Two bars slinging inventive, inspired cocktails in some classy/nostalgic environs.
What It Is: Like the rest of the St. Regis hotel, the St. Regis Bar looks fancy. The ground floor features big red leather couches, tall ceilings heavy in gold paint and a long bar backed by something like 108 different whiskies. The upstairs is all sink-in leather armchairs and wall frescoes, boasting 32 kinds of champagne.
FYI they also regularly saber that champagne, which is not a sexual act, but instead where they take a sword and chop the neck off the bottle. It's pretty rad. Hotel F&B management have to take courses on how to do it.
The man behind the bar/cocktail list is Shanghai local, Rogelino Sun (1515, Lavida Club). He's the man behind St. Regis Shanghai's signature Bloody Mary (each city's St. Regis has its own unique recipe). This one's the Mary Jing (108rmb) and features osmanthus, fig-infused vodka and yellow tomato juice.
There's another section called "Improvisations," which is still a work in progress. Here, Rogelino experiments with fruity and herbal flavors. Things like Bling Babbling, made with with home-made mint syrup, apricot infused brandy and lemon juice, or Lure Monk, made with Frangelico, macadamia syrup and home-made rosemary bourbon. They all sit at 118rmb a pop. Sadly, none of them feature on the daily 5-8pm happy hour.
First Impressions: I don't like hotel bars, really. I realize my opinion is not a popular one. They seem like soulless places for hurt businessmen. Disclaimer aside, hey, I really liked the drinks here. The Mary Jing is the first Bloody Mary I've actually enjoyed, an excellent blend of sweet, sour and herbal tastes. This is not a hangover cure. The Lure Monk, meanwhile, came in these little sake... gourds? I don't know, but they were fresh and invigorating.
It's still a hotel bar. It's pricy (even virgin drinks are 78rmb), and the atmosphere is a little stiff. Sabering can only do so much. But if your cashflow's no concern, if you like a huge array of whisky and champagne, or if you need somewhere fancy to reflect on your jetsetting lifestyle, this place has really good drinks.
- Alex Panayotopoulos
What It Is: If you've been down Sinan Lu in the last 13 years, you may have noticed a cozy little coffeeshop/antique store called Antique Garden. It's just up the street from the old residence of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. The story goes that the fabled first President of China actually stayed there at one point. Far more exciting, Daniel An has moved there after Taste Buds Cocktail Palace closed down in early July after the lease was up.
Daniel An, who is a fascinating fellow you can read more about in our first visit to Taste Buds, managed to get himself (and Taste Bud's long red bar) installed in the attic of Antique Garden within three months. He's barely touched it (apart from the bar), so it remains decked out in miscellaneous armchairs, desks, tables, retro posters, books, coat stands and melted candles. There's a tiny balcony with space for two to sit, or five to smoke.
Although in very very soft opening now (the cocktail list isn't even complete yet), it's open from 7pm Tuesdays to Sundays. They have the original Taste Buds menu on for now, but that's only a place-holder while Daniel whips up a new cocktail list of 20 drinks. There's some interesting stuff. At the moment, they're all unnamed.
We tried the... well it doesn't have a name yet, but just ask for the one with huangjiu and lemongrass. Delightful. Also the one with green apple puree, peppers and a nice foam top. Ask for that one, that one's good too. From what Daniel said, the price will be between 78-108rmb, with most cited at 88rmb for now. Not just drinks, either. Take, for example, the Tom Yum Gong ice-cream, which is precisely that; tom yum gong flavored pina colada ice cream. Excellent, though when we had it, Daniel muttered about it needing to be spicier.
First Impressions: Seems like a perfect fit, honestly. It's a quirky, speakeasy-ish, curio-bedecked, tongue-in-cheek loft apartment for an off-beat freeform cocktail tinkerer. It's dangerously close to cheesy and some people won't like it at all. Personally, I like it because it's quiet, it's a good place for a chat, oh and because the cocktails are really goddamn good.
- Alex Panayotopoulos