It took a month to research and nearly cost a major organ, but here it is. I've pinched pennies at a score or more bars and watering holes around the city to whittle it down to this list. Is it definitive? No. Is it exhaustive? Also no, but it was definitely exhausting. Personally vetted and individually checked, here are 15 places with happy hour promotions that don't suck. -- Alex Panayotopoulos
The Place: It's a dive bar. A trash bar, where the air is thick with regret, stale alcohol, rock classics and skater shit so shallow you could skip a stone off it. But like, with soul! Or something that looks like it at 2am. "WE DON'T SELL SYMPATHY" is written behind the bar in what I hope is whiteout.
The Deal: 30rmb on beer, 40rmb on mixed drinks, 15rmb on shots, starts at 8pm (if they open on time), stops around 10pm.
Why It 's Good: 30rmb Tigers served in plastic cups because the glassware's broken. Hey, do you want to get trashed off cheap booze? Family Mart's selling 16rmb Irish coffees, but if that's too bourgeoise for you, try Specters.
The Place: Smash-hit pizza spot, serving up excellent and massive New York style pizzas with a sourdough crust. There's some difference in offerings between the two spots open at the time of writing, but this happy hour is too hot for Found 158. It's only valid at Zhongshan Park.
The Deal: Buy a slice of pizza and you get half-off on a beer or a spritz, 25rmb. 4-7pm Mon-Thu.
Why It's Good: Do you need an excuse to get Homeslice? You don't.
The Place: Boxing Cat's hard-to-miss roadside bar on Dingxi Lu. Beer is all Boxing Cat and food is general nibbles such as chicken wings or mini-pizzas. First Round has the very instagramable 'reverse pour' which sends the beer up through a valve in the bottom of the glass.
The Deal: It's 30rmb on 500ml pours, every day from 4-8pm.
Why It's Good: That's pretty cheap for a Right Hook Helles. Spend the savings on some nachos or the spicy Korean wings.
The Place: Recently opened, Shanghai's only modern tiki bar is what happens when Austin Hu (Heritage) and Yao Lu (Union Trading Company) team up again. Evidently they've both been harboring dark, secret cravings for spam, palm print shirts and drinks with little gardens growing out the top. Tiki classics like Mai Tais, Missionary's Downfall and, obviously, a Zombie, as well as Yao's own interpretations.
The Deal: 50rmb select cocktails from 3-8pm everyday.
Why It's Good: Because it's on every day for five hours, the cocktails are normally 100rmb, they're very, very good. The Frozen Pina Colada is the headlining act but the Starboard Cooler and the Six Pence Hot Pot are also excellent. Go take advantage of their newly-opened generosity.
The Place: The hotel bar for the erudite, be-bowtie'd five-star St. Regis Hotel, as the name might suggest. The ground floor features big red leather couches, tall ceilings heavy in gold paint and a long bar backed by something like 100 different whiskies. It's bespoke. It's high-class. It's designed to dull the jet-setting lifestyle's abrasive edges for their well-dressed clientele.
The Deal: Unlimited (selected!) cocktails, sparkling wines, wines and spirits for 188rmb per person (net), every day from 6.30-8pm.
Why It's Good: Not often you get to drink yourself into a stupor in a five-star hotel, but here's your chance! Cocktail selection is limited: Moscow Mule, Screwdriver or Cuba Libre. Stick the Screwdrivers or just Chivas 12-year and mixer maximize efficiency and consumption. Make a nuisance of yourself. You might have to refer to it as the "Happy Hour" before the bar staff brings out the menu. "Free-flow" is not on the fancy hotel bar vocab list.
The Place: Sex-positive and queer-friendly, VSpot is part sexshop, part pole-dancing studio, part rope bondage performance space, part sex education workshop. Bright, kinky and liberated. It's not much of a bar, basically one of the shop-counters converted into a little backbar and a wine fridge, but there's decent lounge-space towards the back. Think a way less rowdy Roxie, plus nipple clamps for sale.
The Deal: BOGO on select beers, cocktails and wines, averaging 80rmb, from 6 to 9pm (nice).
Why It's Good: The drinks are mostly high ABV and weird: try the Orgasmic Shirley. 80rmb for two is average for a happy hour, but you're coming for the liberated environment. It's a safe space to talk the tawdry tango. Two drinks in and all of a sudden everyone's got an opinion on prostate massagers. Some nights it's empty, some nights there might be a workshop about mutual orgasms, rope bondage, or a drop-in poledancing class.
The Place: The Jing'an Shangri-La's spare-no-expense steakhouse, set above Nanjing Lu. Don't let the leather, wood and two-story wine fridges discourage you, it's not as dark and serious as it appears at first glance. To drink, there are all the requisite bold red steakhouse wines, of course, but what sets the place apart is the extensive whiskey selection and masterful cocktails.
The Deal: From 5-8pm every day, drinks start at 40rmb each (net, thank God) and they all come with two free Angus Beef Sliders.
Why It's Good: The 40rmb drinks are just spirit and mixers, but you can get an excellent mojito or a negroni for 60rmb off the same happy hour menu. They're good, but you're here for those sliders, man. They can be a bit slow coming out, unfortunately, and sometimes they're a little lukewarm, but it's a testament to their quality that it doesn't really matter.
The Place: Urban Thai is a small spot offering a simple menu of Thai staples like fish cakes, green papaya salad, and curries. Neighborhood diner atmosphere with tasteful decoration.
The Deal: Weekend happy hour from 2-5pm, including Urban Thai Lager, Chang Beer, Thai Iced Tea, and Mango Sticky Rice for 20rmb each.
Why It's Good: Right on the tail of the busy, busy weekend free-flow brunch window means it makes for a nice final nail in your coffin. The sticky rice is good. Wouldn't necessarily recommend pairing it with the beers on offer, but here's a good option to extend the weekend day drinking. It'd be even better if it was on during the week.
The Place: A casual Argentinian steakhouse with a focus on grilled steaks and Peruvian ceviches, tiraditos, and antichuchos. Some of the best value meat in town. Also sangria, house wines, rum and coke, vodka tonics, and other select drinks are 30rmb all day. Good atmosphere, and the staff is attentive and multilingual. Unpretentious atmosphere, good environment for some serious drinking.
The Deal: It’s happy hour all day, everyday, with drinks for 30rmb, including: vodka tonic/cranberry/orange, sangria, Cuba Libre aka rum and coke, Quilmes beer, and house red or white wine.
Why It's Good: Does it even count as a happy hour if it's just all the time? 30rmb drinks for all time is firmly in "too good to be true" territory but nope, it's real. I checked. The sangria's a little weak (but again it's like 30rmb so...). I'd stick to vodka cranberries or rum and coke or that Quilmes beer, and pair it with the 110rmb steak deal on Mon-Wed.
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