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Coa Shanghai relaunches with multi-storey concept

After a five-month closure, Coa Shanghai has reopened in a new location, offering four levels, each with a different concept.

Salón at Coa Shanghai
Salón is on the third floor

As with sister bar Coa Hong Kong, which topped Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023, the Shanghai site was inspired by Mexico and focuses on agave spirits.

Jay Khan Coa Shanghai
Jay Khan

The bar was forced to close in February due to the government’s plans for a renewal project in the area.

“We took it as a blessing in disguise, because we needed a bigger space,” explained owner Jay Khan. “It wasn’t pleasant because it was very last-minute notice, but in the end, it worked out.”

During the closure, Khan kept his team employed and engaged by hosting pop-ups throughout China.

The new site is not too far from the original, however “the neighbourhood is very different”. Coa now counts Shanghai cocktail institution Speak Low as one of its neighbours. “We chose that location first because we really liked the layout of the building – but the second thing, we are close to some other quality bars. It creates a community for guests to do bar hopping.”

The new bar offers four concepts: Taqueria, Cantina, Salón and Mezcaleria, with each offering a different cocktail menu.

Taqueria is based on Mexico’s street eateries and offers tacos, Margaritas and ‘creative’ slushies. “The vibe is very street-style. It’s meant to be very approachable, very lively and very engaging,” said Khan.

Taqueria at Coa ShanghaiFeatured cocktails at Taqueria include a Margarita Highball and a Frozen Batanga, made with Tequila blanco, Coke, lime and salt.

One floor above, Cantina represents a more traditional Mexican bar: “We wanted to bring that retro vibe of the 1930s and 40s in Mexico to Shanghai, so we have a very colonial-style design, and the menu is very traditional,” Khan explained.

Film posters, wooden ceiling fans and arcades recreate the nostalgic vibe, while cocktails include a Piña Asada, made with roasted pineapple, raicilla, chipotle, coconut and honey, and an El Diablo 2.0, made with hibiscus, Tequila blanco and manzanilla Sherry.

As with Taqueria, food is also on offer at Cantina, with the menu featuring chilaquiles, quesadillas and pollo al carbon. The floor is walk-ins only and hopes to serve as a place for drinks and dinner before guests ascend to the third-floor bar, Salón.

Salón “resembles a little bit of what Coa Hong Kong is – in the design, the barback, the menu, the music and the whole vibe”, explained Khan. However, the idea is not to simply replicate the sister site in Shanghai. Around half of the drinks on the menu are the same, while the others are new creations. One shared cocktail is the Coconut Milk Punch, made with aged rum, overproof rum, fino Sherry coconut cream, arabica coffee, tamarind and lemon.

Frozen Batanga Coa Shanghai
Frozen Batanga

“It’s more of an elevated experience. Coa Hong Kong – we call that our original. Coa Shanghai is more like an evolution. We want to do even better. People have high expectations when they come to us – we want to make sure we can live up to that standard,” said Khan.

The bar top in Salón is made from 100% natural volcanic stones and the ceiling features a fabric made from agave fibre. One of the table seats is made from a spirit barrel, and the bar’s menu is transparent, so guests can see the listings through candlelight.

On the top floor of Coa Shanghai sits Mezcaleria, which is home to the bar’s speciality agave spirits. The room can accommodate up to 12 people with a communal table. Khan said: “It’s supposed to be more intimate and more engaging. It’s a very different vibe up there – it’s a bit more quiet, more of a Japanese-style bar.”

As well as a 40-page menu of agave spirits, the bar team at Mezcaleria will create bespoke cocktails for guests based on their spirit preferences.

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