What are the best bars in Shanghai?

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Sophie Friedman
Image courtesy of Senator Saloon

This is a lush’s town. The best bars in Shanghai are glittering Bund-side affairs, subtle speakeasies, and molecular cocktail bars, with a laid-back brew pub or two thrown in for good measure.
The Bund
Pretty people flock to the Bund for elegant bar-crawls done in stilettos and leather. Unico is heavy on Latin flavor, with cocktails like el Presidente—rum, vermouth (house-made), and grapefruit bitters. DJs play regularly, with the occasional appearance from a heavy hitter like Questlove. Directly across the street is Glamour Bar, ancient in terms of Shanghai nightlife, and most often filled with Upper East Side types; don’t be surprised to see a smoking jacket or two. Moving north, there’s Bar Rouge, long-running and enormously popular with Champagne-showering French expats. Go a ways south and there’s CHAR Bar, the rooftop bar and lounge at Hotel Indigo. The drinks here are average-good and the snacks tasty, thanks to downstairs steakhouse CHAR, but it’s the views that make it worth the visit.
Shanghai’s newest contender for best cocktails is quaint little speakeasy Senator Saloon. The bar is dim, the lighting flattering. With pressed tin ceilings, velvet damask wallpaper, heavy curtains, and dark wood, it’s Prohibition-chic. A few blocks west and south is the city’s one-time nightlife nexus, the intersection of Yongfu and Fuxing Roads. Nip up the stairs to el Coctel, which is so dark menus come with flashlights and the early 20th century cocktails are prepared in the most meticulous manner.  We’d be remiss if we didn’t, on a list of cocktail bars in Shanghai, include the original: Bar Constellation. There are four locations now but the first remains a somewhat hidden intimate place in which to savor superbly crafted cocktails.
A Texas roadhouse it ain’t, but Boxing Cat Brewery will feel plenty familiar to anyone who’s wet their whistle in an American brew pub. Yank brewmaster Michael Jordan churns out craft brews like a King Louie Imperial Stout, a Total Knock Out IPA, and a Yunnan Amber, which utilizes local ingredients. 
If you’re staying on the Pudong side of the river, visit Kiwi Leon Mickelson at Kerry Hotel’s The BREW. Everything’s brewed on site, and you’ll find varieties like the White Ant (a wheat beer), Pilsner, IPA, and a nice, crisp cider. Owing to its location in a hotel and service apartment complex and the neighboring kids’ play area, The BREW is popular with families.

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