A Fortnight of Amazing Cocktails Awaits with DRiNK Fest 2020

By Sophie Steiner, November 12, 2020

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DRiNK Fest is bringing together the entire bar community of China in a way that’s never been done before. While DRiNK Magazine usually hosts a bar awards event for all of Asia, due to COVID restrictions, attention has been shifted this year entirely to China – it is somewhat of a silver lining, in that it’s acting as an impetus to bring the already kickass China cocktail scene to the next level. Big names, bars and brands within the liquor industry are joining together, supporting each other and evolving as a whole to bring something better and more unique to China’s nightlife scene. 

For 11 days, 200+ bars in more than 40 cities across China – from Shanghai to Beijing, Chengdu to Guangzhou, Guiyang to Dongguan, and Ningbo to Nanjing – will be offering special DRiNK Fest menus with RMB50 cocktails, giving guests the chance to sip quality beverages for much less than they would normally pay. Think Restaurant Week but specifically for bars, brought together by DRiNK Magazine and Dining City. For all you ballers on a budget, this is the chance to hit up those spots you’ve been saving for a special occasion without plummeting your WeChat balance to zero.

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Shanghai has more than 50 participating venues, from neighborhood cocktail joints to World’s Top 50 ranked bars, and all of the special menu cocktails will be just RMB50. No exceptions. Just sign up for a DRiNK Fest membership (totally free) by scanning the QR code below, peruse the venues nearby that offer special menus, visit said venues, scan their QR code to redeem the deal and start sipping! No prebooking required.

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DRiNK Street

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Drink Street will be a major event for Shanghai only, a preview of the epic-ness that is the DRiNK Awards, but fully open to the public. From November 21-22, The Piazza at Jing’an Kerry Centre will be converted into a drink-focused street market with 20+ bar popups as well as food vendors and live entertainment. 

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Showcasing a collection of some of the country’s top names and venues, there will be a diverse range of cocktails, low-abv drinks, and nonalcoholic beverages on offer, all sold at a maximum price of RMB50. The lineup will include The Union Trading Company, The Broken Dagger, Bar Constellation, The Chivas Masters China, Life on Mars, and SanYou, to name but a few. 

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This will also be DRiNK’s debut of their ECOBar, a reusable, self-contained bar and back bar for use at events that is environmentally conscious. All bar popups at the event will use the ECOBars for their setups, along with reusable take-home cups made from recycled coffee ground to minimize as much waste as possible. 

The reusable cups will be sold for RMB35 (or RMB50 with mulled wine, so a no-brainer), with guests able to clean their cups at any of the washing stations and bring it to the next bar booth for another drink. Single-use plastic cups and straws will not be offered in an effort to reduce the event’s carbon footprint.


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DRiNK Fest

There are over 50 Shanghai venues participating in DRiNK Fest this year, so we scoped out the menu at a few of our favorite haunts. Here’s a sneak peek at what you can expect. 

Sober Company 

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One of Shanghai’s top-rated bars and the newly appointment #42 on the World’s 50 Best Bar List, Sober Company is a multi-concept venue by Shingo Gokan (of Speak Low) housing a café on the ground floor, a modern Chinese restaurant on the second and a cocktail bar on the third. 

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For DRiNK Fest, Sober Company is keeping it classic, with their signature Coffee Milk Punch, Tea Milk Punch (using roasted Japanese hoji tea) and three stellar highballs – one smoky Bowmore with a touch of peat for balance, a hoji tea-infused Suntory one, and a classic Maker's Mark one. 

Chameleon 

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Chameleon, headed up by Eddy Yang and Carson Xie, two of the biggest names in the Shanghai bar biz, is a living room-style home-away-from-home venue with a killer rotating brunch and dinner menu that changes every half a year. It takes the normally dimly-lit, fancy cocktail scene and brings it out into the bright light with welcoming, open spaces and a comfy terrace. 

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Chameleon's DRiNK Fest menu pulls from its current Southeast Asian-inspired food menu that they have running through the end of the month. From Thailand, there's a dangerously strong Phuket Iced Tea, from India we've got the East India Co., a play on a Moscow mule with masala syrup, and from Malaysia there's the Outsider, a savory cocktail with shrimp paste, tomato and coriander. 

Taste Buds 

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Daniel An’s newest venue, Taste Buds, is actually just a remake of his original cocktail bar that shut its doors back in 2017, but more laid back, approachable and with the introduction of something unexpected – hot dogs. Not just standard American ballpark hot dogs either – we’re talking cuckoo creations like a tom yum sausage with papaya salad on top. Expect mirrors, disco balls, lots of red and key ingredient-focused cocktails like we loved at the original Taste Buds and Arch. 

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The DRiNK Fest menu, as is An's wont, has each cocktail focus on one featured ingredient. The Violet is a delicious play on an Aviation, the wasabi is served with a crunchy seaweed crisp, and the macadamia is aromatic and earthy from the addition of lemongrass and lime leaf. 

EPIC

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Cross Yu’s creation, EPIC is a cocktail lounge spread across three flours, filled with hidden nooks and crannies, ideal for any kind of night that involves a few too many. It’s all about cocktail creativity here, with Yu, last year’s Bartender of the Year winner, always pushing the boundaries. As the name states, expect something epic. 

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EPIC has designed entirely new cocktails for DRiNK Fest to appeal to new and repeat customers alike. The M&H Sour is smoky from the Dewar's and spicy from the ginger, served with a roasted piece of candy ginger and homemade ginger jelly. The Epic Presidente is a classier version of high school senior spring break in a glass, and the Bramble Up is a stunning shade of purple with the ideal balance of beetroot syrup, lemon and gin. 

Speak Low

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Hidden behind a secret speakeasy door in a small bartending equipment shop on Fuxing Lu, Speak Low, a four-floor, Japanese style speakeasy, led by Shingo Gokan, has something for everyone. The higher the floor, the higher the price, so plan your night accordingly. Cocktails start at RMB70 and go up from there. Also, the lower the floor, the livelier the atmosphere, so you can come here to dance or for an intimate date.

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Speak Low's DRiNK Fest menu features three unique cocktail creations and two canned cocktails, a style of pre-packaged ready-to-drink cocktails that really took off during COVID when bar visits were a no-go. The Red Tie Hangs Low is a fizzy clarified milk drink with habanero liquor, Aperol, and green chartreuse, and the Corpse Revival 1432 brings coffee into the night with ayuuk (an smoky mezcal like spirit made by Danish company Empirical Spirits), cold brew coffee, coconut and salted vanilla cream. The Can 02 is a pleasantly tart libation featuring Danish cherries, black currants, and Maqaw pepper.

So there we have it, DRiNK Fest – all that and a whole lot more: 1000+ drinks, 200+ venues, 40+ cities, 11 days, RMB50 per drink. Drink your way around.

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[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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