Dada is famous as a music scene hub but co-founder Michael Ohlsson is also quite the drinks aficionado, including of arcane tipples. (Case in point: we once shared a lineup of Ethiopian Shiraz, Canadian Cabernet Franc and New Zealand baijiu at the former Q Bar one crazy night.)
Just ahead of the new Dada Beijing opening next Wednesday, I asked him about the liquid side of the business.
How has the Dada drinks list morphed since you guys first starting “spinning vinyl” and “dropping beats”, as the kids say?
We first started Dada in 2009 in Shanghai. At the time, the market was all about cheap beer, cheap gin and tonics, Jose Cuervo shots, and so on.
A lot has changed since then — I gained weight, half my hair is grey and my doctor says I have hearing loss, although I think I’m just better at tuning out what drunk people are saying.
Seriously, the alcohol scene has gotten a lot more sophisticated, and thankfully that dovetailed with my maturity. More customers expect good Negronis, a whisky selection, interesting wines and at least a step up with the tequila brands. There are also less fruity drinks on the menu.
You have also been traveling around China and DJing in dozens of cities. What drink trends are you seeing?
Whisky sours. I guess there was a famous Chinese hip hop lyric a few years back mentioning them. It took me a while to figure out because when it’s just a brand becoming popular, that’s easy to understand, there was a marketing push. But a sort of random cocktail not linked to an international trend?
Also, Moscow Mules are popular, because a lot of young club kids here have been idolizing Berlin, and that’s popular in the scene there.
With the real hip kids, it’s all about natural wines: the skin contact / no sulfites / cloudy sour stuff.
You guys list some baijiu-based cocktails at Dada. What flavors work best with baijiu and how are the drinks received by customers?
Flavors like lychee, Midori sour and cinnamon that both tame and compliment baijiu. Actually, your White Rabbit baijiu shots are a real inspiration and we are playing around with something similar.
And it might sound random, but for some reason, German customers love our baijiu cocktails.
It’s 2 AM and Fleetwood Mac is playing: what’s your go-to tipple?
Usually, it’s 5 AM when Fleetwood Mac gets played. By this time, my taste buds are shot and I’m drinking a vodka soda. But I think the staff hold the vodka and I’m none the wiser.
What are some drink menu highlights to expect at the new Dada?
We’ve developed some new cocktails over the summer with our mixologist in Shanghai that we’ll bring up to Beijing. Try the ‘Ai-Bang’ drink for starters.
Also, we are expanding our list of whiskies and other spirits — I’ve got a recent interest in post-Soviet era brandy and in mezcal. We won’t be focusing on that for the opening night, but will be soon.
Next month, we have some bartenders from other cities coming to guest, along with DJs from their cities. I’m also very happy with our short but nicely curated wine list.
Dada Beijing officially opens next Wednesday at 9 PM–apparently, there will be 68 DJs, each with only six minutes of playing time, so don’t expect to hear Bohemian Rhapsody. You can find it near Ritan Park: see here for details / map. Here are four photos of the new place and four from closing night at the old one.
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