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7 Superb Arguments In Favor of Highballs Around Shanghai

Crisp. Refreshing. Surprisingly controversial.
By - Photos: Brandon McGhee Oct 10, 2020 Nightlife
Ask five bartenders what makes a highball and you'll get seven answers. On its surface, it's booze and soda, but how strict is the two ingredient thing? Must one be carbonated? What if you add bitters? What if you don't stir? What if you replace the soda with, God help you, ginger ale?

This article is not about the controversy, because while adults arguing with religious fervor about whether a Tom Collins is a highball can be hilarious in person, it doesn't come across well in print. I demand only that my highball be 1) refreshing and 2) alcoholic. I present seven excellent places to get highballs, whatever that might mean to you, in Shanghai.

Get drunk. Stay hydrated.

Sober Company

99 Yandang Lu, near Nanchang Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

Sober Company is a multi-award-winning entry in Shingo Gokan's empire, if awards are the sort of thing that gets you excited. The dark and tiny second-floor Sober Society is where you go if you have deep pockets and you're looking for advanced highballing. Barman Kazuhisa Arai pushes into dangerously unorthodox territory with things like "savoury rims on the glass" and "garnish." Shocking. The man's a maverick. The highball Tom Cruise.

Price: 110rmb for anything, Goose. You're paying, so ask for something weird like the tonka bean and pandan twist, or something with hojicha, a roasted Japanese green tea.

Kanpai (Xintiandi)

No. 16, Lane 181 Taicang Lu, near Huangpi Nan Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

The Xintiandi location of the Japanese yakiniku restaurant comes recommended by one of the larger players in the whiskey world. This is not your meditative stir and delicate pour over an ice spear to the sound of generic jazz. These highballs come straight from a Beam Suntory highball machine, to the sound of sizzling BBQ and staff hollering across the room. Cold. Consistent. 'uuuuge.

They throw both a slice of lemon and a lime into the drink. Heresy! Apostasy? More like aposTASTY! Eh? Eeeeeh? Wordplay.

Price: 32rmb for the classic, which you should stick to. Cheapest on this list, spend your savings on BBQ.

Whisky Rabbit Express

415 Weihai Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

Whisky Rabbit Express is a spirits shop specializing in uh, whisk(e)y, brought to us by Cityson, who produce uh, baijiu. They've got prices at or slightly below what you'd find on a Tmall store, and a decent bourbon selection, but we're here for what's upstairs.

Their bar is low on atmosphere, but makes up for it with a well-stocked whiskey selection and more than makes up for it with a stand-out highball. They use a coconut-flavored mixer, which works surprisingly — fantastically, terrifically — well with just about anything you pour it over.

Price: 88rmb for anything on the front row, or 108rmb for fancier stuff like a Macallan 15 at the back.

Avenue Joffre

Room 1, Bldg 5, 570 Yongjia Lu, near Yueyang Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

Avenue Joffre is synonymous with head bartender Harada Munenori, a Ginza-trained institution who helped bring Japanese-style bartending in a comfortable western setting to Shanghai; basically a little brighter and less claustrophobic.

This is where you go if you want a classic, classic Japanese highball. A highball made with the laser-focused intent of a man, in a waistcoat, assembling a Swiss wristwatch, or a roadside bomb. Plenty of whiskies to choose from, but just ask for the classic yellow-label Suntory.

Price: Around 78rmb, depending on which base you choose.

Senator Saloon

98 Wuyuan Lu, near Wulumuqi Zhong Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

A fixture in the segment of Shanghai's bar scene that looks to the Prohibition for dating advice, Senator Saloon comes to us from the people behind Sichuan Citizen. The interior is dim, wooden and cozy, and their speciality is bourbon, which they mix into a bunch of classics.
Their standard highball here is made with Wild Turkey and Suntory soda, which makes for a solid, classy option that won't kill your wallet. This sweet-not-too-sweet bourbon take on a drink that's usually more, pssh, I don't know, "whisky, no 'e'"-y makes for a lower-mid-level introduction to the simple pleasure of booze with carbonation.

Price: 78rmb, comes with a straw, for babies.

Funky Monkey

588 Hefei Lu, near Chongqing Nan Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

Funky Monkey is simple, friendly, old-school and the only thing on that part of Hefei Lu worth visiting. You're here for the unpretentious atmosphere, and the selection of weird and rare spirits you won't find elsewhere in Shanghai. It's not unusual to catch bartenders in their off-hours perched on the stools trying something new.

Consequently, they make unique highballs. Their most popular is a Gran Corralejo tequila highball, but there's a whiteboard menu that includes unusual things like Ardbeg Uigeadail and Blanton's Single Barrel. The Big Peat (pictured) is deceptively unassuming Islay with a knock-out peatiness to it that makes for an excellent, excellent highball.

Price: Depends on the base, but the "interesting series" is 100rmb per glass. 

Lucky Mart

158 Fumin Lu, near Julu Lu View Listing Taxi Printout

Duh. Duuuuuuh Lucky Mart is on here.

The Fumin Lu dive bar put highballs on a wobbly, bleary-eyed pedestal. They use their own blend of whiskies, soda they shake themselves with tennis-elbow-inducing vigor, stirred in a big glass with a handle. Have one. Have ten. Have konbini snacks to soak it up, then have more, until you can't remember who or what you are. Your head will hurt, but you'll wake up less parched than ever.

The eight-hour sidewalk highball binge: not glamorous — no, not that — but thanks to Lucky Mart maybe we could say "normalized."

Price: 35rmb for the house blend, progressively more expensive as you go up to the shelves with the Yamazakis and Glenfarclaseses on them.



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