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I used to think the whole Japanese cocktail thing would be a fad. I mean “Ginza-style” cocktails – what does that mean anyway? That is until I started drinking them. So what are “Ginza-style” cocktails? In a word, they are perfection. Much like all else the Japanese do, no detail is spared in perfecting the ordinary cocktail. Japanese or Ginza style cocktails take into account the freshness of the ingredients, e.g. mint or lime, as well as the size and shape of the ice, and the even shape of the glass. So, whether it’s whisky which is sipped at a slower rate and thus has a large, slow-melting ball of ice to a more refreshing mojito which would use freshly picked mint and crushed ice, no detail that could possibly enhance the experience is missed.

So don’t be in a hurry, it might take a bit longer than you are used to, to get your normal gin and tonic. But it is my experience, it is well worth the wait. Shanghai, in particular, has a huge fondness for Ginza-style bartending. In fact, there are more than a dozen Japanese  style bars, but in my opinion, these are the 3 best Japanese or “Ginza-style” Cocktail bars you can find in Shanghai.

 

El Coctel

Munne is the head bartender at this reservation-only watering hole. He’s been making drinks at El Coctel for several years and unlike trendy Shanghai bars that come and go, El Coctel has been on the hot list for a while with no sign of slowing down. So please do take the reservation process seriously as there is no standing allowed in this cozy lounge. Munne’s favourite cocktail is a classic Gin & Tonic, and so is mine. He makes the best I have had in Shanghai and I like to enjoy it with one of their oh-my-god, crazy-good panini sandwiches (the truffle and ham is my favorite).

While there is a regular cocktail menu, apparently the mojito is their best seller, and there are seasonal offerings too – based on what is fresh and what the temperature is like outside. El Coctel also has hard to find spirits, such as Hendricks Gin. For many of these reasons, it has become my “go to” bar in Shanghai.

2/F, 47 Yongfu Lu,
near Fuxing Xi Lu
Telephone: +86 21 6433 6511

 

Constellation

Another long-time Shanghai favourite is Constellation. Famous for their range of whiskeys, both Japanese and traditional Scotch Whiskeys. Constellation is a bit on the quiet side with a long bar but also nooks and crannies for privacy. Again here, they are not fond of crowds, so if all seats are full you might be turned away. Seems when it comes to serious cocktails the seating policy is serious as well. There are a few locations but I like the one on Xinle Lu.

86 Xinle Lu,
near Xiangyang Bei Lu
Telephone: +86 21 5404 0970

 

Mokkos

Harder to find, and a little bit further afield in Zhongshan Park is Mokkos – but Mokkos is totally worth the trip. Here they are known for their extensive selection of shochu, a Japanese spirit typically made of sweet potatoes or rice (think stronger than sake but weaker than whiskey). If you are new to shochu, no worries….the bartender can guide you through.

But if shochu is not your thing, it’s OK, there is also a full bar as well with the classic cocktails one would expect from the Japanese born and bred bartender / owner.  You can sip your cocktail at the bar or sit on one of the tatami mats while listening to whatever quirky music is playing…last time I was there, it was Bob Marley.

 

Rm. 103, 1245 Wuding Xi Lu
near Wanhangdu Lu
Telephone: +86 21 6212 1114

 

 

(Photos courtesy of El Coctel, Constellation, and Smart Shanghai)

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