5 Hong Kong cocktail bars that elevate mixology to an art form
Each of these places is wildly different from the other, and that’s what we love about them. You just want to try them all.
While each offers its own unique experience, they do share two very important things in common: world-class drinks made to perfection, and stellar service to write home about. Cocktail drinking the way it should be.
If you’re in town and looking for something really special, make sure you put these in your rotation.
The Old Man
Headed by Hong Kong bar veterans Agung Prabowo, James Tamang and Roman Ghale, The Old Man is a vibrant homage to Ernest Hemingway’s passion for travel and sophisticated drinks. Just 18 months after opening, it made it to No.1 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars, No. 9 on World’s 50 Best Bars, and won the 2019 DMBA Asia Bar Team of the Year Award.
The bar crafts inventive cocktails with intriguing flavor profiles, using innovative culinary techniques such as fermentation, sous-vide, and rotary evaporation to sublimate the aromas. Named after the literary icon’s novels, the drinks are flawlessly executed and served. A must-try is The Snows of Kilimanjaro, with marshmallow gin, lacto-fermented raspberry and citrus, topped with egg white foam and grated gruyère (yes, you read that right). We also love The Sun Also Rises, with curry leaf-infused gin, coconut oil-washed applejack, vermouth, kaffir lime, and sous-vide pandan leaves.
The bar’s unusual, capital I-shaped setting fosters interactions, and the warm staff loves letting guests know more about the story and process behind each creation. Beyond crafting exceptionally balanced and complex cocktails, The Old Man’s greatest feat is to offer a luxurious experience that still manages to feel welcoming and unpretentious.
Quinary reinvents the art of the cocktail with an innovative food-science approach that engages all five senses – or what they like to call Multisensory Mixology. Headed by multi award-winning mixologist and co-owner Antonio Lai and star bartender and bar manager Samuel Kwok, the bar has consistently been voted one of Asia’s and the World’s 50 Best Bars (respectively 3 and 5 times in a row).
This is the cocktail bar as a laboratory. Playing with perception, flavor and science, Quinary has crafted an exciting and pioneering experience taking molecular mixology to new heights. Here, flavor and aroma combinations come together in different textures, appearances, and even sounds. Cutting-edge techniques like rotary evaporation, centrifugation, freeze-dehydration, sous vide, and more are used to develop clean, intense flavors and elevate local ingredients.
The 40-plus cocktails are as delicious as they are Instagrammable. Try their house signature, the sweet and sour Earl Grey Caviar Martini, which blends vodka, elderflower syrup, apple juice, Cointreau, lemon and lime, comes topped with a tower of Earl Grey foam, and is filled with bursting “caviar” tea pearls.
While today’s Hong Kong bar scene may be rife with trendy places and cutting-edge concepts, you won’t find any with the same level of service and love for perfectly structured cocktails as this one. Set in Hong Kong’s Island Shangri-La, Lobster Bar and Grill has been serving some of the best drinks in town since 1991. Almost three decades later, it shows no signs of stopping: the hotel bar was featured among Asia’s 50 Best Bars from 2016 to 2019, and received the Best Cocktail Bar award at the Hong Kong Best Spirits Awards 2019. Last fall, veteran French bartender and winner of 2019 Asia’s 50 Best Bars The One to Watch award Bob Louison took the helm as bar manager.
The cocktail menu showcases the meticulous craftsmanship of the bar’s team of mixologists. Based on James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon, it is divided into four sections (British Influence, Oriental Tales, Chinese Heritage and Heaven on Earth) that follow the adventures of its main character, British diplomat Sir Hugh Conway, on his journey to Shangri-La. We love A Toast for Conway, a delicate and refreshing drink with a fruity tartness made with champagne, Lillet Blanc, plum lemon and honey. Another favorite, strong and flavorful Like Anko, is made with whiskey, Chinese tangerine, red bean liqueur, Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino and vanilla bitters.
Headed by award-winning chef Umberto Bombana, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo Bombana is the first and only 3 Michelin-starred Italian restaurant outside of Italy, a distinction it has held for the past 8 years. But at this world-famous venue, the cocktail bar is a destination of its own. Case in point: it has been featured among Asia’s 50 Best Bars for three years since 2017.
Come here to enjoy a suspended moment over meticulously crafted cocktails – and truly delicious antipasti – before a night out on the town. Just as in chef Bombana’s kitchen, the bar puts the utmost care in its sourcing of high-quality ingredients and perfectly executed recipes. The menu includes an array of classic Italian aperitifs, forgotten spirits and bitters, a dazzling selection of wines by the glass from the restaurant’s 2000-bottle wine list, and bite-sized samples of the restaurant’s outstanding cuisine served in canape form.
Cocktail-wise, award-winning bartender Devender Seghal has beaded the bar programme since 2014, pouring his innovative flair and perfect technique into standout signature cocktails and bespoke creations such as the 8½ Caviar Martini – served with Italian Oscietra caviar, and the Optimist, made with rum, ginger syrup, honey water, lime juice, yellow chartreuse and fresh basil.
Duddell’s is a cultural and social destination for food, drink and art lovers alike. This sophisticated bar and Michelin-starred restaurant fuses contemporary interpretations of authentic Cantonese cuisine, world-class creative cocktails, and a vibrant art programme. Established with the city’s cultured and arty types in mind, the venue features a changing display of contemporary art exhibitions as well as a steady flow of lectures, talks and screenings curated by its own Art Manager.
The cocktail menu is as artful and eclectic as the space, with carefully crafted drinks that expertly blend traditional local ingredients with the finest spirits. We love Frogs Start Singing, a fresh and spicy combination of vodka, sencha, poblano chili, green pepper, pineapple and lime, and A Lotus Blossoms, with gin, yuzu, raw honey, lemongrass, egg whites, bee pollen and sansho dust. In the mood for something more deep and complex? Try Mist Starts To Linger, with aged rum, charcoal roasted tea stems, aromatic cocoa bitters, gold leaf and mesquite smoke, or Rainbows Hide, with 10 year-old single malt, Barolo Chinato vermouth, bitter rhubarb and black truffle.
These libations are, of course, best enjoyed with a comforting side of dim sums and other luxurious delicacies from the menu.