With the spring thaw, a handful of new bars have opened in Shanghai, some dealing in craft cocktails and others in hoppy pints. Here we’ve rounded up three of the best new spots — two small, sleek cocktail dens and one enormous brewpub.
The Magnolia Room
Best for: impressing visitors, small groups and those who are thirsty and peckish
Magnolia is a bar within a bar, the cheeky younger sibling to Tour. Both spaces occupy the same building, with Magnolia residing in the basement, hidden behind a sliding cement door.
The bars share other similarities: both places are run by Toronto native Mack Ross, and each deals in cocktail and snack pairings — a negroni is served with hot sauce and a grilled cheese sandwich; the frothy egg-white-topped whiskey sour comes with a housemade lemon tart.
With its literal underground vibe and cozy 16-seat area, Magnolia feels like a private cocktail den. But what sets it apart from Tour upstairs is the lottery-ticket-style menu. Scratch off a square and hope for a prize — a shot, a cocktail, a bottle or something on which to munch.
Even if you win nothing, no one really loses here because the gimmicks don’t detract from the quality of the drinks and bites.
Best for: dates or a savored post-work cocktail
Shanghai’s thirst for cocktails shows no sign of dissipating. Trio is a neighborhood cocktail bar on a quiet, leafy street in the French Concession. It’s not a wild-Saturday-night-out joint, but it is the ideal place to go for a good stiff drink after work or sightseeing.
The menu has two sections: Junior, with lighter, more flowery cocktails and Senior, for those drinks that take more preparation and tend to have stronger, deeper flavors.
If you like complex, richer pours, order the Golden Warm; its base is a bourbon whiskey that works exceptionally well with the ginger and kumquat flavors (the candied kumquat garnishing the rim doesn’t hurt, either).
And don’t let the neon chartreuse color (or the name) put you off from ordering the Sichuan Food cocktail. Though the vodka is chili-infused, the drink is mild with a spiciness that’s nicely cut by lime, cilantro and the honey ringing the rim.
Goose Island Brewhouse
Best for: beer and upscale pub grub with your entire office or a sizeable group
Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery has been stocking its brew in spots around Shanghai for ages, but this past February it opened a full-scale brewpub.
A plucky craft brewery this isn’t — Goose Island is now owned by Anheuser-Busch — but the beer is still solid, with 12 to 15 selections on tap.
With 200-plus seats, this brewpub can accommodate you and every one of your colleagues, so there’s no more jostling for tables at happy hour.
What’s on tap now? An IPA, the English-bitter-style Honkers Ale and a Belgian pale ale called Matilda. There are also a few things in the works that brewmaster Fraser Kennedy says will utilize local ingredients.
The food menu deftly offers both stomach-coating pub fare, like a cast-iron skillet IPA macaroni and cheese, and lighter dishes, like asparagus that’s been beautifully presented with a sous-vide egg, Parmesan and roasted red pepper cream.