The Best Cocktail Bars In Hong Kong: 2020 Edition
The Hong Kong cocktail scene has blossomed over the past five years, going from a place best known for clubbing and its heaving streets of Lan Kwai Fong, to being the home of world class bars rivalling those in established cocktail cities around the world. After more than two months of bar closures due to Covid-19 restrictions, now seems as good a time as any to highlight those who have led the way, and the ones who have followed and lifted the industry as a whole. From bartender owned-and-run joints, to bars nestled within hotels and larger establishment, Hong Kong boasts a diverse range of venues for a good tipple. When our favourite bars re-open on 18 September, don’t forget to say hi to the ladies and gentlemen behind the stick—a bar is just as much about the people who helm them as the cocktails they make.
If you have not had a chance to visit a mezcaleria in Oaxaca, Mexico before, this is as close as it comes outside of it. Jay Khan, co-founder and head bartender of COA, is your go-to man for all things agave not just in Hong Kong, but internationally. Let him take you on a tasting adventure through the wild and diverse world of tequila and mezcals, best enjoyed from copitas (shallow terracotta cups traditionally used in Oaxaca). Jay also frequently experiments with fermentation techniques to incorporate into his cocktails, so be on the lookout for specials. A mainstay is the Tepache, made with fermented pineapple skin and cinnamon, but also don’t leave without trying La Paloma de Oaxaca, a gentle twist of the Mexican classic with a rim of tangy worm salt. You can also purchase a canned version of their La Paloma, created in collaboration with Young Master Ales.
Shop A, LG/F Wah Shin House, 6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central, Hong Kong
The Old Man
It is no new news that The Old Man was recently crowned The Best Bar in Asia, placing it amongst the most well decorated venues in our region. Three industry veterans, Agung Prabowo, Roman Ghale and James Tamang, came together to create an intimate bar in an unexpected alley space. Boundaries between guests and bartenders literally disappear here with its signature “I” shaped table and delightful hospitality. The cocktails, inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s novels, experiment with unique flavour combinations and come slightly smaller than your standard pours, allowing you to try more from their diverse offerings (which you will undoubtedly want to do.) “A Moveable Feast,” the clarified cousin of the Bloody Mary made with colourless tomato water, coconut, basil tomato seeds and garnished with an oyster leaf, is a gastronomic sipper not to be missed.
The Old Man, LG/F, 37-39 Aberdeen Street, Soho, Central, Hong Kong
Serving up great classic cocktails is often easier said than done, and Darkside, located within the Rosewood hotel, executes them with grace and elegance. The venue, with its jazz band in full swing, is an ode to an era gone by and tempts you to put on your dancing shoes. Arkadiusz Rybak and Simone Rossi look after the well curated drink offerings beyond just cocktails, featuring also vintage Champagnes, Armagnacs, ports and Madeiras. While it is hard to pick a classic from the classics, the Delicious Sour, made with Calvados, peach brandy, lime and egg white, is one that can be enjoyed in multiples throughout the evening. Darkside was also the winner of Tatler Dining's Best New Bar award for 2020.
Darkside, 2/F, Rosewood Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong
Hong Kong has Antonio Lai and Quinary to thank for being one of the major sparks of the cocktail movement in our city. The ever-Instagrammed Earl Grey Caviar Martini, with its mile high foam topping, has a loyal following of locals and tourists alike, but should not be the only reason you visit. Antonio’s award-winning team are always experimenting with new themed menus and creations, with a focus on ‘multisensory mixology’ that engages all the senses. Their latest series is an adventurous one, incorporating traditional Hong Kong ingredients ranging from “Choi Gon” (dried bok choy vegetables) to “Siu Aap” (roast duck).
Quinary, G/F, 56-58 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
Mizunara The Library
Like many of its Tokyo counterparts, finding Mizunara involves venturing into a nondescript commercial building. You could very well be in Ginza from the moment you step through the doors – it becomes hard to tell once you’re inside. Here, you’ll find Masahiko Endo, bartender-in-chief, in his perfectly pressed white jacket and bowtie, ready to serve up his artfully made cocktail creations or a flight of whiskeys from his 700 bottle strong library. The seasonal specials are worth the splurge, mostly featuring luscious Japanese fruits such as a white peach Bellini or kyoho grape Martini. Cocktails here are best paired with quiet conversation, punctuated only by the meditative clinks of the Japanese hard shake.
Mizunara The Library, 4/F, Kiu Yin Commercial Building, 361-363 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana
Though better known for being the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to have received three stars from the Michelin Guide, Otto E Mezzo is also home to one of the most dedicated bartenders in Hong Kong and his signature cocktails. Devender Kumar is the image of classic hospitality, with a little bit of theatre. His Negronis, made with an extra splash of fortified wine and grapefruit bitters, are “thrown” – a dramatic mixing technique involving pouring the cocktail from one mixing tin to another through the air, much like how traditional milk teas are made all around Asia. The Sgroppino, a lemon sorbet-like cocktail, is made tableside as a digestif with just as much flair, and may be reason enough to stay for dinner in order to experience.
8 1/2 Otto E Mezzo Bombana, Shop 202, Landmark Alexandra, 18 Chater Road, Central, Hong Kong
Tell Camellia is an overdue coming together of tea and cocktails, brought to you by Sandeep Hathiramani and Gagan Gurung in the form of “Teatails.” Cute portmanteau aside, the drinks are serious business here. Sandeep and Gagan have studied tea cultures from around the world to create exciting flavour pairings such as Kenya, made with Kenyan Marinyn Tea, homemade banana wine, sweet potatoes, cornflakes, honey and aged rum. The pair are more than happy to explain the intricacies of the tea and cocktail-making processes alike as you order, making for as much of an educational night out as a hedonistic one.
Tell Camellia, LG/F , H Code, 45 Pottinger Street (entrance through alley on 48 Cochrane Street), Central, Hong Kong
This story was originally published on 4 May 2020 and updated on 16 September 2020.