Bottoms Up: China Cocktail Cool

In Shanghai young mixologists are combining exotic fruits and spices, foams, and supercooled liquids to stage a gourmet revolution in the city’s bar scene. And in response the city’s nightlife cognoscenti are flocking to boîtes that feature these sophisticated drinks. The concoctions below represent the best of what Shanghai’s top cocktail artisans have on offer.


At Tara 57

The name is vaguely medicinal, but this decoction of Czech absinthe, Bombay Sapphire gin, passion fruit, and lemon is delightfully complex and summery. The discreet red-and-black lounge is not quite a dive but also not chichi—unlike most of Shanghai’s hot spots. It’s a hangout for low-profile in-the-know drinkers who appreciate bartender (and former soldier) Ken Huang’s sweet smile and generous pour. At 57 Fuxing Xi Rd., 2nd fl.; 86-21/6431-7027.

Phuket Holiday

At Constellation

Vodka, brown sugar, lime leaves, soda, and fresh lime juice come together in this mild, smooth, and aromatic refresher, which tastes the way a Thai vacation feels. The narrow, dimly lit bar is Japanese- kitschy and revered for its fanatical attention to such details as hand-carved ice cubes, some as big as a fist. Owner Jin Zhonglei apprenticed to a Japanese mix-master, and bartenders wear starched shirts with bow ties. At 86 Xinle Rd.; 86-21/5404-0970.

The Nitro-Tini

At Bar JG

Jean-Georges Shanghai’s Eric Johnson created this potent “slushy” by combining a vodka martini with liquid nitrogen. The chemical evaporates before you ingest it, and the result is “the coldest martini in the world,” he says. The refined spot furnished with eel-skin and pony-hair sofas also serves haute bar snacks such as Kumamoto oysters and black truffle–and–fontina pizza. At Three on the Bund, 3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Rd., 4th fl.; 86-21/6321-7733.

Saint Cross

At Vault Bar

Peach purée, vintage tequila, and Monin passion-fruit syrup topped with a dense, creamy Dom Pérignon foam make up this tipple. Thursday martini nights here are so packed with fashionistas and their admirers that it’s difficult to squeeze past the mod furniture and copper-barred walls to the bar, but it’s worth it just to watch gifted mixologist Cross Yu work. At Laris, Three on the Bund, 3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Rd., 6th fl.; 86-21/6321-9922.

Kakadu Breeze

At Kakadu

This is the first restaurant in the city to incorporate Australian ingredients into its menu—even its cocktails—and the bar here draws Aussies galore. The best-selling Breeze, invented by chef Paul Sing, 22, combines lemon myrtle–infused vodka with apple sours, lime, and cranberry juice. The lemon myrtle, from the leaf of an Aussie tree, imbues the drink with a heady lavender-and-basil fragrance. At 8 Jianguo Zhong Rd.; 86-21/5468-0118.