Union Trading Company
64 Fenyang Rd, Xuhui, Shanghai, China
By Alexander Barlow
THERE’S NO DENYING IT: if you’d said, a few years ago, that Shanghai’s barscape was overly indebted to the stolid, stately and self-serious drinkeries of downtown Ginza, manned by too many timid, un-fun, tool and technique-obsessed auto-tenders, then, well, you would’ve had a point.
But not now. In 2014, Shanghai’s cocktail bar boom ushered in a new chapter and bartenders everywhere were put on notice: product, however precise, means nothing without personality.
If Texas-born Union Trading co-founder Yao Lu didn’t get the memo, it’s because he was the one who sent it out.
A former underling of Bobby Heugel (at Anvil Bar & Refuge, Houston), no other barkeep in China combines craft and charisma so convincingly as this pedigreed bar-trade polymath – mentor, writer, consultant, owner-operator and truly gifted drinksmith. His influence here has been huge.