If there’s one piece of advice I can give you about China, it’s this – Don’t listen to ANYBODY. Unless ofcourse, they are Chinese. Even then, take it with a pinch of Soy
My first trip to the country begins in Shanghai – you’ve probably heard of it cause they were trying to convert Mumbai into one. To this date, I don’t know what that was about.
What I do know, is that everything I had heard about China was wrong. Like a Jain in Karims wrong. What I did discover, is that they’re like Indians. They eat big portions, do arranged marriages, have no indoor voice, are infatuated with white people and drink like there’s no tomorrow. I think I just described half my facebook friends.
As far as drinking goes, the Chinese will give you a serious run for your Black Label. Which possibly explains how they city has SO many bars that made it to the World’s 50 Best list.
We’re talking intimate speakeasies that are not afraid to pour old fashioneds into a Santa theme cup. Hip spaces with mile long bars counters which don’t judge you for playing a game on your phone, over interacting with humans. Exclusive whisky venues so secretive, you could walk out with China’s military plans.
Needless to say, you’ll have to drink the Baiju (local sorghum spirit) on your own time. Here are my top bars to tipple like a pro in Shanghai.
Union Trading Company
What’s a good old fashioned American cocktail bar doing in the middle of Shanghai’s French quarter? Barrel aging some the city’s best drinks, of course. The wall behind the bar is lined with some seriously innovative barrel aged cocktails which will ruin your plans of a ‘bar hop’. I would highly recommend the Smoking Monkey, a spicy & sweet house creation made with a banana infused Irish whiskey; and the Amaretto Sour if you’re craving a classic.
A great place to let your hair down and get crafty with your drink order. The bartenders are an experimental lot and I highly recommend giving them a chance to spoil you. I loved the bartender’s special smoked Oban & Talisker cocktail that arrived in great style to the table. It’s a great place to come by yourself to sit at the woody bar and soak in some good vibes.
Heyday is cocktail club with a live soundtrack and a gorgeously laid back, intimate feel. The menu is extensive featuring a great mix of classics and house brews. I loved their selection of whisky and gin cocktails, but my favourite hands down is their version of the Negroni. This is the kind of place that if you’re not careful, will end up becoming a post work watering hole. And you know what happens if you start drinking straight from monday!
The city’s most intriguing bar is hiding from you. I suspect to keep out humans who ask for ask for a drink with blue curacao (god forbid). When you land up in a tiny store selling bar equipment (drool drool) you’re expected to figure out the way to the bar. No, I am not telling you which white bookshelf straight in front it is. But when you do crack in, I suggest you expect the unexpected. A cozy speakeasy with a seasonal cocktail menu, jam packed with patrons pretty much every day of the week. Don’t be surprised to find cocktails that pair Pisco with Parmagiano cheese or Chivas with cilantro. The best way to enjoy Speak Low is to go big. Bacon in cocktail big.
So what’s the best way to drink in China? Let China happen to you. Happy tippling!
All Images by Ishita Thakur