The spirited traveler: Tilting a glass in Shanghai

Tue Mar 22, 2011 6:14am EDT
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By Kara Newman

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Shanghai, the most populous city in China, is said to be giving Hong Kong a run for its money as China's leading financial center. One day, it may well rival other metro areas as a leading cocktail center.

For an insider's take on what to expect in one's glass, I turned to Aaron Landis, VP of international operations at Ivie and Associates and a U.S. native who has lived and drunk (in moderation, of course) in Shanghai for the last eight years.

First off, he says, daring drinkers should cultivate a taste for baijiu, a rice-based clear spirit found throughout China, often consumed as a shot.

Though tasting "slightly worse than petrol" to the Western palate, says Landis, this is what Chinese businessmen drink.

"If you're doing business in China, you may as well get used to it, because repeated baijiu toasts at long banquets are de rigueur for doing business here."

While Chinese locals haven't yet developed much of a taste for cocktails, a number of bars cater to expatriates and business travellers. Interestingly, some of Shanghai's best bars are owned or run by Japanese, who have their own impressive and meticulous cocktail culture.

For libations in The Bund, the riverfront area which remains a nexus of upscale Shanghai city life, the hot-pink Glamour Bar () is a venue where 20-somethings and the business crowd mix freely.

Alternatively, the nautical-themed Compass Bar () at The Peninsula Shanghai is considered a posh, expense-account place in which to impress guests or colleagues.   Continued...