We Tried Every Cocktail and Bite at Gin & Juice, You Should Too

By Sophie Steiner, December 12, 2020

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Gin & Juice, winner of the That's Shanghai Food & Drink Awards 2020 Best New Bar of the Year, was one of the first spots to open in Shankang Li this past summer, yet we took our dear sweet time to get there. Why? Because of rumors of a food menu soon to launch.

Well, the time is now since the food – created by Chef Gabo of Anarkia – is pumping out of the kitchen, and soon enough they will even be launching a Festive Dinner menu with mains that pair with their current Bar Bites menu. 

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The focal point of Gin & Juice is the entire display wall full of every bottle of liqueur, spirits and tinctures known to mankind (as it should be in a bar that prides itself on cocktail creations) that lines the back wall. 

The inside space isn’t huge, fitting roughly 60 people at capacity (30 when seated), yet even with that many, it feels lively rather than congested. 

The bar setup always remains orderly – each aromatic spray, eye dropper bottle of bitters and herbaceous garnish meticulously kept in its place. The OCD that sits inside all of us can rest easy. 

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Homemade everything is how Bar Manager Alex Mill (previously of Candor) and Head Bartender Kris Zhang roll, adding a personal touch to every possible ingredient they throw into each cocktail. From milk fat-washed ginger beer to herbal pandan leaf aromatic spray to tangerine sage powder garnish, they are making it all in-house to feature the individual flavors of every gin on their menu. 

The seven gin cocktails each showcase a different brand, and for the non-gin drinkers, he’s also included tequila, bourbon, vodka, spiced wine and homemade (obviously) limoncello libations as well, for a total of 12 unique cocktails on the menu. 

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On top of that, Gin & Juice also offers house G&Ts for RMB58 with a four-tiered G&T menu beyond that, ranging from RMB68-98+, which is always paired with Tall Brothers tonic. You can opt to upgrade to a premium mixer, like East Imperial tonic, Fever-Tree tonic, Capi Native or PAO Yuzu Jasmine, for RMB35. 

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Regardless of the G&T pull, we were most surprised about the playful inventiveness of the cocktail menu. We expected a lineup of fancified G&Ts with garish garnishes to match, but what we found was legit cocktails, using modern techniques that rival some of the best in the city (at a fraction of a cost, we might add).  

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The Gin & Juice (RMB88), the bar’s namesake and signature cocktail, deserves its spot in the limelight. This coconut milk, fat washed, clarified drink brings together passion fruit, lemon and basil into a flavor explosion on the palate despite its crystalline clarity. 

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Fig overload comes in the form of a Fig Negroni (RMB88), featuring fig leaf-infused Tanqueray and Campari, fig leaf aromatic spray, and a fresh fig garnish, along with a hit of Gancia Rosso. The heavy-handed use of fig actually balances out the Campari’s more medicinal qualities, making for a smoother drink – like a Manhattan – yet still showcasing the liquor’s pleasantly bitter flavor. 

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Our personal favorite, the Blondie Mary (RMB88), is the most innovative way to bring this hangover-curing savory cocktail into the night. By clarifying the tomato juice, the resulting drink is light but full-flavored, with a perfect hit of spice, brine, salt and sugar when served with a mini onion, green olive, celery and chili oil. 

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Modern cocktail techniques that truly dive into the world of chemistry make the Banana Pie Sour (RMB88) the noteworthy drink that it is. Using a refractometer, Mill is able to keep the sugar level – and thus flavor – consistent across each homemade clarified banana syrup batch he makes. Then, he mixes in freshly-pressed orange juice and ascorbic acid to create the tropical sour flavors of the cocktail without diluting the orange with lemon or lime. 

Instead of egg white, Mill dry shakes aquafaba – the zero-calorie, vegan-friendly liquid from legumes, like chickpeas – before adding in Hayman’s London Dry Gin. Finally, the frothy beverage is served in a crystal goblet, topped with fresh sage and a tangerine sage powder that Mill, of course, dehydrates and makes himself. 

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Onto the food, the real reason why we stopped by (although the stellar cocktails are the reason we will soon return). Currently there are just bar bites on offer, covering all your snack needs – fried, crunchy, salty and meaty, but just in time for the holidays, be on the lookout for the full festive menu. 

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Starting with small nibbles, the Magic Chili Olives (RMB48) are exactly what you would expect, and crave, to eat at a bar – a bowl of black and green olives, spicy peanuts and fried chili crisps. 

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Moving onto something more substantial, the Cheese Kushiage Topped with Black Pudding (RMB78) is deep fried cheese with a schmear of chipotle mayo and a slice of black pudding blood sausage. Fried cheese and meat, nothing but pure bar snacks fodder here. 

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The Ham Croquettes with Aioli (RMB68) are unsullied cream on the inside with a thick, crispy exterior, a step up from a standard French fry without wading into entrée territory. 

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For an actual meal, the Iberico Pork Sando (RMB98) is what you should order – but it’s cut into six portions if you’re friendly enough to share. A thick slab of marinated pork tenderloin is lightly breaded and fried, smothered in a BBQ-sauce-level-of-tanginess tomato chutney, and finished with a hit of Yunnan truffle, all on white bread. 

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Any menu bold enough to sport a 400 kuai sandwich as a bar bite is intriguing, and the UYYU Beef Sando (RMB398) is worth warranting a return visit. With stacked layers of Uruguayan beef, katsu sauce and lightly toasted milk bread, you will find us there next time, beef sando in hand (and three cocktails balancing in the other). 

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See a listing for Gin & Juice. 

Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's.

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