86 Xinle Lu, Shanghai, China

By Hamish Smith

IF ONE BAR IN CHINA provided the guiding light for all that have followed, unequivocally, it is Constellation.

Before this corridor-shaped Shanghai bar lit up its city’s night life, cocktails did not exist in China – at least not the crafted, classically reverent sort. Owner Kin-San (Jin Zhong Lei) was the cocktail astrologist who saw what no one else did, opening Constellation amid a barren landscape in 2000.

He has built an empire – last count was seven bars, six of which are in Shanghai. But he will forever be best known for his first love, what is now commonly referred to as Constellation 1.

Here he unearthed classic cocktails that would have even the most learned drinks enthusiast flicking through old bartender manuals, and assembled an unparalleled collection of fine whisky.

The format will never change – there’s no greater advocate of tradition than Kin-San – nor will the warm, attentive style of service. As Kin-San says: “We consider the costumers the stars.” Even 16 years since first emerging, Constellation shows no sign of fading.