Air by Ounce: Lighter-Than-Air Yet Full-Flavor Cocktails

By Sophie Steiner, April 3, 2023

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The Place 

After opening in June 2017, Ounce has become a whisky institution in Shanghai, boasting a library of nearly 500 bottles sourced from around the globe.

READ MORE: Shanghai Bar Review: Ounce, Straight Up With a Twist

Over the last three years, co-founder Marley Teng has poured more than glass after glass of whisky; he’s poured everything’s he’s got – heart, soul, creativity, energy, and sweet, sweet cash – into the Ounce cocktail empire.

Despite COVID, expansion has been the name of the game, adding a second location in 2020, Perfume by Ounce – a lively gin bar – just a staircase away from the original. And now Air by Ounce – a coffee and tap cocktail hangout focused on easy-to-understand, approachable beverages, located on Fuxing Lu.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's


Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Although seemingly simple, as the drinks are poured from a tap and can be enjoyed within seconds of ordering, the cocktails at Air by Ounce, are complex, nuanced and purposeful.

The common thread here is that of full sensorial experience – one that removes the pressure of a complicated menu but boasts the benefit of expertly-crafted drinks that are a lighter – or airier (hence the name) – alternative to the more serious cocktails served at Ounce. 

The Drinks

Like a mad scientist, Marley has his own test cocktail lab, outfitted with equipment straight out of Advanced Chemistry – a sous vide machine, hot plates, clarification gear and a rotovap.

First used in chemical laboratories for solvent removal through evaporation, these contraptions are now commonly seen in molecular cooking to create concentrated distillates and extracts so that your eyes see one thing, but your mouth tastes something completely different. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The result?

Ten crafted tap libations meant for easy drinking, yet with full flavors that range from 5-8% ABV where, rather than just using one sense, each drink is consumed by utilizing all five, with equal attention paid to every detail.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The first four drinks on the menu are based in Ounce’s previous Whisky Day program, offering highball-inspired libations infused with different Chinese tea.

Spanning Talisker 10-year with Lapsang Souchong Black Tea as the Skye Lapsang (RMB68), Royal Lochnagar Scotch with an aromatic Jasmine Green Tea as the Scotch Jasmine (RMB38), and Evan William Kentucky Bourbon showcasing a small batch Guangdong Oolong Tea as the Kentucky Duck (RMB58), the tea distillate is first brewed to remove any bitter notes, then added along with carbonation so that the tea aroma still allows the whiskies’ individual flavor notes to be augmented. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The remaining six drinks focus on the sour and sweet taste bud receptors, pulling flavor cues from real fresh fruit infusions, flowers, herbs and even Japanese soy sauce.

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

A litchi explosion, the Yuzu Yang (RMB68) is light and refreshing without being too sweet, yet full of natural litchi flavor. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Similarly, the ruby coloring of the Italian Waxberry (RMB68) is owed to Shanghai’s favorite early summer fruit – yangmei, which imparts a tart and berry-like sweetness, accented by notes of elderflower and apple. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Umami (RMB58) centers around the Chinese concept of xian – or savory – with purple grapes imparting a mild sweetness, giving way to earthy Longjing Tea and a salty finish from Japanese soy sauce, all balanced by white rum. 

DSC06286.jpgImage by Sophie Steiner/That's

And, get this – the best part is that all 10 of the tap cocktails are also available in mini cans for grab-and-go or delivery, so you can bring the flavors of Air by Ounce with you wherever your day or night takes you. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Drinks will rotate regularly, using seasonal produce – floral aromas for spring, and refreshingly fruity flavors for summer, with can options to go along with the newbies. Expect spring sippers to launch in the coming weeks. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The team will also soon be adding a few higher ABV drinks (think 20%+), pulling from their barrel-aged cocktail program at Ounce, with three single malts from Scotland’s Speyside, Islay and Skye as the base of the three drink selections. Each drink is aged for a minimum of three months in European red oak barrels. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

There’s also a curated wine selection, with most bottles falling in the RMB300-400 range, and a few high-end bubbles, plus coffee beverages and filtered coffee during the daytime. 

The Vibe 

While this intimate neighborhood hangout seems narrow, nearly 40 guests can fit inside, circling the central tap system, as there is no need for a fully functioning bar – just pour and sip, pour and sip – plus a pet-friendly courtyard outside with seating for another 12. 

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

With such wallet-friendly drinks, and no reason to ever wait for a glass refresher, Air by Ounce is an ideal spot for a casual catchup, a low-key date, or a pre- or post-bar hangout (as it’s open until 4am most days). 

The ambiance, regardless of the time of day, compliments said experience that arrives in your glass.

Want to try Air by Ounce’s mini can cocktails right now? Purchase then through their WeChat Mini Program by scanning the QR below:


Price: RMB38-78
Who’s Going: Fuxing Lu passers-by; Ounce fans; those looking for a casual yet full-flavor cocktails at reasonable prices
Good For: Casual catchups; low-key date nights; pre- and post-bar drinks

Air by Ounce, 559 Fuxing Lu, by Ruijin Er Lu 复兴路559号,近瑞金二路.

Read more Shanghai Bar Reviews.

[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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