Has Shanghai’s trend for new speakeasy-style bars finally reached critical mass, giving way to something more timeless? The recent opening of straight-but-classy cocktail bar Epic in the former French Concession and now the nearby Bar No. 3 are suggesting this may be the case. With cocktails as wonderfully well judged as those on offer at these two places, who needs a secret sliding bookcase door?
From the 50-strong cocktail menu to the tiled floor of the open plan venue (designed by architect Diao Wei, who works on a mezzanine above the bar), Bar No. 3 is saturated with low-key sophistication. Diao has created an adult atmosphere in which you feel like you should be wearing at least a proper shirt collar: a compliment about the respect it commands rather than an indication of stuffiness.
The whisky cocktails shine brightest, being made with Woodford Reserve. The cutting sweetness of the Queen Bee (82RMB) gives way to a more subtle taste after two sips, melding into a smoothly captivating blend. It demands to be followed by the Grand Fashioned (76RMB), a blood orange twist on the Old Fashioned that lives up to its name with its tongue-tang impact. The Coal Miner’s Daughter with ginger, basil and honey (92RMB) completes a heady trio.
Maybe the opening of a slew of brilliantly sophisticated, gimmick-free classic cocktail-led bars isn’t the most unique of trends, but with some of the best cocktails Shanghai has offered in recent memory being served at them, it’s one of the most welcome. In two years, when the weaker speakeasies have been turned into sandwich shops, we reckon we’ll still be knocking back Queen Bees at Bar No. 3.