There’s nothing Shanghai’s nightlife set loves like new bars. Here are three of the city’s freshest faces on the scene — including one you’ll have to work to find — where you can sample inventive drinks in inviting spaces.
After Brian McKay and Sally Dai debuted Heydey to bring a bit of the 1920s Shanghai jazz scene to the 21st century, they set their sights on a different decade for their next project. The pair wanted to open a place for the city’s denizens to hear classic soul music, and McKay thought, “A 1960s Manhattan supper club seemed like just the right context.”
The result of this idea is Shake, a swanky spot where the cast of Mad Men wouldn’t feel out of place. Drinks, dinner and live music — on Thursday through Saturday, a band covers music by soul icons like Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and James Brown. Cheekily named cocktails like the Son of a Preacher Man (gin, vermouth, amaro, angostura and orange bitters, and melon) only add to the ambience.
The speakeasy craze continues sweeping Shanghai with this Jing’an district bar helmed by Japanese bartender Naoji Oji. To find the hidden lounge, go into El Ocho and pick up the vintage phone and dial “0.” If all is well, the door will swing open, and, voilà, you’re in.
The small space has less than 20 seats, the most comfortable of which are the armless, tufted velvet chairs.
Oji (the bar) has no menu; instead, Oji (the bartender) will ask which alcohol base and flavors you like and go from there. Because nearly every patron gets a different drink, and because each is made to Oji’s exacting standards, the pace is relatively sedate. This is not the place to pop in for a quick tipple, but for an evening of sipping and conversing.
A mere five minutes’ walk from Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star hotels ANdAZ Shanghai and The Langham, Xintiandi, Shanghai, this barely marked cocktail bar is easy to miss. (Look out for the letter “G” shining on the sidewalk in front of the door.)
The ground-floor space contains a quiet, shaded terrace, a bar and lounge seating; upstairs is a low-lit space best for groups who want a chill night out without compromising on quality drinks. Genesis deals in cocktails and whiskey, often together, as in The Genesis, where bourbon whiskey meets single malt, lemon bitters, lime juice and, to sweeten the deal, honey-ginger syrup.