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These Are The Tails... From The Shanghai Cocktail Festival

Apr 29, 2016 | 14:31 Fri
Just outside the glass elevator that leads to K11's roof garden, these big illustrated signs tell the stories behind classic cocktails: grandpa's favorite, the Negroni; the nectar of the nighthawks, the Martini; The Dude's drink of choice, the White Russian. None of these cocktails were available on day one of the Shanghai Cocktail Festival, which is on through the holiday weekend.

But there are several booths from our friends at alcohol conglomerates Martel, Bacardi, Rémy Cointreau, and Omnicorp. Under the setting sun, DJ Rocky Ross played Sublime on a ratty soundsystem as blinding purple and pink lights swirled around the roof's two halves and alcohol company suits mingled with mystery PR / media ladies. Perhaps "festival" is not the best way of describing this. Maybe "gathering", "function", or "product demonstration" is more accurate.

For those expecting a heavy dose of sensory overload, a la the beer festival, this is a much, much tamer affair. The open-air space is small but nice. Skyscrapers are all around, and to the west, a nest of highways converge by the dragon pillar. It's a fine place for an event. So there's two halves to the roof, divided by a little hallway you walk through. The backdrop is the carpark, which doubles as the smoking section. It seems unwise to have cars rounding corners by the smoking section at an event where patrons are encouraged to drink liquor.

The 100rmb ticket includes two drinks and a DIY Cocktail OR a snack (fries or prawn chips). After realizing none of the booths were making negronis or old fashioneds, I settled for a Cuba Libre, which I learned is a nice way to say Rum & Coke. The cagey bartender poured it real stiff and I tried to figure out where he worked. Turns out there is this whole "private bartender" industry, which I imagine caters to private women's clubs where depraved Businesswomen are entertained by stables of handsome young men, or mansions where Businessmen dress the female waitstaff in erotic cos-play, take thousands of photos, then collect the SD card from the photographer at the end of the night. If you feel like private bartending might be for you, perhaps you should opt for the DIY cocktail instead of the fries.

DIY Cocktail Station By Cointreau® product description:

At the DIY Cocktail Station By Cointreau®, aspiring bartenders can learn how to make a zesty and refreshing Cointreau With Orange. You'll go through the entire, exciting process, including pouring the Cointreau into a disposable glass, then squeezing an orange into the glass. Cointreau With Orange – it's nice. This experience is heightened by progressive trance music blasting in your face and people taking pictures of you because you look different. Cointreau®!

Eddie Yang on the left

The only bartender I recognized was Eddie from Tailor Bar. I told him we were headed to his place later to drink some of their dog penis / lizard / starfish / ants -infused vodka, and he warned me not to drink more than one shot because I wouldn't be able to sleep (clearly the case, but more on that later).

Later that night at Tailor, chatting with the barman as he chipped ice by hand and spent several minutes crafting a negroni, I remembered why the Cocktail Festival sounded good in the first place. Shanghai has a real cool local cocktail culture, but that vibe doesn't quite translate to a "festival" on the roof of a mall. At least they have a party bus that hits up some of those good bars at the end of the night.


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