Add: 17-2 North Xiang Yang Road, Shanghai 襄阳北路17-2号
Tel: +86 6433 0538
Price: [cocktail] RMB85-95; [food] RMB35-150
Visited: July 2016
Will return: Yes
The much-acclaimed speakeasy Flask – which, in case you’ve forgotten, was hidden behind a coca-cola vending machine on South Shan Xi road – was closed earlier this year due to land issues along with most other shops on the street. But Flask fans, rejoice! For the same amazing team has brought us a new bar called Botanist, which, unlike all the secrecy with Flask, sits in plain view on North Xiang Yang road.
True to its name, Botanist is decked out with greenery all around, just enough to enliven the space without feeling overwhelming.
The green herb walls are not just for show, either. As their menu briefly explains, Botanist is built around a “Farm to Bar” concept. Their concoctions feature plants and herbs heavily, all of which are carefully sourced from local markets and vendors, as wells as their own vertical farm.
See their talented mixologists at work in dapper white vests.
The menu is divided into four categories: Seasonal, Refreshing, Classics, and Spirit Forward, with four drinks under each category. Also available are cocktails for sharing as well as a few mocktails. All the drinks at Botanist are numbered but not named.
From seasonal, we tried cocktail #02 (85), made with fresh passion fruit, sage-infused wine, thyme syrup, mint, and tea liqueur, which turned out to be my favorite drink of the evening. It had a lovely balance between sweetness and tartness, made interesting by a hint of thyme peaking through. It was served with a halved passion fruit so you can season the drink to taste.
Next up was cocktail #21 (85) from the “classics” section, with fresh grapefruit juice, rose tea, lavender bitters, edible flowers, Prucia plum liqueur, and Aperol. The predominant notes here were grapefruit and rose, with a subtle astringent feel from the lavender bitters. The bouquet presentation was playful and very pretty, and the drink did indeed taste quite flowery.
Finally, cocktail #33 (95) from spirit forward, made with fresh thyme, pear liqueur, rose water, Martin Miller’s gin, and white wine vinegar. The lightbulb presentation was undoubtedly eye-catching, but its innocent appearance belied its potency. As the section name suggests, this drink was very strong, so much so that we weren’t able to finish it. But I did enjoy the consistent undertone of lychee and herbs.
An unexpected highlight of the evening was the Multi-Spiced Marinated Fried Chicken (75). Crispy, tender, succulent, and flavorsome with a hint of spice, this was quite possibly one of the best fried chickens I’ve had recently.
Overall, the drinks at Botanists lean towards the sweet side. However, they are just as delicious and beautiful as they made them at Flask, but while the herbal theme running through made the menu more interesting. The same team has opened a new bar in Xintiandi just a few days ago called The Bunker, which – as you might have guessed – has a military theme. Can’t wait to pay them a visit.