China Live has proven to be one of the biggest openings of the year so far, offering visitors and residents a multi-faceted shopping and dining experience in the heart of Chinatown. Now, a sleek bar called Cold Drinks will sneak into the mix.
Masterminded by beverage director Duggan McDonnell, it’s an intimate and luxurious drinking den with a view of Chinatown through Broadway-facing windows. Inspired by SF’s glam sister city, Shanghai, Cold Drinks is focusing on Scotch whiskey — most of the cocktails will feature a single malt.
“I have been a secret scotch lover and collector for many years,” McDonnell told Eater. “And while the prices can be prohibitive, the flavors of different scotches lend themselves easily to cocktail-making.”
Similar to the drinks at the restaurant downstairs, Cold Drinks’s menu will feature the flavors of Chinatown, from teas to savory components like Szechuan peppercorn, but with a healthy dose of whiskey, from smokey to spicy. “There are a lot of people who find scotch inapproachable. In order for it to be fun, it needs work with things people like to order — every cocktail needs to be a bridge to a new audience,” said McDonnell. “Every cocktail will be really delicious and fun, and you will never see a dude with a kilt in that room.” In fact, far from it: Bartenders will be wearing tuxedos made by Al’s Attire in North Beach.
The tuxes will fit in nicely with the gritty glamour of the bar, which features gold piping in the ceiling, modern lighting fixtures, and a black marble bar top. Glassware is French and Japanese, running the gamut from tiki to elegant crystal. Meanwhile, the current collection of brown leather chairs and sofas will soon be replaced with custom-made furniture from Vietnam (as soon as the right cargo ship arrives in SF’s port).
Cold Drinks is open while McDonnell and his team nail down the exact opening lineup, giving drinkers an opportunity to be part of the R&D process. The bar will hold around 50 people, with cocktails starting off around $16. Light snacks might be on offer, though that’s still TBD. Hours will likely be 4 p.m.- 1 a.m. nightly. Stay tuned for more information on an official opening and menu.