Your insider’s guide to Hong Kong

Five Bars for Whimsical Cocktails

Words: Janice Leung Hayes

Hong Kong’s cocktail scene has come a long way. The days of margarita pre-mixes and fluorescent pink Cosmopolitans have given way to serious, speakeasy-style joints of which James Bond would approve. In this newest wave however, bartenders are loosening up their bowties while keeping mixology standards high, serving up playful drinks that also get those lips smacking. Cin-cin!

The Woods
Blink and you’ll miss the sliver of an entrance along Wyndham Street leading to this cool subterranean bar. When The Woods first opened, it surprised even seasoned drinkers with cocktails like The Caprese, a savoury yet refreshing cocktail with tomato water and the exact same ingredients as the salad. The menu is updated seasonally, just like a restaurant, and a recent menu includes another salad-inspired tipple, the Garden Fizz, featuring tomato-infused vodka, fresh lime juice, black pepper syrup, arugula, cucumber and tonic. For those who prefer a degustation of beverages rather than food, they even offer a seasonal prix-fixe where some of their newest, most experimental creations are served.

L/G, 17-19 Hollywood Rd, Central, +852 2522 0281

Lest canned cocktails conjure memories of the sugary, substandard drinks of your youth, it should bring some comfort to know that KWOON (named after the Cantonese word for can) is founded by the folks behind The Woods, who quite literally needed to contain their overflowing tap of cocktail creativity. At KWOON, drinks like Tom Yum Cooler, with vodka, Thai bird’s eye chilli, lemongrass, lemon, and kaffir lime leaves, are on tap, and canned on the spot. Ingredients like dried mandarin peel and chrysanthemum, more commonly found in nearby Sheung Wan’s dried herb market, are used in KWOON’s innovative recipes too. Who said drinking was bad for you?

64 Staunton St, Central, +852 2522 0281

Happy Paradise
The psychadelic neon lights should give you an idea of the funky flavours offered at this restaurant and bar. Created by May Chow, who was named Asia’s Best Female Chef in 2017, this modern Chinese restaurant offers as much whimsy in a glass as it does on the plate. The cocktail menu is divided into two sections – “easy” and “adventurous”, and it’s in the latter that you’ll find out-there creations like the Kowloon Soy Smash, named after the local soy sauce producer, and features mezcal, Thai basil, ginger, topped off with some frothy soy “air”, as well as the Durian Painkiller, highlighting the love-it-or-hate-it tropical fruit, and Madam White Snake, which incorporates Chinese snake wine.

UG/F, 52-56 Staunton Street, Central, +852 2816 2118

This Nikkei (Peruvian-Japanese) restaurant serves up plenty of bright, fun flavours, and their cocktail menu stays on theme, with one half dedicated to Asian-influenced flavours, and the other, inspired by Peru. The Smoking Gun, with lapsang souchong infused gin, chocolate bitters, vermouth and Campari, is served in its own special box. Upon opening, a puff of smoke emerges, and as it dissipates, the drink is revealed. The Ghostbusters will amuse too, not only with the nostalgia evoked by the 1980s movie franchise, but with the retro use of bright green Japanese melon liqueur Midori. Jokes aside, it makes for a refreshing respite from Hong Kong’s humidity.

G/F, Car Po Commercial Building, 18-20 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, +852 2811 1152

The Envoy
The Envoy
Often overshadowed by its sister bar, The Quinary, The Envoy is home to one of the more expansive, yet tucked away outdoor terraces in the middle of town. The menu at The Envoy, named in tribute to Sir Henry Pottinger, British Hong Kong’s first governor, has a deliberate bias towards showcasing Asian flavours, from pandan to ginseng. One particularly fun cocktail is the Dinosaur, served in a ceramic cup shaped like a cracked egg shell. The Milo Dinosaur is a drink that is especially nostalgic to those who grew up in Singapore or Malaysia – it’s essentially cold Milo served on ice with the undissolved drink powder on top. This adult version at The Envoy is spiked with vodka and chocolate liqueur.

3/F, The Pottinger Hotel, 74 Queen’s Road, Central, +852 2169 3311


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