New Breed of Speakeasy Bars Cropping Up Around Shanghai

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It’s fun to drink in Shanghai, but trying to find the secret entrance to this new breed of bars is part of the adventure when they’re hidden in everything from frosted mirrors to vintage vending machines.

Flask entrance

Photo by Dave Tacon

The most international city in mainland China is quickly recovering the reputation for having the world’s best and most sophisticated nightlife it had in its heyday from the 1920s and 30s. There’s no better way to exemplify this than with these speakeasy style drinking establishments that will bring you back to the golden era.
One such bar is Speak Low, a brainchild from the man who single handedly sparked a craze in New York for Japanese-style cocktail bars, Shingo Gokan. He’s owner to the famous Angel’s Share bar, another speakeasy. To find your way to the concealed main entrance your adventure takes you to peek behind a bookcase tucked away in a shop that specializes in equipment for bartending and that’s just the beginning. Speak Low ups the ante by housing a second bar hidden behind the wood paneling of the staircase with its secret button blending into an antique map.

signature drink

Photo by Dave Tacon

Pressing the button reveals an entrance to an intimate bar with Gokan’s protege Atsushi Suzuki at the helm. Suzuki serves a spoonful of fiery grated wasabi alongside the Spirited Away cocktail that goes for about $20 or 120 Chinese Yuan. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s a third bar hiding inside that’s for members only, so if you’re able to gain access celebrate your luck.
Speak Low is also home to its eponymous signature drink that blends green macha tea with Bacardi 8 and Bacardi Superior rum, plus sherry from Pedro Ximenez. This this is the cocktail that won the 2012 Bacardi Legacy Global Cocktail Competition for Gokan when he introduced it at Angel’s Share. This drink is inspired by the tea ceremonies of Japan and comes paired with dark chocolate to pick up the intricacy of its bitter flavors.

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