Shanghai Bar Review: The Odd Couple

By Cristina Ng, January 2, 2019

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Something totally tubular is going on at Xintiandi. When news broke in September that two big name mixologists Shingo Gokan (Speak Low, Sober Company) and Steve Schneider (who rose to fame at NYC’s Employees Only) were collaborating on the 80s-themed neon-lit cocktail bar, booze enthusiasts immediately logged it on their ‘must visit’ lists.

Fast forward a few months and The Odd Couple materialized in a second-floor hideaway off the main Xintiandi drag. It’s small in stature but big on personality, with silver compact discs (remember those?) lining the walls. A game of Pac-Man (soon featuring avatars of the titular couple) is also projected on a big screen.

Photo by Cristina Ng/That's 

The menu (and the actual bar) is divided with a side devoted to each of them. Choose from two unique interpretations of shared flavor profiles. ‘Citrus’ is a good introduction to their respective styles. Gokan’s SG Gimlet (RMB120) is a beautifully subtle combination of London dry gin with coffee, lemongrass and lime while Schneider’s Navy Strength Gin-based EO Gimlet (RMB130) with lime cordial and kaffir lime is unapologetically boozy. 

Photo by Cristina Ng/That's 

Unfortunately, on a repeat visit, we found that Gokan (ever the perfectionist) wasn't happy with his side of the menu and replaced his gimlet with a Long Island Iced Tea (RMB130). This drink shows you the potential of the Long Island with a mix of spices bringing that cola flavor instead of cheap soda. Still, we love the SG Gimlet. When we asked, the staff was able to make one on request, so do us all a little favor and keep requesting it, will ya?  

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

Say ‘flower’ to Gokan, and he refines the tropically tacky Blue Lagoon (RMB120) into something that blossoms with jasmine and elderflower essence added to the requisite blue curaçao, lemon and gin. In contrast, Schneider hits you with Roseanna (RMB120), a punchy beverage bursting at the seams with Bombay Sapphire botanicals, Campari and hibiscus. A scoop of grapefruit sorbet gives it a silky mouthfeel for a drink that’s already delicious.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's

The format puts the drinks head-to-head against one another, but this is a collaboration, not a competition. There are instances where Schneider’s bold American style meshes seamlessly with Gokan’s creativity. In regards to ‘Sound Off!’ (RMB120), Schneider says, “I know that Shingo’s rubbed off on me because I never made drinks that pretty before.” Beyond gorgeous, this tipple is also a deliciously smooth combination of Bacardi, Earl Grey, cinnamon and clarified milk in perfect proportion.

Image by Cristina Ng/That's 

We’ve always been fans of Shingo Gokan’s cocktails, but the wait time tends to be longer than we’d like. This, however, seems to be improving (under Schneider’s influence) as we saw several familiar bar staff from Speak Low or Sober, shaking in one hand, stirring with the other during our visit.

Image courtesy The Odd Couple

With both speed and finesse, The Odd Couple is poised to become one of the hottest bars of the moment. Partners Gokan and Schneider have infused the joint with their expertise and personalities in a way that complements one another. As busy as they are (Gokan recently opened SG Club in Tokyo and Schneider is involved in seven bars internationally), the partners have put in place a friendly and capable team at The Odd Couple to execute their vision.

It’s easy to fall for the 1980s retro-futurism appeal, high energy and fun crowd. Throw in a playlist heavy on Billy Idol, Joy Division, New Order and vintage Madonna and we are sold.

[Cover image courtesy The Odd Couple]

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