Shanghai is a city that likes to work hard and play even harder, so it’s no surprise that it has its fair share of killer cocktail bars. There’s a tipple and tempo for everyone, no matter which mood or taste. That’s what I love about Shanghai. You can seamlessly go from sipping shochu in a cozy Japanese bar playing Bob Marley to working up a sweat on the dance floor of a trendy cocktail lounge. The Shanghai cocktail scene is varied, but two types of bars reign supreme: the speakeasy and the Japanese cocktail bar. The success of Senator Saloon—the uncontested number-one on my list—has spawned a slew of similar Prohibition-era style bars, including Boulevard, The Library, and Logans, which all make for fun, boozy nights. The best of Shanghai’s craft cocktail scene also belongs to the Japanese. The veteran, Constellation, now has high-end locations all around town, but I remain loyal to the mellow Mokkos, which provides an affordable, down-tempo alternative.
Arcade is the cool hangout for Shanghai’s young, stylish crowd. The lounge is intimate and dark, except for the flashing bulbs of retro arcade games and purple neon lights. The scene is a fun mix of local and foreign creatives who slither around big leather booths and dance to music mixed Shanghai’s freshest DJ talent.
Stepping into Mokkos feels like taking a big, deep breath. This off-the-beaten-path Japanese whisky and shochu bar is a friendly, cozy oasis. The vibe is very mellow while dreadlocked bartenders casually mix drinks to the beats of Bob Marley. The intimate setting – especially inside the tiny private rooms with traditional sunken tables – is perfect for a chilled-out night with friends.
Since 2012, a number of great bars have opened up around formerly quiet Wuding Road in Jing’An district. Amongst this wave of new watering holes, my favorite is LAB, a stylish, split-level bar with a long menu of whisky and classic early-20th century cocktails. Even when the bar is slammed, skilled Taiwanese bartenders carefully make each drink with near maniacal precision.
El Coctel’s premium tipples, posh ambience, and impeccably attentive table service consistently attract Shanghai’s most sophisticated set. The Japanese bar’s original outpost on the now slightly seedy Yongfu Road has been a glam nightlife staple for about many years, but there is much chatter about El Coctel’s just-opened second location in the stylish new F&B complex, Zhong Plaza, on Taixing Road.