The necessity of a speakeasy is long over, but there are a growing number of so-called“secret” bars in Shanghai. These establishments may make you feel like an insider and most of them pour good drinks. These hidden bars stay true to the idea of a speakeasy by requiring passwords to enter through their often unmarked and discrete doors. Once inside you’ll often find cocktails served by candlelight and feel the pleasure of knowing you’ve unearthed a gem. Here are our picks for the best in town. Yoyo He and Zhang Yang guide.、
Tailor Bar—Great drinks in this quiet bar with views of temple
Tailor Bar is so well-hidden that it takes a while to find it. Stand in front of the Paramount Gallery Hotel by Jing’an Temple and look across Yuyuan Road toward a pharmacy on the corner. Then, take a tiny elevator just to the right and up to the fourth floor. Head bartender David Hong, who received training at the Ritz-Carlton hotel bar in Berlin, promises to make a unique drink for you after speaking to customers and learning their tastes. A wall of windows allows views of Jing’an Temple in this quiet bar.
Speak Low—features three separate bars on Fuxing Road.
This venue is owned by mixologist Shingo Gokan, who wanted a bar especially for cocktail lovers. Named after the cocktail he used to win the Bacardi Global Legacy Cocktail Competition, Speak Low features three distinct bars in one building on Fuxing Road M. Behind a bookcase in a shop selling bartending equipment is the main entrance to the first bar on the second floor. It has a downtown New York feel. Go upstairs and push the button hidden behind a wooden panel to enter the second bar. There is a third hidden bar with a chandelier, piano and pianist.
El Ocho—Slamming back cocktails like the Corpse of Old Tom
One has to walk through a flower shop and up some stairs to reach El Ocho, the latest nightlife spot from the El Willy group. The triangular ceiling gives a sense of space while an extensive cocktail list provides plenty of choices. Bartenders also use homemade ingredients such as freshly smoked mescal for original concoctions. The signature cocktail Corpse of Old Tom — a variation on Corpse Reviver — contains Ransom Old Tom gin, fresh lime, dry curacao, absinthe and fresh orange zest.
Flask—Cool beverages with some obscure Chinese ingredients
The mysterious entrance of Flask is a vintage Coca-Cola vending machine that lies inside a sandwich shop named“The Press“ on Shaanxi Road S. Pull it open, then you will find a doorway into a cubby hole that is a cocktail bar offering imaginative drinks. Flask is like an Asian speakeasy of the future. The drinks menu is split into two sections named “Ladies” and “Gents,” all priced around 90 yuan (US$14). Each drink boasts an experimental mix of flavors and obscure Chinese ingredients. The signature drink called Taiwan Plum Soup from the “Ladies” section is made of rum, plum liqueur and the bartender’s secret longan syrup.
If you are willing to make your own homemade cocktails, here are three classic recipes that are easy to make at home. Bartender David Hong shows you how.