You don’t need to venture to the terraced bars of the Bund to find world class drinks in Shanghai. In fact, some of the best bars are located right in the heart of the French Concession. From simple tap rooms to multi-story speakeasy concepts, here are Culture Trips pick of the best 10.
Although located on the southern tip of the French Concession far away from other bars, Pocho Social Club is worth the trek. This Latin-inspired cocktail bar makes consistently excellent drinks for a reasonable price. The bar itself does not serve food, but they often collaborate with cheap Mexican spot La Coyota next door, and outside food can be brought in. Menu favorites include the Earl-grini, a Negroni made with earl grey tea, and the La-La, a ginger-based number.
Number nine on the list of Asia’s 50 best bars, Union Trading Company has a loyal fan base. “Making drinks has never been the hard part of this job,” says co-founder Yao Lu. “It’s the instinct for hospitality that makes the bartender.” In this upscale but unpretentious bar, cocktails change every three months, with seasonal ingredients a consistent highlight. Culture Trip recommends trying it out during happy hour.
One of the first internationally recognized microbreweries in China, Boxing Cat brews over 30 varieties of beer every year, ranging from classic German lagers and British ales to nouveau American beer designs. Their French Concession location is a three floor, cozy hang out spot with pool and darts on the top floor.
One of the most unique bars in Shanghai, Botanist is also one of the best. Drink nature-inspired cocktails mixed expertly by the bartenders and placed in zany drinking vessels like light bulbs and soil pots, all while being surrounded by a beautiful juxtaposition of plants and steel. Don’t be put off by the high prices. The taste and punch the cocktails deliver justifies spending a little extra.
The name Sober Company actually refers to three entities: Sober Cafe, Sober Kitchen, and Sober Society, the latter of which is a dark and atmospheric cocktail bar. While the first floor cafe serves coffee-based cocktails all day, it is the third floor, open from 7pm to 2am that knows its alcohol. From the creators of popular Shanghai speakeasy Speak Low, Sober Company only opened at the beginning of 2017 but has quickly gained attention for its fun and daring drinks. It won’t be going away anytime soon.
Brilliant in its simplicity, Tap House has a massive selection of draught beers, which are constantly on rotation. You could go there every day and always find something new. All the beers are quality imports from Belgium, Britain, the US, and other well-known beer producing countries. This is one of three locations in Shanghai, and definitely the best. Tucked away in a courtyard full of fancy restaurants, Tap House has plenty of outdoor seating perfect for when the weather is warm.
Located in the same courtyard as Tap House, Logan’s Punch is noted for its potent and delicious liquor-packed punch bowls. Reminiscent of the party juice you consumed too much of in college, Logan’s variation is much classier but may knock you down just as hard. Another fun thing to try here is a baijiu-based cocktail. Baijiu is notorious for tasting like gasoline, but somehow owner and head mixologist Logan Brouse transforms the Chinese rice wine liquor into something worth spending money on.
Formerly located on now-defunct bar street Yongkang Rd, Funkadeli transformed itself when it moved to its new home. What was once a little Italian imports deli has become one of the most vibrant nightlife spots in the French Concession. On a cold day, you can find expats huddled around the outdoor heat lamps as the party rages on inside. The deli hasn’t forgotten its roots, though, still making terrific sandwiches. It’s just leveled up.
The one issue with Dr. Wine is that its name cannot possibly convey how classy it actually is. This wine bar, which happens to serve charcuterie and cheese boards as well, is dimly lit and always packed with expats and locals. Their wine list is extensive, with most wines offered by the bottle. Prices are reasonable.
The name of the game at Craft is vodka. It is the key ingredient in at least 80 percent of the drinks. Of course, these aren’t the vodkas you can purchase next door at Family Mart. These are artisan brands from around the world. The cocktails are reason enough to check Craft out, but the ambiance is cozy as well, perfect for when the night is winding down.