Add: 17-2 North Xiangyang Road / 襄阳北路17－2号
Tel: 6433 0538
Hours: 7pm-2am (closed on Mon)
Price: 80-95 RMB/cocktail
Visited on: Apr 2016
So Flask is moving because of land issues (new location TBD), and in the meanwhile their second project has already opened its doors. The new bar is called Botanist, apparently they got the inspiration when watching The Martian, in which Matt Damon plays the role of an astronaut/botanist stranded alone on Mars. It’s just a matter of time before this place gets packed everyday, so let’s go now to see what drinks they’ve got…
The style of Botanist is completely different from that of Flask – it is not a hidden speakeasy, but rather a street-side bar in plain view. There are floor-to-ceiling windows that can be opened up completely, and there’s a lovely patio bound to be highly sought-after as the weather warms up. True to the “botanist” concept, there are plants everywhere in the space, and not only does that make it all green and pretty, it actually smells really nice right near the herb wall too. And very importantly, there’s a no smoking policy at Botanist – weee!
The cocktail menu consists of 12 creations (to be expanded to 24 soon) divided into four categories: seasonal, refreshing, classic, and spirit forward, all are named with numbers. I started with “seasonal”, cocktail #2, made from fresh passion fruit, sage infused wine, thyme syrup, mint, tea liqueur. It’s a nice balance between sweet and tart with a touch of herbal fragrance, and can be seasoned to taste with a freshly halved passion fruit.
Next was #03, fresh guava, lime juice, pineapple juice, rosemary infused rum, honey, summer cup. Pretty pink color and not so strong in alcohol, perfect for those looking for a light-hearted drink. Guava flavor not very evident though.
Meet Alvin, one of Botanist’s three bartenders, who first learned his craft at Marquee in Taipei, and subsequently went to Jilin, Bangkok, Hangzhou, then Shanghai (Flask). He might look very serious in this photo, but is in fact a very friendly and easy to talk to guy.
Flipping the page, and we are in the next category – “refreshing”. #11 is fresh cucumber, fresh lime juice, white coca, Frangelico, and Gordon’s Gin. Frangelico is a hazelnut-flavored liqueur, the nuttiness pairing surprisingly well with the freshness of cucumber and the slight grapefruit bitterness from Gordin’s Gin. The flavor profile is layered and not too complicated – my favorite drink of the evening.
#12: fresh beetroot juice, lime juice, pineapple juice, pandan syrup, Buffalograss Zubrowka vodka. It’s all about the beetroot flavor at first sip, but that slowly gives way to a pandan finishing – very interesting and very delicious.
Botanist’s second bartender is Eric, who moved from Taipei to Shanghai just 1 month ago. A brief chat revealed him to be a funny guy with all sorts of creative cocktail ideas in his head. On a related note, the bar he used to work at in Taipei – Alchemy – was recently ranked #15 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. Congrats!
Next category “classic”, cocktail #21 is made with fresh grapefruit juice, rose tea, lavender bitters, edible flowers, Prucia plum liqueur, and Aperol. The rose flavor is too strong for my personal preference, though I love the bouquet presentation.
#22 butterfly pea infused gin, edible flowers, Dulce Vida tequila, Stolichnaya vodka. The purple color, so vibrant that it’s almost intimidating, is 100% naturally obtained by infusing butterfly peas in gin. The cocktail is simply presented in a martini glass with pansies, an elegant look that I adore, but the flavor is ultra strong – not surprising given the three hard liquors that go into this drink – and I wasn’t able to take more than a few sips.
Hugo is Botanist’s third bartender, I didn’t get to talk to him much this evening and only know that he used to work at The Roof on Yongjia Road. By the way, he is the one who created the intriguing purple cocktail above.
Last category, “spirit forward”. #31 is Botanist’s twist on Negroni, made with fresh orange, rosemary, G’vine gin, La Quintynye Vermouth Royal, Campari. Amazing fragrance, love.
Last drink of the night, #33. I actually couldn’t take anymore but had to order one for photos – the lightbulb presentation is absolutely gorgeous. The composition is fresh lime juice, rosemary, pear liqueur, rose water, Martin Miller’s gin, white grape vinegar…Well, I can’t say I disliked the flavor, but the rose+rosemary+pear+grape combination is really complicated and got me confused. But the lightbulb presentation is just too beautiful (can’t help but repeat myself again).
Botanist’s food menu is still under construction, for now there are small plates like shrimps in olive oil with garlic and parsley, vegetable sticks with house-made dill ranch sauce, potato fries with house made herb aioli and dill lemon mayo, Spanish chorizo cooked in sherry wine and rosemary, seasonal fruit salad with micro herbs…yes, they put a bit or herb in everything, and it’s yum.
I’m a fan of Botanist’s herbal fresh concept, and am impressed by how creative the cocktails can get in terms of both presentation and flavor. I haven’t even finished their current cocktail list, but am already looking forward to the new creations that will soon grace the menu. Be back very soon.