The inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Bars sees nine Hong Kong establishments make the cut, tying our SAR with Singapore as the best-represented city on the list. Clearly, Hong Kong is serious about its drinks – Holly Graham is, too, and gets the low down on what to order and what to expect at these esteemed locales
Hong Kong's best bars
Housed in the Island Shangri-La, Lobster Bar is the epitome of opulence. Its fourth place ranking places it amongst the continent’s best drinking dens.
Vibe: Lobster Bar’s luxe art deco-style decor is exactly what you’d expect from the Shangri-La’s HK flagship. The lively disposition of the crowd voids any clichéd notions of stagnant hotel bar vibes. The expertly executed libations mean rival bar industry professionals oft pull up a pew here, too.
Signature drink: Pink Blossom ($105). Raspberry with Christian Drouin Coeur de Lion Selection Calvados, pink grapefruit ratafia, lemon juice, Fee Brothers rose water and Bitter Truth grapefruit bitters.
In five words: Trendy, spontaneous, cool, creative, adventurous. Serhan Kusaksizoglu, director of corporate projects: bar and concepts at Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.
Insider tip: The off-menu negroni ($125) has been aged for 25 days in an ex-Sauternes cask.
Quinary’s master mixologist Antonio Lai draws inspiration from Ferran Adriá’s molecular gastronomy, applying these methods to create a brand of molecular mixology. It’s not just about how the cocktails fare on your palate at Quinary, there’s also a focus on aroma, texture
Vibe: One of our favourites from day one, Quinary has featured on various best bar lists for three consecutive years, ensuring bustling custom every evening. A convivial atmosphere of animated chit-chat greets you at the front, while the rear bar area retains a slightly more intimate, date night aura. The decor is minimalistic but comfortable, and allows the cocktails to shine as the bar’s number one visual attraction.
Signature drink: Earl Grey Caviar Martini ($130). Apple, lemon and lime juices with Cointreau, Absolut citron vodka and elderflower syrup, topped with an Earl Grey ‘caviar’ and Earl Grey air bubbles.
In five words: Multisensory, innovative, photogenic, dynamic, promising. Antonio Lai, owner/head mixologist.
Insider tip: Quinary has a ‘Special of the Month’ cocktail ($140) that changes every four weeks, so even if you’ve worked your way through the entire menu, you can look forward to a lip-smacking new concoction every few weeks.
Beckaly Franks, previously the head bartender at Portland’s lauded Clyde Common (led by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the brains behind barrel-aged cocktails), helms The Pontiac, which bottles the essence of neighbourhood bars in Portland, Brooklyn and San Francisco and unleashes it in Soho. The Old Bailey Street bar has earned a raft of plaudits a mere eight months after opening, and deservedly so.
Vibe: The Pontiac is a rare breed in Asia, not just Hong Kong. Staffed by a team of bodacious babes, it serves craft cocktails and beers and embodies an edgy, rock vibe devoid of the pretension that can haunt many a bar in Central. It nails the welcoming, casual vibe, and raucous nights here are the norm – the diverse and loyal clientele pull up their stools, grab a cocktail and are happy to let the good times roll.
Signature drink: Hobnail ($88). Pig’s Nose blended scotch, ginger syrup, averna, lemon juice and Angostura bitters.
In five words: Rock ‘n’roll, passion, family, fun. Beckaly Franks, owner/head mixologist.
Insider tip: Stick around for when the clock strikes 12 to discover the secret of the ‘Midnight Special’.
Honi Honi is helmed by Max Traverse, a veteran of the high-end cocktail scene, and is Hong Kong’s first tiki bar. The menu boasts an expansive selection of rums and punches.
Vibe: This bamboo paradise serves intricate cocktails in tiki cups and features all things tropical. The Polynesian aesthetic makes for a fun, colourful environment that manages to stay chic without ever becoming gaudy.
Signature drink: Honi Honi Kiss ($150). 42 Below passion fruit vodka, passion fruit purée, French vanilla syrup, guava juice and Taittinger.
In five words: Biggest rum selection in Asia. Stephane Levan, general manager and mixologist.
Insider tip: Honi Honi’s elaborate Around The World cocktail features four different rums, peach liqueur, walnut aromatic bitters, passion fruit purée, pineapple and lime juice, jasmine and banana syrup and is topped up with a bottle of Taittinger ($1,888). Pricey, but perfect for sharing with friends on a special occasion.
Contemporary Japanese bar and restaurant Zuma has outposts in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the USA, with a well-stocked bar of Japanese sakes and whiskies. Bar development manager Arkadiusz Rybak is a self-taught and knowledgeable mixologist with a knack for visually appealing cocktails.
Vibe: This buzzing, two-floor bar and restaurant is a place to see and be seen. The aesthetically pleasing crowd varies from young, suited and booted finance fellas on weeknights to the boozy weekend brunch bunch to the glamour set who frequent Zuma’s packed to capacity parties.
Signature drink: Japanese whisky sour ($180). Smoke-infused Nikka black whiskey, yuzu juice, egg white and plum bitters.
In five words: Lively, chic, fresh, innovative, ingredient-
focused. Arkadiusz Rybak, bar development manager.
Insider tip: Rybak is happy to create personalised cocktails for customers. We suggest asking for a drink using one of Zuma’s homemade ice balls.
Tucked down an alley off Wyndham Street is Maximal Concept’s debonair Stockton. The cocktails here are in keeping with fin- de-siècle Europe, using rum, whisky or gin as the base to create a drinking experience with a dash of history. The bar is stocked with more than 150 different whiskies as well as lesser known champagnes.
Vibe: This decidedly British bar tends to be rammed with a well-heeled crowd who possess more edge than the average Wyndham Street posers. Mounted animal heads, trinket laden cabinets and leather sofas evoke antique glamour, while the low lighting gives Stockton an air of exclusivity and sophistication. Shadowy corners create intimacy, and the cocktail menu is abundant with facts, tasting notes and etiquette guidelines.
Signature drink: Bitter Bitch ($120). Tanqueray gin, limoncello, Aperol, orange juice and Angostura bitters citrus.
In five words: Unspoiled decadence, mysterious, experimental, intimate. Suraj Gurung, mixologist for Maximal Concepts.
Insider tip: Stockton has a secret cocktail menu that changes regularly.
This gin-centric bar is another stellar establishment helmed by Antonio Lai and Tastings Group, a follow-up to Quinary. Lai’s creativity knows no bounds and extends to culinary methods like using a rotary evaporator for distilling unique flavours into gin. The end result? Twelve homemade gin infusion flavours used to create Origin’s classic and experimental cocktails.
Vibe: On the fringes of the Wyndham Street debauchery, Origin is a relaxed affair, with a crowd looking for a good drink and some space to catch up. A long, caged bar houses a vast selection of gin and the seating is upholstered in a quaint British-style check print. UK postage stamps dot the walls, giving the bar a charming, homely atmosphere.
Signature drink: The KGB ($128). Japanese Kyoho grape liqueur, lemon and lime juice, grape juice, elderflower syrup with ‘caviar’ bubbles and Kyoho grape tea air bubbles.
In five words: Gin-focused, upbeat, funky, bold, impressive. Antonio Lai, owner/head mixologist.
Insider tip: The best time to enjoy a simple, quality G&T is during Origin’s happy hour from 5pm-8pm when they’re all 30 percent off.
Located in The Pottinger hotel, The Envoy modernises colonial influences, using tea as the main focus of its cocktails. Antonio Lai is once again the brains behind the bar, giving him a hat trick of venues on the list.
Vibe: The Envoy is a retreat from the busy streets of Central, boasting a long bar where you can witness the mixing magic and a chilled outdoor terrace. The playful cocktails here are uniquely presented – the True Blood #2 comes in a blood bag on an iced liver tray. Fortunately, style and substance are equally balanced and the fun cocktails are skillfully created.
Signature drink: The Dinosaur ($138). Vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur and fresh milk topped with Milo powder and a homemade Milo ice-cream ball.
In five words: Colonial, elegant, refined, tea-centric, breezy. Antonio Lai, owner/head mixologist.
Insider tip: The Envoy’s spacious terrace is the perfect spot for an al fresco cocktail come summer.
Max Traverse’s follow-up to Honi Honi also features on the list. Perched on the top floor of QRE Plaza, the 70s Polynesian-themed Mahalo serves more than 50 tiki-inspired cocktails.
Vibe: The decor represents the elements of tiki culture – earth, water, wind and fire. Bamboo and retro brass features complement oceanic and floral art. Like Honi Honi, tropical plants and an outdoor terrace feature, but Mahalo is definitely the more mature sibling.
Signature drink: Mauritian Journey ($140). New Grove five years rum, Cartron caramel liqueur, Allspice syrup, calamansi purée, orange juice and guava juice.
In five words: Represents respect and tiki chic. Max Traverse, founder.
Insider tip: If you’re peckish, Mahalo have collaborated with Pololi to dish up custom flavours of poké at lunch for $120 with a fresh juice or smoothie.