An innovative breed of mixologist is bringing cocktail culture to Shanghai at four new boîtes.
Heyday: With its cushy banquettes, terrazzo floors, and waitresses in qipaos, this just-opened club is an homage to Shanghai’s 1930s jazz era, complete with vocalists crooning Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald songs. Bostonian Aaron Feder, whose encyclopedic menu at the nearby El Ocho won high praise among local spirits geeks, serves a more edited list of creative libations here: try the chili-vodka-based Heaven Built on Hell, ornamented with a raspberry-orange foam— the perfect balance of spicy and sweet. 50 Tai’an Lu.
Speak Low: This speakeasy-style bar offers a trio of distinct drinking dens. One level highlights familiar favorites with a twist (cinnamon-and-coconut-water coladas); another focuses on technique-heavy cocktails (shiso-infused tequilla with plum salt); and the third is a whiskey club. 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu; 86-21-6416-0133.
Flask: A vintage Coca-Cola vending machine inside a sandwich shop conceals the entrance to this whiskey mecca from Taiwanese bartenders Allen Hsu and Bear Weng. The dimly lit space evokes the Prohibition era and draws a late-night crowd in search of drinks like the Robin Hood Roy, a version of the classic that blends scotch, sweet vermouth, and lemongrass. It arrives in a metallic flask alongside a chilled martini glass. 432 Shaanxi Nan Lu; 86-21-3368-6108.
Union Trading Company: The playful concoctions of Chinese Americans Austin Hu and Yao Lu have earned this neighborhood bar a strong following. The Once a Pun a Thyme, an herbaceous riff on an Old-Fashioned, gets its earthy flavor profile from a blend of rosemary-and- peppercorn-infused scotch, thyme, sugar, and house- made celery bitters. The Witchy Woman, a mix of Campari, white rum, and toasted-almond syrup, is an ode to summer. 64 Fenyang Lu; 86-21-6418-3077.