Shanghai's 6 best new cocktail bars

Shanghai's 6 best new cocktail bars

After years lost in the open bar wilderness, Shanghai's cocktail culture has finally come to life

With nightlife aspirations of world-beating proportions, Shanghai can no longer rest on its “spectacular Bund view” laurels.

Mixologists from China and around the world are now plying their trade in Shanghai's cocktail bars, and according to industry insiders, recently relaxed alcohol import restrictions have seen more liquors and spirits available than ever before.

The following six bars all opened their doors in 2011 and demonstrate the best of Shanghai's blooming cocktail culture.

1. Apothecary

Shanghai new cocktail bar -- ApothecaryApothecary's Shanghai venue lists more than 100 cocktail creations. 

Why you should check it out: You want to catch the cocktail culture contagion.
Prices: Cocktails go for between RMB 60 and RMB 85.

This Beijing institution has brought an extensive cocktail list south to almost universal acclaim for Shanghai's cocktail aficionados.

Apothecary's oft-changing list of 100-plus cocktail creations include macerations, infusions, syrups, tonics and more, all made in-house by a dedicated mixology staff, led by mixologist major general Adam Devermann (formerly of Mesa & Manifesto and Velvet Lounge).

The decor is reminiscent of the NYC loft of our dreams, heavy on the reclaimed wood and exposed brick, and the crowd is an impressive mix of alcohol snobs and the uneducated masses, looking to learn a thing or two from the masters.

Despite only being open for a few months, Apothecary has already earned itself quite the reputation. Reservations are a good idea in order to guarantee your group a table.

More on CNNGo: What your Shanghai bartender knows

Apothecary, Sinan Mansions, Building 2, 4/F, Lane 507 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Chongqing Nan Lu 复兴中路507弄思南公馆2号楼4楼, 近重庆南路, +86 21 3368 9419, 6 p.m.-midnight


Shanghai new cocktail bar -- CVRVETaking over the old digs of The Long Bar, CVRVE is expected to carry on its predecessor's cocktail fame.

Why you should check it out: These guys know more about Shanghai's cocktail scene than just about everyone else combined.
Prices: Cocktails are RMB 58 and up (customers can choose between premium house pours or more exclusive, and expensive, ingredients)

Occupying the space that housed Shanghai institution The Long Bar for 20 years, Shanghai's food and beverage watchers waited with bated breath to see what this replacement would have to offer.

With the opening of CVRVE (pronounced 'curve'), the answer to that question became obvious -- high-end cocktails have officially arrived on Nanjing Xi Lu.

Co-founder and operator Marcus Treamer has assembled a crack staff of faces familiar to the city's night owls, including homegrown Shanghainese mixology superstar Cross Yu (M1NT), Kiwi Jacob Prain (Glamour Bar, Hamilton House and Chinatown) and the Argentinian artistry of Pablo Toledo (The Drop).

Together the group has put together an extensive and eclectic cocktail list, including a page of special concoctions designed by CVRVE's awesome foursome.

More on CNNGo: Shanghai cocktail chain

CVRVE, No. 206 Shanghai Center, 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Tongren Lu 南京西路1376号上海商城206室, 近铜仁路, +86 21 6289 8298, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. (Sunday - Thursday), 11 a.m.-3 a.m. (Friday and Saturday),

3. Brownstone

Shanghai new cocktail bar -- BrownstoneThe 1960s New York-style cocktail bar is the new brainchild of Bob Boyce, owner of Blue Frog and KABB.

Why you should check it out: You love a tasty cocktail or three, but can live without the velvet rope mentality.
Prices: An extensive selection of martinis, including the refreshing Sour Apple Martini, and the strong Tarantini are available for RMB 60.

Another veteran of the Shanghai scene, Bob Boyce is behind this unpretentious cocktail venue in Surpass Court, and he has tapped cocktail whiz Lomas Gration to be Bluestone's front man/manager/martini-slinger/DJ/whirlwind extraordinaire.

The venue's architectural origins reflect New York and Chicago in the 1960s with brick walls, leather sofas and the stone and wood bar forming the backbone of the warm and welcoming space.

This summer, Brownstone has made something of a name for itself as a top choice for a Sunday afternoon session with their regular Sunday Block Parties starting at 2 p.m. with barbecue, hot dogs, gourmet beef kebabs and, of course, a selection of quality drinks on offer.

More on CNNGo: Your week-long guide to the best Shanghai happy hours

Brownstone, Building 4, 570 Yongjia Lu, near Yueyang Lu 永嘉路570号4号楼, 近岳阳路, +86 21 6073 7740. 2 p.m.-2 a.m.

4. Craft

Shanghai new cocktail bar -- CraftCraft boasts an impressive array of drinks that make use of vodka.

Why you should check it out: There is more to vodka than meets the eye.
Prices: Cocktails range between RMB 60 and 70.

This out-of-the-way bar on the south side of the Donghu Hotel (head down the lane opposite Sichuan Citizen and then head upstairs to find it) proves the old adage that good things come in small packages.

Craft is an offshoot of the high-quality cocktail bar phenomenon sweeping the city, and Singaporean Jerrica Lee's baby distinguishes itself in a number of ways, not least of which is its unique (for Shanghai) focus on vodka.

The cocktail lists boasts an impressive array of drinks that make use of the stuff, from classics like martinis and Moscow Mules, to signatures such as the simultaneously fruity and sophisticated Blueberry Thyme Cobbler (RMB 65), which is sure to be a firm favorite with the ladies throughout Shanghai's long, hot summer.

All in all, Craft proves to be a high quality, low fuss and very approachable way to further your vodka appreciation credentials.

More on CNNGo: Shanghai's 15 best al fresco drinking spots

Craft, Donghu Hotel south wing, 7 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai zhong Lu 东湖路7号东湖宾馆西翼, 近淮海中路, Wednesday and Thursday: 5 p.m.-1 a.m.; Friday and Saturday: 5 p.m.-late 

5. Zeal

Shanghai new cocktail bar -- ZealZeal is a solid cocktail choice for Pudong skyline suckers.

Why you should check it out: A Bund view always makes cocktails taste better.
Prices: Cocktails range from RMB 70 to 80.

In true Bund lounge/club style, Zeal is a slick, contemporary, minimalistic space where beautiful people and their admirers rub shoulders on the dance floor while local and international DJs provide the musical inspiration for their gyrations.

Oh, and there is a terrace, with an “unparalleled” view of Lujiazui's twinkling night lights. If you feel as though you've heard all of this before, that's probably because you have. There is nothing revolutionary about Zeal's formula, but it's popular for a reason.

Zeal’s cocktail list may be limited to 15 options, but their "Remixes" (RMB 80) are both interesting and well-done with popular choices including the Malibu Smoothie, Szechuan Tease and Nutella Storm.

More on CNNGo: 5 outstanding drinks from Shanghai's hotels

Zeal, 6/F, 22 Zhongshan Dong Er Lu, near Jinling Dong Lu 中山东二路22号,近金陵东路, +86 21 6328 8668, 7 p.m.-3 a.m.,

6. Upper East 

Shanghai new cocktail bar -- Upper EastDefinitely the best new cocktail bar in Shanghai's Xujiahui area.

Why you should check it out: You've been looking for an excuse to break out of your geographical drinking boundaries.
Cocktails range from RMB 68 to RMB 88.

Most people looking for a fine cocktails probably wouldn't think of heading to Xujiahui as their first port of call, but if you happen to be in the area and suddenly feel thirsty, Upper East may be the perfect solution.

This tastefully decorated villa boasts a main bar with two adjoining lounges, one grand lounge, one wine room and two private VIP suites.

Upper East is a dimly lit lounge with the vibe of a ye olde gentlemen's club, but the real draw here is the drinks, some of which are truly excellent. The Gin Sour and Coffee Cocktail in particular are both big winners.

More on CNNGo: Waldorf Astoria Shanghai's Long Bar is a time capsule to the 1930s

Upper East, 15 Dong'an Lu, near Zhaojiabang Lu 东安路15号, 近肇嘉浜路, +86 21 6417 6160, 5 p.m. till late (closed Sundays),

Casey is a city/lifestyle journalist from Melbourne, Australia, who has been based in Shanghai since 2007.

Read more about Casey Hall