Specialist bars in Hong Kong
It’s tough deciding Hong Kong’s best beer bar. The craft beer scene here is becoming more and more competitive and more exciting all the time. If we have to recommend an all-round best we’d say The Globe. It may not be a specialist in Belgium brews like Blue Supreme or as shiny and hip as The Artist House, but what it does offer is Hong Kong’s largest selection of beers in a spacious and laid back setting. You can’t ask for much more than that.
One of Kennedy Town’s finest, Alvy’s is one of our favourite neighbourhood bars. It serves creative pizzas and chunky meatballs alongside a fantastic range of bourbons and other drinks. With Stone Nullah Tavern soon to close, there’s not much competition when it comes to bourbon. Besides, when you have a crew like Alvy’s perfecting experiments like fat-washed, caramel popcorn-infused bourbon, it’s really no contest.
Although created in Italy, fernet is massively popular in Argentina courtesy of European immigration to the country in the late 19th and early 20th century. Thus it should come as no surprise that Buenos Aires Polo Club takes tremendous pride in its fernet offerings. If you’re not keen on drinking it straight, the Club’s cocktails are a great way to get acquainted with the spirit. The Paseana ($168) – a mix of fernet branca, rum and mint – is an excellent place to start.
There’s some stiff competition for best gin bar in Hong Kong. For many years the roost has been ruled by the likes of Origin and Ping Pong, and then along came Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour with a range of gins far greater than anyone else. But the new leader in this particular arm’s race is John Anthony, which is home to some 300 different types of premium gin – the largest collection in the city. It also gets our nod for the fact that there’s a big focus on sustainability here, from the staff’s deadstock uniforms to the menus made of recycled materials.
Mezcal has been gaining increasing popularity in Hong Kong over the last 18 months. A slew of new bars offer a good selection of this agave spirit – the likes of Mezcalito, Los Sotano, 11 Westside – but Coa is king. There are 17 pages of its menu dedicated to mezcal, from relatively inexpensive tipples to stuff that’s taken 30 years to mature. If the menu seems daunting, don’t be afraid to ask the helpful staff for recommendations. Try the raicilla – mezcal’s curious cousin – for an intense new experience, too.
Let’s face it, some nights you don’t want to go hard. Fortunately, there are bars to cater to just such occasions. Our go-to is The Envoy, which shakes up a number of great soft cocktails. If you’d like a virgin version of the bar’s famous Dinosaur, you’re in luck. The Dinosaur Roar ditches vodka for a ‘secret recipe’ malted chocolate milk, a frozen Milo ice ball and a generous heap of Milo powder. The Morning Dew (pictured) – Dilmah green tea, jasmine double strength tea and homemade pandan syrup all carbonated in a Perlini shaker – is another option to try before you leave.
Rum is one of this city’s more underappreciated spirits. Not at Honi Honi, though. Central’s one and only Polynesian-themed tiki bar has a rum library of nearly 250 bottles. That includes rare types such as St Nicholas Abbey 15 Year ($240), Doorly’s 12 Year Old Barbados Rum ($160) and Pyrat Cask 1623 ($480) for those serious about things.
Despite Hongkongers’ fondness for all things Japanese, there are surprisingly few good places to appreciate sake. Thank goodness for Sake Central then, one of our favourite new openings last year. Our recommendation is to skip sitting at the bar since there’s a limited range of sakes you can try there and to sit at the tatami bar instead. That gives you access to Sake Central’s full, voluminous range – at retail price too.
With supposedly the largest collection of tequila in East Asia, Agave’s new Hollywood Road outpost is numero uno for TQ. There’s more than 150 different kinds to choose from, whether blanco, reposado or anejo that you’re after. Choose everything from cheap and cheerful Don Alvaro ($68) all the way up to high end Fuenteseca 12 Year Old ($598). Naturally, there’s also a bunch of margaritas, by the glass and pitcher, to enjoy as well.
Although the previously mentioned Buenos Aires Polo Club takes its vermouth as seriously as its fernet, there’s only one place in Hong Kong with a vermouth bar and that’s Pirata. The Wan Chai establishment has everything from Contratto Bianco ($100, ‘huge and complex with over 50 botanicals’) to the Spanish Yzaguirre Selección 1884 ($130), an aromatic sweet red vermouth aged for up to four years.
Hong Kong is overloaded with top whisky bars. So when one subtitles itself The Library, you know it better have an exceptional collection to justify its name. Fortunately, Mizunara lives up to the hype. There are literally hundreds of bottles to choose from, all the way up to The Nikka 40, a rarity that costs $8,000 per glass. Award-winning bartender Masahiko Endo also creates fantastic cocktails if you feel the need to mix things up.
There’s fierce competition when it comes to wine in this city. There are fine establishments like LQV, Bar Q88 and La Cabane all worth your time. But we’re giving the nod to Premier Cru, which specialises in French wines and has more than 1,000 labels to choose from. If you’re gathering friends or family for a special occasion or a catch-up, plan a takeover of the entire venue. It’s a cosy space ideal for groups of about 15 to 20. There’s even a small terrace so you can grab some fresh air if you need a break from all the drinking.