Kevin came from Yunnan to Shanghai and opened Wooden Paradise (63-3 Fuxing Xi Lu) in order to give cocktail lovers “a place to relax … where they can feel like they have returned home.”
Wooden Paradise （木制天堂）2014年开的，是一个“让人放松舒适的地方，让我们的客人有中回家的感觉”的鸡尾酒吧。
I first visited Wooden Paradise shortly after it opened in 2014. I read about it in a lifestyle magazine’s review of the best cocktail bartenders in Shanghai. It said Kevin made a mean spicy cocktail.
Located in a small, cozy shophouse in the French Concession, Wooden Paradise really lived (and lives) up to its name. The tables were simple but elegant and polished. The decor was refined and natural.
True to the review and to Kevin’s Yunnan background, his “Spicy Paradise” cocktail, with Russian vodka and pepper liquor, in addition to citrus fruits and leaves, was a flavor sensation. As Kevin said, “I am from Yunnan. Besides classic cocktails, we also created some cocktails with the flavors of Yunnan and Southeast Asia.”
Wooden Paradise Mule 木制天堂骡子
Thai ginger, lemongrass, lemon leaves, vodka, Malibu coconut liquor, fresh lemon juice, ginger beer, spicy pepper liquor. “Sweet and sour and a little bit spicy, it’s refreshing and tasty.”
Cachaça Lemongrass Cooler 柠檬草酷乐
Cachaça, Thai lemongrass, lime, ginger-flavored soda water. “Refreshing sweet and sour, smooth drinking, and fragrant lemongrass flavor.”
Spicy Paradise 辣味天堂
Russian vodka, a slice of lime, basil leaves, spicy pepper liquor, fresh pineapple and lemon leaves. “Refreshing sweet and sour, a moderate level of alcohol, smooth drinking with a touch a spiciness and rich fruit flavor.”
Wooden Paradise has renovated a little bit since it first opened, but always kept the same classic speakeasy style. You can enter either through a backdoor in the courtyard that evokes old Shanghai, or by stepping through a window on the outside, stepping into the “paradise” of varnished wood and Yunnan artwork under the dimmed lights.
“Because many people like furniture made of wood, this kind of furniture that is warm in winter and cool in summer, we used wood to create this comfortable place where people can relax, where our customers can feel like they have returned home,” Kevin said.
Kevin remains his hospitable self. Too hospitable, maybe. Last time I visited with a colleague, he gave us enough free shots and sample cocktails before we left to make my colleague puke outside the courtyard. He said he had a good time, though.
Kevin has also opened a branch of Wooden Paradise in his native Yunnan in the Wenhua Xiang (Cultural Alley) district of Kunming, nearby Yunnan University. “That one is larger,” Kevin said, and it includes Western food, as well as cocktails.
Wooden Paradise – Shanghai
63-3 Fuxing Xi Lu (Changshu Road station or Shanghai Library station)
Wooden Paradise – Kunming
10 Wenhua Xiang
Mitchell Blatt is a travel writer, editor, and columnist who has lived and worked in China for six years. He is an author of two guidebooks, Panda Guides Hong Kong and Panda Guides China. He has been published in National Interest.org, USA Today, the South China Morning Post, The Korea Times, Roads & Kingdoms, Vagabond Journey, Silkwinds and The World of Chinese, among other outlets. See examples of his published articles.