Jeff Buck is the main man behind spirits bar Funky Monkey
, and the driving force behind its immense collection of rare and lesser-seen alcohols. The number changes constantly but they currently have close to a hundred different gins, 50 rums, and 200 whiskies, all of which he and bar manager Sofia have sampled themselves. It’s impressive and unsung in this city of cocktails and mixed drinks, except for a small crowd of regulars who appreciate Buck’s obsessive collecting and a cohort of bartenders who use Funky Monkey as a place to sample and learn about new spirits. A bartender’s bar.
In that vein, I asked Buck where he likes to drink around town when he’s not doing wide, comparative tastings to suss out the virtues of newly bottled Yamazaki or the traits of Asian gins. This is where he goes.
Asking a bar owner what bar to go to can be disappointing. Most of the time they're at their own bar, and if their bar closes at the same time as most others, they rarely have a chance to go out.
We close at 2am, and there aren't many places still open for an after-work drink. I tend to frequent either Pocho, which is open until 4am on Friday and Saturday nights, has a good crowd, and a reasonable whisky selection (dwarfed of course by their tequila and mezcal options), or The Beaver which is usually open very late, has the Dead Pony Ale I like so much, the occasional single malt, and a random, sordid, but generally interesting crowd of people, most of whom should have gone home a long time ago.
Senator makes a pretty good drink without much pretense and has a surprisingly good mac and cheese.
As it’s next to my house, I sometimes drop in on Le Vin. What they lack in (non-wine) drinks selection is made up by the simple cheerfulness of Peter, the happiest barman in Shanghai.
We’re closed on Monday, so it’s my one time of the week to sit on the other side of the bar. I'm not a big fan of cocktails, I like to drink good spirits neat. What could you add to an Octomore that would make it anything other than worse?
Whisky is generally my poison of choice, and I’m allergic to pretentiousness and cigar smoke, so I go to Avenue Joffre often. It’s known as something of a cocktail bar, but Mune, the owner, is basically a whisky freak like me, and has hundreds of bottles. Trying new whiskies with him is something I do at least twice a month, and you won’t find a bigger Arran selection in China.
Ounce has a huge whisky selection, which updates regularly, and is mostly available by the glass. The owner Marley is passionate about whisky and also about nobody smoking in the bar, which I like. Also, it has a long bar, which I prefer to having to sit at tables.