Two things set Yuan apart from Shanghai's cocktail bar scene: first, it’s unabashedly Chinese, not Chinese doing Western. Vintage glassware and furniture are all Chinese. The idea is to evoke nostalgia for the 1970s and ’80s. Retro toys line the wall, bartenders wear grade-school uniforms, the bill is a school report.
Second, the drinks will also bear Chinese accents (again, we’ll concede Yuan is not the first to do this: Ginseng and Fennel Lounge do similar). Cocktails include the Noble Ginseng Blazer, with Martell Noblige, honey and Changbai Mountain ginseng; the Absolut Chongming Peach, with Giffard Peach, Chongming wine, osmanthus and lemon juice; and the Shaanxi Warrior, made up of hawthorn-infused Olmeca tequila, apricot brandy, lemon and cranberry juice.
the signatures here is the Shaoxing Cavalry. Essentially a reimagining of the
Manhattan, Chivas 12 Scotch replaces bourbon and is tempered with
wolfberry-infused Shaoxing rice wine (a stand-in for sweet vermouth), balanced
with orange bitters and served in old-style Qing Dynasty pottery and tops the
list of one of the most inventive, Sino-centric cocktail menus in town.
Behind the bar is an all-Chinese line-up of bartending talent, including Ted He, a finalist in the inaugural Time Out Shanghai-Cointreau Cocktail Shakedown competition in 2012.
Update: From November 2014, Yuan now offers lunch from 11am-4pm with Hainanese chicken rice sets and other dishes.