Recent reviews of the best burgers in town made Shanghaiist want a drink — a cocktail, to be exact. Don’t get us wrong, we love our local favorites — we’re addicted to Xinjiang Black Beer now that it’s stocked at the nearby convenience store. We’re even known to occasionally take a healthy shot of baijiu alongside our Qingdao Beer during dinner. (At least, we think so — we usually don’t remember the details of baijiu nights.) But when the Black Beer’s sold out, and baijiu doesn’t feel quite right (does baijiu ever feel right?) a cocktail can hit the spot.
Shanghai’s recent naming as the MOST IMPORTANT ‘IT’ CITY IN THE ENTIRE WORLD seems to have brought a fresh slew of places that serve great cocktails, but for a price: With western decadence comes western prices. Expect to pay between 50 and 70 kuai per drink. (Shanghaiist receives his paycheck this afternoon. It’s no coincidence alcoholic inspiration struck today.)
Bar Rouge at Bund 18 is a favorite: the French-managed lounge, with its flaming champagne bottles, great views and slam-bang drinks like the mango drop and lemongrass martini make us rich in spirit, but very poor in wallet. The 100 RMB cover charge still gives us that “perhaps 10 kuai G&T’s at Windows aren’t so bad at all” sort of feeling.
We LOVE Manifesto at Julu Lu and Fumin Lu — the lychee cosmopolitans and house beats bring us back to our old NYC hangouts. As the
bitchy rather disagreeable waitresses don’t like serving water, we usually sit at the bar, where the far nicer bartenders will usually sneak us a glass. Beautiful, homey settings leave us to linger for hours at Face in the Ruijin Guest House Complex. Cotton’s is only a 15 minute walk from home at Jianguo Lu and Anting Lu, which makes it WAY too easy to stop by and have a drink. Or four. The only caveats are that Face doesn’t seem to like putting alcohol in its drinks, and the quality at Cotton’s can be a bit inconsistent on busy nights.
The best place in town for a cocktail? One immediately jumps out. Jean-Georges at Three on the Bund is FABULOUS — a luscious setting by Michael Graves instantly transports us back to old Shanghai. Great lighting, soft music, incredibly friendly staff. And the drinks? Amazing. We cried when they decided to remove their Vanilla Vodka Cream Soda from the drink menu. And cried again when they put it back. Their selection of booze is the best in town — it’s one of only a few places we know of that can give us our Ketel One martini. And the only one that can get it right. We’ll admit it, the prices aren’t cheap, around 65 for a cocktail, 40 for a beer. But then again, there’s no cover, free yummy snacks, a killer view and as much free water as we can drink!
For times when the bank balance is low but you still desire a stiff cocktail, several places make a good bet. The Red Room, Windows Scoreboard and Time Passage all have decent cocktails and a fun atmosphere for 15-20 RMB a drink.
The worst places in town for a cocktail? Legions. Park 97, Guandii, VIP Room and Cloud 9 at the Grand Hyatt all gave us plenty of attitude, mediocre drinks and high prices. Perhaps the first two bars, part of the Lan Kwai Fong stable at Fuxing Park, use the bad drinks as a way to encourage buying expensive bottles of champagne — Shanghaiist uses it as an excuse to start dancing, and to bring out the bottle of water smuggled in under his jacket.
In the meantime, the search for the ideal cocktail continues. What is YOUR favorite place for a cocktail? Shanghaiist welcomes suggestions, not to mention free samples!
UPDATE: We’ve been hearing plenty of buzz about Monsoon, which just opened last week as part of the new Pier One complex near Suzhou creek. More to come …
Bar Rouge photo from Shanghaiist. Jean Georges photo from economist.com.