It’s official: Shanghai is now a city of booze, and the erstwhile agricultural village is heaving with pubs, craft breweries, cocktail lounges and speakeasies. Arguably the best place to grab a drink is in the Former French Concession, which is lined with a variety of first-class bars.
Overseen by cocktail superstar Yao Lu and Shanghai celebrity chef Austin Hu, the cosy, two-level Union Trading Company has been a hit since opening in 2014. Whether it’s for its inventive cocktails, unique barrel-aged whisky cocktail blends or those irresistible tachos (tater tots served nacho style), Shanghaiers just keep on coming back for more.
Liquid Laundry – a restaurant, bar, nightclub and lounge – is the brainchild of serial Shanghai entrepreneur Kelley Lee. It is home to a fully functional brewery, so home brews are on tap alongside a variety of cocktails, wines and spirits. There are DJs later in the night, too. The joint gets full fast, so it’s best to make a reservation beforehand.
This bar’s name is a nod to its two specialities: coffee and aperitifs. It’s a relaxed, often sun-soaked, minimally styled bar that’s just as good for rowdy get-togethers as it is for quality me time over a flat white. The drinks menu is short, sweet and to the point, with a handful of wines and a tight list of strong cocktails that rotates every couple of weeks. Bitter is one half of the restaurant–bar concept Bitter & Bird, with sister restaurant Bird sitting just next door.
There isn’t anything fancy about Pocho Social Club. It’s a small, Latin-inspired bar with good, reasonably priced drinks and a chilled-out vibe. It is widely renowned for micheladas so strong they’ll knock you off your chair (if you’ve found a chair, that is: the bar is on three levels, but it’s as narrow as a shoebox). Try the Earl-gini, a negroni made with earl grey tea.
Funkadeli is always packed. Always. Packed mostly with Western visitors who spill out onto the sidewalk and street. Formerly an Italian deli, Funkadeli offers beers, wines and cocktails and also does a fine line in gin and tonics. When you get peckish, you can take your pick from a range of Italian bar snacks.
A three-in-one concept: Sober Café, Sober Kitchen and Sober Society. The Sober Café, on the first floor, serves breakfast, small bites and coffee-based cocktails. Sober Kitchen and Sober Society are on the second floor, with the former a smart, stylish cocktail bar that whips up fun, daring and startlingly strong cocktails. Prices may be a bit steep, but you can rest assured that everything will be just so, from the the size and shape of the ice cubes and glasses to the meticulously sourced ingredients.
Once upon a time, Bar Constellation was a locals-only spot. But now, nearly two decades and six locations later, it’s anything but. One thing hasn’t changed, though: it’s still one of the best places in Shanghai for a solid drink. It has an extensive spirits menu, a strong cocktail list and a quite magnificent whisky range, with more than 500 single malts to choose from.
Botanist is one of the most unique bars in Shanghai. It whips up nature-inspired cocktails and serves them in peculiar, oddly artistic vessels, including specially crafted glasses, light bulbs and soil pots. The drinks are strong yet delicious, and the atmosphere is cool, with silvery steel architecture accented with lush green foliage (no surprise that it’s an Instagram hotspot).
Some say Boxing Cat Brewery put Shanghai on the beer map. The three-level bar, one of Kelley Lee’s first Shanghai ventures, brews over 30 different varieties of beer every year. German lagers, British ales, nouveau American craft designs – it’s all here. No wonder it has become something of a Shanghai institution.
Daga Brewpub specialises in local Chinese craft beers from cities right across the country, most of which you won’t find anywhere else in Shanghai. You can sample before you buy and if you get peckish, soak it all up with something from their range of pizzas, sandwiches and fried goodies. Wine, spirits and cocktails are also available.