Tag Archives: cocktail bar

Shanghai: El Coctel

6 Jul

El Coctel, a Japanese-inspired Spanish cocktail bar owned by Chef Willy Trullas Moreno of popular tapas restaurant El Willy, is one of my favourite cocktail bars in Shanghai. It’s just about the prettiest bar that I’ve been to, but lest you think it’s all style and no substance, I’ll have you know that they serve great cocktails and gourmet sandwiches (from Chef Willy’s hot dog and sandwich shop Bikini one floor below the bar).

It’s hard to not feel relaxed here and let all your troubles slip away here. I love its eclectic apartment style decor; complete with mismatched chairs, plush leather sofas, quirky art pieces and watercolour wallpaper. In the day, floor to ceiling windows fill the room with gorgeous light and at night, a dim orange glow makes it really conducive for a date. Lovely is an understatement.

It would be nice to one day sit at the bar one day and watch their (hipster) bartenders make my drinks/converse with them since that’s a huge part of the cocktail bar experience, but that day we were contented to have our own little quiet spot in the corner for girl talk.

How cute is the flamingo coaster? Its watercolour animal and floral themed brand identity is just adorable.

We were served a complimentary bar snack of popcorn and excellent nuts that were both sweet and savoury. Really good!

To start, we both had something light and fruity. I thought the Harvard Cooler (Calvados Fizz) (8oRMB) was a witty take on cider. It actually tastes like a cider, though it was made using Calvados (apple liquor from Normandy), lemon juice and powdered sugar and then aerated and shaken. Great concept and I liked the slight fizz.

The Sakura Caprioska (80RMB) is a must order IMO, as sakura (cherry blossoms) liquor doesn’t often feature on cocktails menus. With the addition of gin, orange and lemon, this was a uniquely floral yet well-balanced cocktail. The choice of citrus fruits complemented the sakura flavour well.

If you’re feeling peckish, you should order from the sandwich menu here, as they are not your average bar food standard. This was the warm salmon, walnuts, apple, spinach and goat cheese panini (55RMB). What an interesting combination that really works! The salmon went really well with the sweet apple slices and goat cheese. And the bread was nicely toasted. Sure it’s not that cheap for a sandwich in China, but I think it’s good enough for a light meal. On a previous trip, I had the ham, emmental and mustard panini (55RMB) which was also amazing and totally elevated my ham and cheese sarnie experience to a new high. The melted cheese was a dream, and good quality ham was actually used (a treat in China).

The Snow Ball (80RMB) was a Japanese interpretation that had Advocat, lime juice, and ginger ale. I tend to shy away from eggs in my cocktails, but the Advocat liquor (egg based brandy) was actually quite comforting, and was nicely balanced with the citrus and the fizzy ginger ale.

For the last cocktail for the road, I went for the Islay Old Fashioned (80RMB), which was a usual old fashioned (spirit, sugar, orange, bitters) with an additional 5ml shot of Islay single malt. This was extremely smooth and had a nice tint of smokiness. Felt very manly gulping this down as we were running late for dinner, angsty Don Draper would approve.

This is definitely one of my go to bars in Shanghai even though it’s a tad pricier. I like the classy ambiance and their house cocktails are all quite unique. They also seem to refresh their menu seasonally as I spotted a few new/missing drinks since my previous trip. Finding the bar is a bit of a challenge though, as there isn’t a signboard bearing its name anywhere. So do the folks at The Apartment (a neighbouring bar that always get asked where El Coctel is) a favour and look out for a discreet entrance with a cocktail shaker and walk up the stairs.

Price: $-$$ (~80 RMB per cocktail, ~55RMB for sandwich)
Location: 2/F, 47 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu
Opening Hours: Daily 5pm till late
Tel: +86 21 6433 6511
Website: http://el-coctel.com/

Shanghai: The Public [formerly Apothecary]

24 Nov

[Edit: As of Dec 2011, Apothecary has been rebranded as The Public due to split in partnership. This visit was made before the change happened. I will try to make another visit to see if there have been any changes to the menu, F&B quality, etc.]

I didn’t plan to come to Apothecary as part of my Shanghai cocktail bar crawl since the original branch is from Beijing and I read better reviews about El Coctel and Alchemist. But a new friend I made in Shanghai raved about its cocktails so off we went, after an awesome meal at Mr & Mrs Bund. It also serves New Orelans Creole style cuisine so they have fried chicken nights on Sunday and other delicious sounding bites like homemade maple-smoked bacon and beignets.

The bar was about half full when we arrived at 10ish but slowly filled up. It felt quite cosy in general but I thought the furniture and the turquoise sofa I was sitting on looked a little…cheap and incongruent with the rest of the decor. If interior is not a key factor for you, then that’s fine. There was also an outdoor patio area.

Like our Mr & Mrs Bund, it has an extremely long menu so it felt like a night of mugging for exams. You can tell the folks behind Apothecary take their drinks very seriously from the way they try to recreate the really classic cocktail recipes, down to the littlest details, yet serve up many interesting modern takes on the originals and also make their own ice, bitters, sodas etc. For the indecisive (like me), cocktail-noob or the plain can’t-be-bothered, you can take your pick from the shortlisted “Auspicious Eight”.

One of their most popular cocktails is The Kind (70 RMB), which is described as a “Tiki-style Moscow Mule variation” made with Ketel One vodka, grapfruit and lime juice, a tad of black pepper, cinammon and lime syrup, house-made ginger beer and soda. I was a little apprehensive about the black pepper as I generally don’t go for cocktails with savoury elements, but decided to try after the waiter egged me on. All the elements came together surprisingly well and the black pepper and cinammon provided a light spicy zing that elevated it from good to great. It’s definitely more exciting and delicious than your regular Moscow Mule.

The hubs had a Dark and Stormy (70 RMB), which was dark rum, house-made ginger beer and lime since he wanted something ginger-ish for digestion. The dark rum tasted of caramel and the ginger beer taste packed a punch and was quite spicy. I thought it was a very good cocktail as well but it’s not for people who dislike the taste of ginger.

We encountered good and earnest service even though they have quite a few bad reviews online, perhaps because we went slightly earlier than peak hour or simply improved. The drinks here were slightly cheaper than Alchemist and El Coctel but they don’t give out complimentary snacks and also rank lowest on ambience, but I did feel their main attraction – the drinks – delivered.

Price: $-$$
Location: Sinan Mansions, Block 2, 4/F, Lane 507 Fuxing Zhong Lu, near Chongqing Lu

Shanghai: The Alchemist

14 Nov

I’m a lover of artisan cocktail bars (and non-artisan ones when I just need a drink, LOL) so I wasted no time in checking out one of Shanghai’s popular cocktail bars – The Alchemist at Sinan Mansions – on my first night.

The Alchemist markets itself as a “molecular gastro-lounge” that serves “deconstructed cocktails” and uses modern and scientific techniques like foams, liquid nitrogen etc. I read that they also make their own sodas and infusions. There were also pretty exotic and tasty sounding bar snacks on the menu. Ambience was quite good as it was buzzing but not too loud to not hear your date. There was a second floor but the setting seemed more for dining than cocktails.

Cool molecule looking lamp above our seats. Spot the blown light bulb :P

Popcorn with nori and nuts – This complimentary bar snack looked innocuous enough but I later realised that the popcorn was mixed with hua jiao you 花椒油 which is the tongue-numbing agent in Sichuan food!  I’m definitely not a fan of hua jiao you, but I thought this east-meets-west pairing was expert. And addictive.

Coupe de Fruits (Ketel One vodka, amaretto, aperol and freshed pressed strawberries, charged with Alchemist ginger ale, blueberries) – I chose this from the “Sweet & Fruity” section of the menu and it tasted light and summery. Like something you would drink at the beach :) Nice but nothing too wow here. I loved that they are generous with fresh fruits in their cocktails though. If you’re wondering what’s the round black dot in the glass, it’s actually a blueberry (not a bubble tea pearl).

Emerald Tablet (Coriander infused tanqueray gin, Ricard, lime and aloe vera milk; charged with cucumber soda) – This was from the “Sour & Savoury” section though it wasn’t exactly sour. It’s probably an update on a G&T and it tasted strongly of the coriander and cucumber, which I loved. I thought the flavours present here were very clever. By the way, the blue satin sofas we were sitting on (in the background) were SUPER comfortable :)

While I didn’t feel any of the techniques and flavours in my cocktails were particularly “molecular” (there are probably other such cocktails on their menu), the drinks at The Alchemist are definitely a modern take on classic cocktails or their own creations which I appreciate, as I love to be wowed in cocktail bars instead of drinking the same thing everywhere. My next drink for the night would probably have been the Pimm’s Spider (Pimm’s No. 1, Leifman’s Fruitesse beer, cucumber and absinthe ice cream) which sounds AMAZING but a pity we had to call it a night…will definitely be back for more next time!

Price: $-$$ (Both cocktails were 75RMB each)
Location: Sinan Mansions, Block 32, 45 Sinan Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu 思南路45号32号楼, 近复兴西路
Telephone: 6426 0660