High-profile cocktail bar COA has finally opened in Jing’an, Shanghai. The concept comes via Hong Kong, and brings agave spirits to the forefront of Shanghai’s drinking scene, backed by its original location’s ranking in The World’s 50 Best Bars.
Founded in 2017 by bartender Jay Khan, the essence of COA is in its spirits—agave. Named after the machete-like tool used for harvesting agave, Jay founded COA with the vision of promoting and celebrating agave spirits and the culture surrounding it. The Shanghai location seeks to do the same. Currently, COA Hong Kong is #7 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2021 and #1 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021.
Located on Jiaozhou Lu in a three-story lane house, COA Shanghai is cozy, intimate space. To be honest, it’s a bit of a squeeze, which is, perhaps part of the charm. La Cantina, the main cocktail bar is on the ground floor, El Salon on the floor above has a small terrace, and at the top is El Atico, an invite-only tasting room.
How one gains entry to El Atico is vague. According to staff at COA Shanghai, they’ll scan the room for people who take an interest in agave, and bring them up to the room. Once you’re there, you’ll join the other lucky few in a guided introduction to mezcal.
Countless bottles of agave tequila and mezcals line the bar’s back wall. Eight signature cocktails (from ¥118) feature prominently on the menu, the same ones from COA Hong Kong, plus six more classic and contemporary cocktails.
If you’re looking to sample numerous agave spirits, there’s a flight of four mezcals (¥288), featuring Espadin, Madre Cuixe, Tobala, and Tepeztate. If not, there are these cocktails:
As for food, COA Shanghai has a small snack menu, mostly chips and guac and tacos. The food is pricy like the drinks, and the portions are tiny. You’re not here for the food anyway. More dishes will be added in the near future.
Cocktails start from ¥108, but the ones you really want start from ¥118. That’s a little steep, but considered acceptable for Shanghai. It’s a small space, easy to fill, which would ensure that that electric, inquisitive vibe is maintained.
Mezcal is very new to Shanghai (and China). Mezcal is not popular yet—La Mezcaleria, located right behind COA, is the only other high-profile mezcal bar in the city—and it probably has a long way to go in terms of market penetration. However, there are enough curious folk living in this city (and beyond), which if properly enticed, is perhaps enough to fuel an agave revolution.
COA Shanghai officially opens on March 8.
Address: 313 Jiaozhou Lu, near Xinzha Lu 胶州路313号, 近新闸路
Tel: none listed
Soft Opening Hours: Tue-Thu & Sun, 7pm-midnight; Fri-Sat, 7pm-1am; closed Monday