A holy water font isn’t what you’d expect outside a Shanghai cocktail bar. Then again, a menu of nearly two dozen shots isn’t what you’d think to find inside either. A futuristic chapel of brushed concrete and minimalist lines with a sleek backlit wall of booze and Taiwanese bartender Hensel Shen at the helm, Soul Sacred Space is a seeming oxymoron: a cocktail bar with a predilection for shots.
Soul Sacred Space’s a cocktail bar at is core and Shen has developed an ambitious list of inventive, thoughtful drinks. Reading the menu piques our interest – Aerated aubergine ink? Roast pumpkin sous vide rum? – and the resulting drinks are good, if a bit underwhelming. Capped with thick foam and coloured a gorgeous slate grey, fermented tea-infused mescal alongside an oolong tea cordial with charcoal milk and dry taro powder makes the Corvus taste like an adult milk tea. It’s smooth and effortless but only hits a single note. The tart and fruity Bubble Plan arrives adorned with a torched slice of dried aubergine, deceptively lighter than its rye whisky, blackcurrant puree and PX sherry suggested.
You were promised shots, but you won’t find any B52s or Kamakazis. No Slippery Nipples here. Shen’s taken a pint-sized mixology approach for these shots made classy. Each comes paired with a small bite: a slice of apple sprinkled with miso rests on a shotglass of tequila with pandan, a garnish of salted plum blossom jelly garnishes tequila and coffee. Delicious and intriguing, but also gone in a gulp. It’s a cute concept, but cute doesn’t come cheap here. Choose five for 260RMB or order fixed sets of three and four for 150RMB and 200RMB.
If anywhere could make shots fancy, it’s Shanghai. But do shots really need to be fancy at all?
By Cat Nelson