“If Don Draper was looking for a drink in Shenzhen, this is the place he would come.”
That’s what I thought when I first stepped in Men’s Club. As you enter, you are drawn to the bronze glow of the bar and the shelves behind stocked with over two hundred bottles of whisky. The opposite side is lined with fine leather brown sofas with classic red lampshades in the corners. Dotted around the center of the room are combinations of triangle tables and turquoise low chairs.
We may be in the commercial banking area of Futian, but it could just as well be one of the hotel bars in Manhattan that Don and Roger Sterling frequented for a drink after a busy day at Sterling, Cooper, Draper & Price.
A jazz band played in the blue haze of the stage. The drummer tapped his kit with the attentiveness of someone ready to play all night long and the keyboardist’s fingers strutted across the black and white keys with the confidence of a man who knew what he was doing. All the while they waited for the singer to join them up on the stage. When she did and greeted her crowd with a beaming smile, you knew it was going to be worth the wait.
Watching the band was a young couple that had just been seated, a group of businessman enjoying a bottle of matured single malt, and at the bar a couple of women chatting with one of the bartenders as he put the finishing touches to their cocktails.
I took up a seat towards the other end of the bar. The bartender near me was carefully chipping away making an ice ball. He worked with speed and accuracy to make a perfect sphere shape. Once finished, he noticed me looking over the menu. He introduced himself as Tico and asked me what I would like to drink.
For me, the old fashioned is the perfect drink for a gentleman. It’s smooth, understated and quietly goes about its business while getting the job down. So how do you improve on perfection? Seemingly, the answer is to add bacon.
The Bacon Old Fashioned is one of Tico’s specialties. It seems like an unlikely coupling, but I’m prepared to trust a bartender who learned his trade in The Peninsula in Hong Kong. As it turned out, it was far from a novelty and the bacon-infused whiskey brought a crispness to the drink that gave the classic cocktail a whole new lease of life.
As I enjoyed my Bacon Old Fashioned, I asked about the two hundred or so whiskies behind the bar. I soon realized that Tico is something of an expert when it comes to the Single Malt. He explained the difference between whiskey and whisky. He can tell you if a bottle is an award winner only by reading the cask number and he knows how it will differ in taste just from the year. I found out that the only truly traditional Scottish whisky left is actually made by a Japanese distillery while I learned Taiwanese whisky can mature in as little as five years yet in Scotland it takes at least twelve.
I asked Tico to show me his favorites and after much careful deliberation, he brought down three bottles. There was Lagavulin, hailing from Islay in Scotland. Next up was another Scottish whisky, the Glendronach. Finally, there was something from a little closer to Shenzhen with the award winning Kavalan from Taiwan.
I decided to take Tico up on his advice and ordered a Glendronach. While my drink was prepared, I went for a walk around. As I admired one of the owners’ private collection of Laphroaig, I came across the hair salon.
The walls in the salon were covered in framed pictures and there were more leather sofas and tables so those waiting could sit and enjoy a drink. In the corner was the barber’s swivel chair. Laid out before the mirror were an array of classic shavers and scissors to give a clean and smart haircut or a close shave. Although it was very tempting to get a trim and a shave, I had a drink waiting for me.
When I got back, there was my Glencairn glass of Glendronach on the bar. The sherried malt was a deeper shade of red than I was used to and when I raised the glass I detected a strong sweet scent. I took a sip and was greeted with a taste that was very oaky and full of sherry sweetness.
While I enjoyed my Glendronach, I saw the women at the end of the bar had ordered an interesting cocktail. The purple drink had a luminous glow. Tico saw me staring and he explained to me that it was a Twisted Harmony.
It was the specialty of the other bartender, Fish. He loved to play around with recipes and make up new drinks. During the winter, he adds a bit of ginger to his cocktails to warm the blood while in summer you can expect some fruits find their way into his drinks. I hear he’s even preparing an original shot for each of the twenty four seasons of the Chinese zodiac.
I took another sip from my whisky and the singer on the stage swooned, “These are a few of my favorite things.” As I laid back in my seat and enjoyed the sweet aftertaste, I couldn’t have agreed more.
Average spend per head：110RMB
Address: Shop L120-121 Excellence Times Square Phase 2 Futian Shenzhen (深圳福田卓越时代广场（二期）L120、L121-1号铺位)
Bar Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 18:00 – 02:00
Barber Shop Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday, 12:00 – 20:00
For an extended photo gallery of Men’s Club, Please click HERE.