusions to be sipped on their breezy patio.
Opening Date: Muddling since mid-April
Damage: Mojitos: RMB 40 – RMB 120
Signature Cocktail: Mojito Margarita (RMB 75). If you like your mojito shaken, not muddled, then try this twist on the classic mint dish that adds bitters and some lemon juice.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: RMB 45 for creative cocktails and RMB 70 for a one-litre classic mojito jug from 6pm to 8pm weekdays.
L’Etage. 2/F, 167 Yanping Lu, near Wuding Lu. Tel: 6418 1715
Liquid Laundry
The latest in the Kelley Lee empire, LL is a refined take on Boxing Cat Brewery. The massive 700 square meter gastro pub is all dark wood and burnished metal chains – it glows after the lights go down and pops when the sun shines through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The menu is high-end comfort food with woodfired pizza ovens, rotisserie chicken and house made charcuterie. Vats of Liquid Laundry beers come courtesy of BCB head brewer, Michael Jordan, and pump into several of the 15 taps behind the bar. These are session beers, while BCB’s craft pints and imports round out the rest of the pours.
Opening Date: Brewing since late April
Damage: Beers RMB 40 – RMB 110, Cocktails RMB 75 – RMB 80 Signature Drink: Cucumber Cooler (RMB 75). Described as a “liquid face mask”, this sweet cocktail mixes Ketel One vodka with lime, mint and cucumber for a
flavour not unlike a freezer pop made for adults.
Signature Dish: Seared Yellowtail (RMB 98). A quick turn on a hot grill is all this fish needs – well, that and sliced avocado, pine nuts, pumpkin and Asian pear. Puffed black rice and fried shallots add crunch to round it out.
Drink Specials: Happy Hour: daily from 5pm to 7pm. Beers RMB 30, Cocktails RMB 50.
Liquid Laundry. 2/F, K Wah Centre, 1,028 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Donghu Lu. Tel: 6445 9589
More June Openings
The Taixing Lu F&B complex hit some snags in construction but expect most of the bars and restaurants to open their doors come early June. We’re really looking forward to Starling. The rum-focused cocktail bar inspired by colonial Southeast Asia is a collaboration between restaurateur Brian Tan (of hoF and House of Flour fame) and barmen Adam Devermann (Mesa Manifesto, Apothecary) and Theo Watt (DRiNK magazine).
Also in the complex is El Willy’s new lounge el Ocho. Logan Brouse from Muse is opening a punch bowl concept, simply named Logan’s Punch House. Finally, the second Taphouse will open there as well, with 30 beers on tap, which we’re pretty sure is a record for Shanghai.