Beijing may be China’s capital, but Shanghai is its younger—and certainly more cosmopolitan—sibling. It plays host to an international jet-set crowd and is developing a sophisticated cocktail scene, which is being helped along by some well-known mixology consultants and entrepreneurs. And the city now boasts a number of Asia’s best drinking joints.
At the top of this bottle-opener shaped skyscraper is one of the world’s highest bars (pictured above). On the 91st floor, you’ll enjoy magnificent views and an impressive 50-page lis of fresh-ingredient-driven cocktails. Afterwards, you can go up to the 92nd floor and check out mainland China’s highest nightclub.
What to Drink: Fig Martini (fig- and cinnamon-infused Grey Goose Vodka, cinnamon-brown sugar rim)
In the heart of the popular Sinan Mansions area, you will find Alchemist. Famed Aussie bartender Ryan Noreiks leads the establishment’s skilled team, whose specialty is modern interpretations of classics, as well as avant-garde and molecular-mixology techniques. The gourmet dinner and brunch menus and outside seating take this bar to another level, but it’s the cocktails that are truly the stars.
What to Drink: Dr. Lee’s Cider House Remedy (hot-spiced cider, Alchemist Pirate Rum, sesame and coffee molasses, glazed carrot foam)
From homemade bitters and syrups to hand-chipped ice made from quadruple-filtered water, Apothecary is a serious cocktail bar. And there’s a befittingly long drinks list of familiar and original creations, not to mention a lengthy menu of Creole dishes.
What to Drink: Smokin’ Hot Margarita (El Jimador Reposado Tequila, lapsang souchong syrup, lime juice, Cointreau, chipotle en adobo, lime wedge, Laphroaig 10-Year-Old)
Bar Constellation, 86 Xinle Road, 86 21 5404 0970:
With more than 500 single malts and more than 45 bourbons, Bar Constellation is the number-one whiskey bar in Shanghai. Like your dram on the rocks? You can get it served over a hand-cut ice ball. There’s also a big list of cocktails compiled by head bartender Kin Jin, plus a selection of fine cigars. It’s so popular that there are now three locations around the city.
What to Drink: Mint Julep (bourbon, sugar, mint)
Every city needs a tequila bar, but what makes Cantina Agave extra-special is that Chinese liquor regulations severely limit tequila importation. Thankfully, that hasn’t stopped this joint from compiling a list of almost 40 bottlings. Tasty Margaritas, authentic Mexican food and good times are guaranteed at this award-winning watering hole.
What to Drink: Passion Fruit Margarita (tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice, passion fruit)
El Coctel, 47 Yongfu Road, Unit 202, 86 21 6433 6511:
This late-night spot is a den of drinking pleasure. It’s even decorated with tools of the trade: The entryway is covered with row upon row of shakers. The service is a blend of Western and Japanese styles of bartending, and the elixirs match. It’s also famous for its delicious Spanish food. Despite these contrasts, everything seems to make complete sense, and it’s surely among the world’s great cocktail bars.
What to Drink: Sloe Gin Grapefruit Fizz (sloe gin, fresh grapefruit juice, lemon juice, sugar)
Located on Shanghai’s famous Bund, Lost Heaven is a four-floor bar-and-restaurant complex specializing in the folk cuisine of the diverse Yunnan province. The top two floors are occupied by bars, whose menus were designed by the talented George Nemec. His aim was to connect tiki cocktails with Chinese and Yunnan culture, resulting in some unique, inspired and colorful concoctions.
What to Drink: Puratini (apricot-infused Beefeater Gin, sweet vermouth, orange bitters, pura tea bag)
Simon Ford is an award-winning bartender and director of trade outreach and brand education for Pernod Ricard USA. He is also a Liquor.com advisor.