Bars for Shanghai’s booze monogamists

Bars for Shanghai’s booze monogamists

The best Shanghai bars married faithfully to a single type of alcohol

Long known as the “Whore of the Orient,” Shanghai might appear no place for a monogamist. But a few local watering holes show there’s still a place for the hopelessly romantic alcoholic. 

The skinny: each venue below is the best place to enjoy your favorite tipple straight up; no mixology here.

Shanghai bars -- Yucca<strong>Gracias, pour me a:</strong> Don Julio Anejo (RMB 138).

Tequila: Yucca

This venue may not have the most extensive list around, but it’s one of the best in the city and is located in one of Shanghai's most stylish new addresses: Sinan Mansions. And, an Australian-owned, Kiwi-run bar selling Mexican liquor in China allows you to marvel over the state of today’s world while you sip.

Bartender Rich Clarke gave us a rundown from Spanish Conquistadors to today’s premium pure agave spirits, which are more smooth and subtle than the stuff that used to haunt the spring breaks of your misspent youth. 

Yucca, Sinan Mansions 519 Fuxing Zhong Lu 思南公馆 复兴中路519号, 近重庆南路, +86 21 3368 9525

Shanghai bars -- rum<strong>I’ll have a shot from Guatemala then, make it:</strong> Zacapa (RMB 80).

Rum: Rhumerie Bounty

The second one in the chain that links The Shelter with the posh el Coctel both literally and figuratively on Yongfu Lu. 

Operation manager Julien Stelmach simply loves rum (and hates tequila), and wanted to bring a taste of Martinique to Shanghai via Paris.

The vibe is distinctly, but not exclusively, French at this bar, and Stelmach is proud of the increasing number of Chinese drinkers at his bar. This is no place to put on airs though; when the rum starts flowing “after a few you will be joyful,” says Stelmach.

Rhumerie Bounty, 47 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 永福路47号, 近复兴路, +86 21 2661 9368,

Bourbon: Constellation 3

Shanghai bars -- Constellation 3<strong>You been smokin’ bluegrass? Get me a:</strong> Buffalo Trace (RMB 80). Like tequila and rum, bourbon had long been looked down upon by snobbish drinkers until the good stuff started to be cool. No doubt the best man to tell you all about it is top barman Michael Wang at Constellation 3. He’s got a Don Draper haircut and smooth attitude to match. 

Just don’t tell him Jack Daniel’s is bourbon because it’s not; the real stuff comes from Kentucky, Jack’s a Tennessean.

Strongly recommend a cigar and a bourbon neat after a long day at Sterling Cooper -- or your boring job.

Constellation 3, 251 Huangpi Bei Lu, near Jiangyin Lu 黄陂北路251号, 近江阴路, +86 21 5375 2712

Sake: Izumi

Shanghai bars -- sake<strong>Arrigato, I want a:</strong> Hakkaisan (RMB 55). Returning to the orient, let’s begin with that legendary Japanese brew ... and it's actually a brewed beverage, despite commonly being referred to as rice wine.

Izumi is a tiny bar you’d miss if you blinked walking past, and therein lies the charm.

On a chilly Monday night, patrons were playing with a tabby cat while enjoying a sip of the very refined junmai daiginjo grade version of the drink. 

Here’s a little secret: in 2003 shochu surpassed sake as Japan’s favorite drink and bartender Tommy Han admits Izumi’s sales are “about half and half.”

Izumi, 21 Yongjia Lu, near Rujin Er Lu 永嘉路21号, 近瑞金二路, +86 21 6471 0260

Shochu: Kota’s Kitchen

Shanghai bars -- shochu<strong>“Let it be” a: </strong>Kangnoko “God’s river” (RMB 50). This open Shanghai secret and cozy yakitori restaurant famed for playing a continuous loop of Beatles songs -- not as annoying as you would think, thanks to the Liverpudlians’ broad range of tunes -- is the best place in town to drink shochu, too.

The starch-based distilled beverage is usually about 25 percent alcohol, so it’s sippable like a whiskey, without giving you such a “hard day’s night.”

Kota's also cooks up fruit shochu, made in-house every week, ranging from your customary flavors to ones like banana and garlic (thankfully not in combination), which sit out soaking in plastic fishbowls.

Kota’s Kitchen, 2905 Xietu Lu, near Lingling Lu 斜土路2905号, 近零陵路, +86 21 6481 2005

Baijiu: Famous Brand Tobacco & Wine Shop

Shanghai bars -- baijui<strong>谢谢, you shouldn’t have: </strong>Kweichow Moutai (RMB 1,498 per bottle). The locals don’t really sip baijiu in bars, more at boozy banquets and dinner parties. And it’s not really a sipping drink, more like a 120 proof punishment that is tolerated as you think to yourself, “Oh, so this is what distilled sorghum tastes like.”

However, baijiu is serious currency in China and Famous Brand’s most expensive bottle, Bashiniemaotaijiu, retails for RMB 288,000 for a 500 ml bottle.

But there’s something for every budget here, and you can even grab a carton of Chunghwa cigarettes if you’re really interested in impressing your Chinese host.

Famous Brand Tobacco & Wine Shop, 603 Huaihai Zhong Lu 淮海中路603号

John Coughlan is a California native, Irish national, and longtime resident of Shanghai’s former French Concession.

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