The 51 best Hong Kong bars
Launched by a trio of Hong Kong’s finest local talent, The Old Man is the most talked about bar in the city. Still. In early 2019, it was crowned Asia's best bar at the Asia's 50 Best awards in Singapore, a title it certainly earned in its two-and-a-half-year existence. It’s cheek-by-jowl here these days, but don’t let that dissuade you: the drinks are always innovative – the distillation machine gets heavy use – but it’s the appreciably attentive service that keeps us all coming back.
Tucked away at the back of Mexican restaurant 11 Westside – beyond the restaurant’s own bar and two large, frosted glass doors – The Wilshire is another of Hong Kong’s ‘hidden’ gems, with charming bar staff and a focused menu of classic cocktails given intriguing spins. Not sure what to order? Chat up the bar team. They’re always willing to whip something up according to your tastes. If you’re in Kennedy Town seeking a drink, this should be your first call. And then your last call, too, when you inevitably come back for a nightcap.
Long overlooked as a drinking destination – not a surprise when your bar is part of the only Italian restaurant outside of Italy to have three Michelin stars – 8½ is finally getting credit for its drinks as well as its food. In large part that’s thanks to the excellent Devender Kumar, bar manager and a Barcardi Legacy winner, whose signatures, The Optimist and Pocket Square, threaten to overshadow the food.
Mezcal is suddenly a thing in Hong Kong and Coa is the agave spirit’s best evangelist – the extensive mezcal, tequila and raicilla menu here is the best of its kind in the city. Owner and founder Jay Khan is a local boy done good. Hugely affable and incredibly knowledgeable about mixology and agave spirits, he can help you choose the perfect drink, even if you’re not familiar with Mexico’s native liquors.
Although the recent departure of Yuriko Naganuma, who lead the way at Bar De Luxe since it opened in early 2017, is a loss, we’re confident this most exquisite of cocktail bars can maintain its own high standards. In typical Japanese fashion, the classics are the bar’s forte, but whatever you order, your drink is always made with perfect precision. Order anything. You won’t be disappointed.
This cosy, burgundy-and-gold-hued lounge was inspired by Alfonso X of Castile, a.k.a. the dude who ‘invented’ tapas. Ergo, expect tapas as well as Iberian-leaning drinks. Of these, the barrel-aged Manhattan made with Amontillado and PX sherries is a winner, but you can’t go wrong with any of the bold choices on the menu. This is the kind of place where you can settle in for a long night over good conversation and great drinks.
Long established as one of the best bars in Hong Kong, if not Asia, the cocktails at Lobster Bar are measured perfectly and the beers come in frosted pewter mugs to add an exceptionally classy touch. No staid hotel spot, Lobster Bar is constantly evolving, ensuring it stays among the best of the best.
With its grunge aesthetic and free-wheeling ethos, The Pontiac is unique within Hong Kong’s upscale cocktail scene. But it’s not just the dive bar vibes and rock heavy playlist that make this spot on Old Bailey Street such a popular destination. The drinks are spot on, especially the classics, and the staff are among the most fun and engaging in the city.
PDT’s official opening in Hong Kong in early 2018 may not have generated quite the same buzz as when the bar popped up in the Landmark MO two years prior, but the cocktails are still of exceptional quality. As exciting as the drinks may be, the bar snacks, created by Richard Ekkebus, culinary director of Michelin-starred Amber, are also top drawer.
A diamond among the tourist tat of Upper Lascar Row, Blue Supreme is Hong Kong’s classiest craft beer bar. The space is decorated with dark teal walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and wooden furniture offset by green plants. When it comes to beer, the focus is on the wide range of funky, wild and live brews born out of Belgian traditions: farmhouse ales, saisons, spontaneously fermented lambics, sour brown ales and more. Owner Ted Lai really knows his stuff. Talk to him a bit, and he can help ease you into a style that suits your palate. Be sure to order something to eat, too – Blue Supreme pays equal care and attention to its food menu.
The most successful of Antonio Lai’s projects, Quinary is decked out like an immaculate factory, with concrete floors, filament lighting and meshed gates. The bar originally made a name for itself in 2012 serving up some pricey, though excellent, drinks. Now those prices are on par with other top cocktail bars in Hong Kong, but the cocktails remain top notch. Not to mention they’re extremely friendly to your Instagram feed (see the Early Grey Caviar Martini, with its pyramid of foam and tapioca pearls). The only drawback is this place has become institutional, a cocktail factory cranking out drinks for crowds that sit shoulder-to-shoulder.
Headed by the award-winning ‘bartender-in-chief’ Masahiko Endo, Mizunara is a Japanese-style bar hidden away on the fourth floor of a commercial building on Lockhart Road. Yes, the atmosphere is often restrained, so this is no place to go large, but if it’s exquisite cocktails and attentive service you’re after, you can’t do much better.
Named after Jean Cocteau’s novel Les Enfants Terribles, Terrible Baby shakes up a selection of sustainable cocktails and offers an impressive collection of rosés and gins – plus it opens at 11am, so you can sneak in an afternoon drink that’s a hell of a lot tastier than anything else you can get during the day in Kowloon (try the Tepaching, a sweet, funky blend of mezcal, fresh lime and tepache). The bar is also linked to an outdoor terrace and music room, where you can even record or mix your own tracks. The concept is cool, the décor is cool, the aesthetic is cool. You get the picture.
It’s a common complaint that PMQ is used for all the wrong things. Sake Central is another odd fit in the arts / shopping / entertainment venue – but what an odd fit. Offering the best selection of sake in the city, this is the palce to go to indulge your taste for the Japanese drink or to start learning about it. The accompanying ‘otsumami’ small bites are divine, too.
Established by master mixologist Masayuki Uchida, Butler is the best place for a quality cocktail in all Kowloon. Uchida has the techniques down perfectly and the spot-lit bar is filled with more than 200 different spirits for all manner of concoctions. The fruit cocktails, made from fresh produce that’s sliced and juiced on the spot, are exceptional.
This Wyndham Street haunt is a local institution. The Edwardian-style bar has prospered thanks to a broad whisky collection and a regularly refreshed cocktail menu that constantly features various inventive drinks. The most recent cocktail menu, inspired by Darwin’s Origin of the Species, is a stunner.
As if over 20 taps of craft beer, much of it from pioneering local brewery Young Master, wasn’t enough, Second Draft has an incredible menu of Hong Kong-inspired cuisine created by celebrity chef May Chow (of Little Bao fame). The bar often hosts tap takeovers and events that, on occasion, spill out onto the street later at night. The tucked-away location in quiet Tai Hang also makes this a pleasant place to go whenever you want to extract yourself from space-starved Hong Kong.
The gentrification of Sai Ying Pun was officially underway when this stylish Spanish-style gin bar in a former ping pong hall popped up in the neighbourhood. The space is absolutely gorgeous: steps descend into a cavernous drinking den featuring concrete walls jazzed up with neon and rotating artwork. Thankfully, just as much thought has gone into the drinks as the swish interior. This should be your go-to for G&Ts.
Buried inside The Pottinger, Room 309 is an Aladdin’s cave of delights. With his first new concept in nearly three years, Antonio Lai showed that he still has his golden touch. Almost everything from the bar’s ‘invisible menu’ is worth ordering – and for the flavours too, not just the gimmick of their transparent appearance.
This buzzing, two-floor bar and Japanese restaurant has outposts in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US, such is its quality. There’s a well-stocked bar of Japanese sakes and whiskies. But it’s Zuma’s knack for visually appealing cocktails that’s landed it in the upper echelons of Hong Kong’s bar scene.
An establishment from the team behind Mrs Pound and Foxglove, Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour is home to – who’d have thought – an impressive collection of more than 250 premium gins. A great place for a casual tipple in the plush surrounds of the Landmark, staff also shake up an array of imaginative libations and are happy to accomodate specific requests from more discerning customers.
Better known for its Michelin-starred cuisine, Duddell’s ‘Salon’ bar happens to serve drinks well worth taking a break from your cha siu bao for. The drinks menu recently underwent a significant revamp and is now full of winners thanks to the efforts of bar manager Masumi Tomioka and JIA Group’s beverage specialist James Barker. Almost everything is worth trying once.
Founded by Antonio Lai, the main man when it comes to local mixology, who has more than one establishment on this list, VEA is Lai at his creative best. The menu is divided into four categories – sweet, savory, sour and strong – inspired by the techniques of Europe and Asia, and theories of deconstruction and reconstruction. It sounds pretentious, yes, but Lai’s creations are unlike almost anything else.
Despite the high standards of the likes of Mizunara and Butler, cocktail and whisky bars are dime a dozen in Hong Kong. Whisky & Words dispenses with the clichés typical of these sorts of establishments and aims to serve quality cocktails and (of course) whisky in a more relaxed environment. The lo-fi hip-hop soundtrack is great and when it gets busy, the action here spills out onto the steps of Shin Hing Street, forming a relaxed street party vibe.
Hong Kong is stuffed with good whisky bars but, lately, a number of gin specialists have popped up. Way ahead of the curve all along has been Antonio Lai’s Origin. The focus on gin is no gimmick, with an array of tantalising cocktails making good use of the spirit. Try the Green Hornet, made using pandan leaf-infused gin, or the Basil Smash, which features basil-infused gin and bitters.
Bitters & Sweets is a far more adventurous proposition than Lan Kwai Fong just down the road. Head mixologist Derek Tsui has prepped a creative menu that includes cocktails like the Snickers (a mix of peanut butter vodka, amaretto, frangelica and cocoa) and February 21st (Campari, pink grapefruit and rose ice). Don’t skip the desserts, though – the smores are a definite winner.
The most gorgeous of Tai Kwun’s three bars (the others being Behind Bars and Dragonfly) is also its best. Though classic in its colonial stylings, the cocktail menu here is a playful one, split between western-inspired tipples and Chinese-inspired ones. Both sides of the menu offer fine drinks and starting with an aperitif here is the perfect way to relax into a meal at neighbouring restaurants Statement and The Chinese Library.
Cocktails on tap can be dangerous, especially when they are this good, and the venue is this fun. The second outpost of Antonio Lai’s draft-cocktail speciality bar makes for excellent people-watching along Wyndham Street, and the quick-pour drinks are nothing to be sniffed at, either. Like all good bartenders pulling pints, the staff offer tasters of any of the 20 drinks on tap, so you can make a decision based on flavour rather than a feeling you get when you read a menu.
Traditionally a location more often considered when hungry rather than thirsty (chalk that down to the shadow cast by culinary director Tom Aikens), The Pawn has begun winning serious plaudits for drinks. Credit for that belongs to bar manager Tunny Grattidge’s recent revamp of the Wan Chai heritage spot’s drinks menu. Using botanicals from the venue’s rooftop garden, the drinks run the gamut from light and refreshing to bold and arresting.
A self-proclaimed ‘creative cocktail space’, there’s no menu at J. Boroski, instead, patrons have their drinks tailored to their requests. Strong or mild? Floral? Herbal? Spicy? It’s entirely up to you. Standards have slipped somewhat since the bar’s early days but the design is still gorgeous and the drinks better than most.
An intimate and always buzzing space on Hollywood Road, La Cabane boasts a 350-strong wine list, with bottles coming from France and the New World. All of those bottles are sourced directly from individual wine makers, with a focus on organic, additive-free and biodynamic wines. In other words, if you’re looking for funky, fresh, original wines in a refreshingly casual atmosphere, this is where you want to be.
In contrast to the traditional aesthetic of The Pottinger hotel and The Envoy itself, the drinks at this venture are decidedly futuristic-retro, offering avant-garde millilitres of meticulously measured, shaken and stirred concoctions. The drinks are some of the most eye-catching in all Hong Kong – the Dinosaur, a combination of vodka, Godiva chocolate liqueur, fresh milk, Milo ice ball and Milo powder served in a cracked dinosaur egg, is a stunner.
If the many super serious cocktail bars littering Central feel too crusty, Honi Honi is here to help. Specialising in tiki drinks, this Wellington Street hangout is a Polynesian beach bar getaway in the heart of the city. The bar is home to the city’s largest collection of rum and the excellent tiki drinks, served in adorable vessels, have made this spot perpetually popular.
With the departure this year of head mixologist John Nugent – a man who did much to reinvigorate the bar area at Lily & Bloom – the future is uncertain here. Nugent’s revamped cocktail menu remains, however, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that, after a tumultuous year which almost saw the venue close, the remaining staff carry on his good work.
Tucked away on the ninth floor of The Loop building on Wellington Street, I Know John is something of a hidden gem serving up craft cocktails, gourmet hotdogs and niche wines and whiskies. If the drinks don’t win you over, the friendly staff sure will.
An upmarket cocktail bar located in Lan Kwai Fong, the realm of Hong Kong’s least discerning drinkers, Employees Only is helping to raise standards in the neighbourhood. Not only are the drinks of a high standard, the convivial bar staff make it one of the few decent bars in the city where you can have a solid conversation with your bartender.
It’s where everybody knows your name. Well, it isn’t exactly Cheers, but this quaint, cosy and completely unpretentious venue comes close. Its egalitarian vibe attracts a veritable motley crew of customers, all popping in for the killer beer list, much of which has been provided by local craft brewery Young Master. There’s always a great selection of bottles and cans from top-flight craft breweries around the world, too.
An open-air lounge in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui, Vibes is one of the most relaxing locales to pick up a cocktail in Kowloon. Though, if you need to kick things up a notch, Thursday to Saturday from 8pm a DJ take to the decks to up the atmosphere.
Despite the city’s plethora of high-end Japanese restaurants, a good saké bar is hard to find. Saké Beya Masu is one of the best as well as one of the most welcoming. The location is like something straight outta Kyoto and both the range of saké and small bites are top notch.
The restaurant downstairs may get most of the headlines – not without justification since it is ranked one of Asia’s 50 Best – but Upstairs at Belon deserves some love too. Inspired by the creative speakeasies in Paris’ hip Le Marais district, head mixologist Axel González serves a solid range of cocktails in cosy surrounds. Whether or not you can get a booking downstairs, don’t overlook this lesser-known gem.
Whenever you’re in need of a drink in Kowloon, Alibi should be in your thoughts. Probably the most sophisticated bar in Mong Kok, resident mixologist, Leo Cheung previously worked at Butler (see the top 10 of this list) and clearly he was taught well. A similar quality shines through in all Cheung’s drinks.
Sake Samurai Elliot Faber (Ronin, Sake Central, Yardbird) leads the team behind this intimate sake sanctuary in Central. You might get drawn in by the striking interiors – stone pebbles on the walls evoke the grains of rice used to brew sake – but most likely you will be going here to sample some of the dozens of bottles of sake imported from 10 different Japanese producers. Throw in tremendous service from the affable and supremely knowledgeable staff, and you have a winner with this bar.
A cosy space, Le Quinze Vins offers patrons a long list of French labels as well as serving traditional cheese and cold cut platters and other wine-enhanced nibbles. The number of bottles on offer is extensive but the by-the-glass options are none too shabby.
The flagship bar at luxury proprerty The Rosewood, DarkSide might pay tribute to Kowloon, but the venue has brought the best elements of both sides of the harbour together. Low lights, plush chairs, velvet drapes, large windows and a stage with a live band playing easy listening music give it the insulated atmosphere of a Hong Kong Island speakeasy, while drinks, all immaculately executed, riff on Kowloon’s rough-and-tumble history – in name only, of course.
The departure of former bar manager Ryan Nightingale meant a complete revamp of the menu at Back Bar. Gone are all the old movie-themed favourites like Ron Burgundy and Reservoir Grogs. Instead, there’s a new menu of more Chinese-themed tipples like the Don’t ‘Lai Cha’ Me, a mix of vodka, amaretto, tea, vanilla and evaporated milk. Good, but not as great as before.
Aptly named for its blue colour scheme and cool feel, Blue Bar sits within the Four Seasons, providing first class service and harbour views. Hotel bars don’t usually inspire much confidence but the classics, especially the martinis, are done particularly well here.
A cunningly hidden Lan Kwai Fong hideaway, Brickhouse is also one of the area’s best bars. The short list of cocktails, pisco sours and all, might not be much to write home about, but the extensive list of tequila on the other hand...
Better known for its pretty fab Italian food, Pirata also serves up a mean series of cocktails. The drinks menu is small but focused and nearly everything on it is a winner, whether the fruity Dolce & Banana or the fiesty Germano Mexicano made with mezcal and fresh ginger. Did we mention there’s a dedicated vermouth bar, too?
After a recent refurbishment Q88 is now a sleek place to chill. The lineup of cocktails is sound but the main attraction is the ability to order some 40 choices of wine by the glass and nearly 200 by the bottle, making it one of the top spots in town for some vino.
Its PR prattle may describe The Chase as a ‘multi-faceted dining and mixology destination’ but, fortunately, there are no gimmicks here. What you get is a drinks menu that’s a straightforward list of wines, beers and decent cocktails. Best of all, though, there’s plenty of room, making it ideal for groups, and the excellent outdoor terrace means it’s a great space for alfresco drinks come the cooler months in Hong Kong.
This Pottinger Street bar is the third in the Iron Fairies trilogy Sutton that has opened with master mixologist Joseph Boroski, following success with the concept in Bangkok and Tokyo. Visually, there’s a lot to take in here. The most immediately arresting feature is the hanging garden of 10,000 preserved butterflies dangling from the ceiling. The décor will definitely beef up your social feed, but the drinks are’t half bad, either. Some, like the potent Smoke in a Bottle ($120), tick both boxes.