Deciding on the best bar in Central is a contentious issue. While we can’t scientifically prove it, there’s probably nowhere on Earth with as many quality drinking dens just around the corner from one another as our cramped CBD. Sure, the ’hood might not have the underground kudos belonging to Hong Kong’s most hipster neighbourhoods like Sheung Wan and Sai Ying Pun, but who cares when the area is home to some of the best cocktail bars and whisky bars on the planet.
Whether you’re interested in the latest meticulously made cocktail at Bar De Luxe, a fine selection of wine at La Cabane, local craft beer by the bottle at The Globe, or one of the best rooftop bars in Hong Kong like at Popinjays, you can find whatever you desire in Central. The only trouble is knowing where to start. That’s why we’ve rounded up 28 of the best bars from the neighbourhood that provide Central’s finest libations. You need never go thirsty again.
The best places to drink in Central
One of the first of Hong Kong’s now numerous hidden cocktail bars, 001 sits tucked away behind an unmarked black door on Graham Street, making it the very definition of hidden in plain slight. Aside from the appeal of being in-the-know about its secret location, you can enjoy excellent cocktails here, made the Japanese way. There’s a notably strong selection of spirits. It’s one of the rare places in Hong Kong where you can find the elusive Pappy van Winkle bourbon.
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, are fantastic complements to the exquisite food.
Although Yuriko Naganuma, who lead the way at Bar De Luxe since it opened in early 2017, returned to Japan towards the end of 2018, we’re confident this most exquisite of cocktail bars can maintain its own exceptional standards. In typical Japanese fashion, the classics are the forte of all who work here, but whatever you order, your drink is always made with perfect precision. Order anything. You won’t be disappointed.
Of all the bars at Tai Kwun, The Dispensary is the most accomplished. The range of cocktails is slight but it’s focused, and there’s a surprising willingness to play with flavours. It dovetails perfectly with its neighbouring restaurants – Statement and The Chinese Library – for either pre or postprandial drinks, and is slick enough to be an excellent date spot.
Angus Zou’s Taipei concept landed here in Hong Kong courtesy of Antonio Lai. The two mixology maestros joined forces on this venture to provide Hongkongers with a place that aims to make cocktail drinking more accessible. The drinks are all pre-made and served on-tap, so you can try a sample of whatever you want before ordering a full glass. Here, there’s no need to gamble $150 on a drink you may or may not like. Roll up and enjoy whatever takes your fancy.
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, on top of a fantastic variety of G&Ts, Dr Fern’s offers an array of imaginative libations and staff are happy to accommodate specific requests from more discerning customers.
Though better known for its Michelin-starred cuisine, Duddell’s ‘Salon’ bar happens to serve drinks well worth taking a break from your char 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.
In contrast to the colonial stylings of The Pottinger itself, the drinks at this particular venture by Hong Kong’s premier mixologist Antonio Lai are supremely contemporary, offering millilitres of meticulously measured, shaken and stirred concoctions. The drinks here 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 large cracked ‘dinosaur’ egg – is a stunner.
A sister establishment to Dr Fern’s, Foxglove is another hidden affair. Hidden behind an umbrella shop, the bar is a slick affair with frequent live music, often but not exclusively of the jazz variety. A lively and convivial spot for a drink, if you’re looking to push the boat out, locate another hidden bar, Frank’s Library, buried within the interior. Expect premium cocktails and potent barrel-aged tipples there.
A venerable institution with some 20 years’ history and a surprisingly spacious location – at least for Central – The Globe is one of the best places in Hong Kong to settle in with a pint. A member of the Craft Beer Association of Hong Kong and home to more beers than you can shake a stick at, The Globe is a must visit for any hop head. If all the many various brews aren’t enough for you, be sure to snare one of the unmissable homemade pies.
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.
An intimate and permanently buzzing space like something out of a Parisian arrondissement, La Cabane is a great place for anyone seeking an extensive wine list – here, you can find 350 different wines from France and the New World sourced directly from individual wine makers. The kitchen is open until late and the nibbles are worthwhile in case you’re feeling peckish.
Found on the 25th floor of the Mandarin Oriental, M Bar is the best of the luxury hotel’s three bars and offers fantastic views of Victoria Harbour and neighbouring skyscrapers. Expect small-batch spirits and liqueurs that are handcrafted in-house. As always at the Mandarin, service is impeccable. The bartenders here know their business well and do excellent versions of all the classics.
Inspired by Japanese bars, Nocturne is home to fantastic whiskies and wines, with skilled bartenders remaking classic cocktails with surgical care and precision. Think Ginza in Central.
Launched by a trio of Hong Kong’s finest local talent, The Old Man is an establishment that’s prepared to do things its own way rather than rely on imported ideas or talent. Tucked away down an alley on Aberdeen Street, this shining example to other local bars is routinely packed as it mixes innovative drinks with appreciably attentive service.
Origin’s focus on gin is no cheap gimmick. Using impressive gadgetry and techniques, Origin prepares infused gins in-house before blending them into incredible drinks.
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, the bar snacks, created by Richard Ekkebus, culinary director of Michelin-starred Amber, are also top drawer.
A raucous take on an American dive bar, skip the so-so house cocktails and order up a classic to your preferred specification to learn why The Ponty is rated among Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
Perched atop one of the newest of Hong Kong’s luxury hotels, The Murray, this rooftop bar and restaurant serves modern European dishes and cocktails with a stunning view. Accessible by a private elevator, the penthouse venue has its bar on one side and the restaurant on the other. Fittingly, the ‘The Aviary’ cocktail menu features plenty of ornithological puns and base spirits run the gamut from mezcal and rum to champagne and whisky.
Decked out like an immaculate factory, with concrete-floors, filament lighting and meshed gates, Quinary serves up some of the pricier cocktails in town. However, it’s a cocktail bar with substance worth every cent.
Antonio Lai’s newest venture is a narrow sliver of a bar. The establishment’s key concept is ‘imagination’ – hence the Crystal Old Fashioned, a specially distilled concoction that’s transparent. The signature menu is written on a see-through sheet of plastic that appears invisible when the menu is first opened – another embodiment of the ephemeral atmosphere Room 309 successfully creates.
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, there’s no better place to indulge your taste for the Japanese tipple or to start learning about it. The accompanying ‘otsumami’ small bites are divine, too.
Sake producers are revamping their industry to stave off its decline. You would be forgiven for not noticing the decline. In Hong Kong, sake seems to be on the rise. Under the stewardship of resident Sake Samurai Elliot Faber (more on him later), hot spots like Yardbird, Ronin and Sake Central have helped skew our perception of the drink for the better. In Japan, however, sake is rapidly losing ground to other adult beverages, like wine and craft beer. To rekindle an industry that has over 2,000 years of history, Japanese producers are trying to export sake culture to places like, well, here. It helps that we have Faber banging the drum for the drink. So far, the Canadian sake expert has given Yardbird an edge (as if it needed one) by developing a killer sake programme. He has authored a critically acclaimed book titled Sake: The History, Stories and Craft of Japan’s Artisanal Breweries. He opened Sake Central in 2017. And now he and his group have launched a new project, Saketen. Nestled behind the ramen restaurant Nojo in an alley off Pottinger Street, Saketen diverges from Faber’s other projects in a few notable ways. For one, it’s a bar, plain and simple. Saketen stays open until 2am and tends to attract after-dinner groups or crowds crawling out of neighbouring watering holes like The Iron Fairies and J. Boroski. It’s small and intimate, and the design is absolutely magnetic, even from the outside – the walls and floor are filled out with pebbles that evoke the look an
Stockton may only have opened in 2014 but it feels like it’s been around forever, such an institution has the Wyndham Street haunt become in its short existence. Top drawer cocktails and a tremendously atmospheric space are the reasons why.
There’s been a veritable whirlwind of hype in recent months surrounding the new brainchild of accolade-heavy bar team Sandeep Hathiramani and Gagan Gurung. After a litany of unfortunate setbacks delayed the bar’s opening, the swell of anticipant whispers from thirsty patrons has now given way to bums on seats, as Tell Camellia finally opened within Central’s stylish H Code complex in late July. The mission of the bar is to fuse tea and cocktail culture in a way that challenges all who drink here to abandon preconceived cocktail notions, and to steep themselves in the unknown. Of course, challenging staid notions with something seldom seen (or indeed drank) before is never going to be an easy task, especially considering the perennial popularity in Hong Kong of more traditional cocktail styles. However, true to form, the duo seems to be succeeding in their quest here, purveying a delicious selection of cocktails (or Teatails, if you will) that pair well with the bar’s inviting ambience and very personable customer service. Let’s start with the menu which, much like the bar’s interior, is outwardly simple yet impressively attentive to detail. The lineup is split between signature Teatails, all of which are infused with exotic teas and local spices from particular world regions, and house gins that have been lovingly redistilled with different flavoured, you guessed it, tea. The entire experience here has been designed to be gratifyingly thematic, so expect some extra touches
Stocking close to 600 different wines of different vintages rarely found in Hong Kong, this exciting new wine bar in the heart of Soho takes great pride in its impressive collection of bottles from the Burgundy and Languedoc-Roussilon regions of France. The wine is also consciously paired with delciously fitting foods to keep patrons coming back for more. Get your fill here while enjoying your very own somelier experience!
One of the most popular cocktail breeds in Japan, the highball is a mix of a spirit and a larger portion of a nonalcoholic mixer. While plenty of drinks fit this classification – a G&T and yes, even a Jack and coke, technically belong to this family – the highball is enjoying a new spot in the limelight, fuelled in part by the new-found popularity of the whisky highball in the United States. It started in 2017 when Williamsburg hipster hotspot Kinfolk 90 became the first bar in New York to have a highball-making machine (supplied by whisky distiller Suntory, no less). That kick-started a surge of interest in the cocktail in America and within a year, the New York Times was declaring the summer ‘highball season’. The highball trend is slowing picking up here in Hong Kong too and The ThirtySix is the newest space to jump on train, after Black Sheep’s take on an izakaya, Fukuro, beat it to the punch last year. Sitting above Hollywood Road, this new concept occupies the spot formerly belonging to whisky and cocktail bar Angel’s Share. The physical layout is nearly identical, though the décor has changed substantially. Where Angel’s Share had a uniform gentlemen’s-club vibe, The ThirtySix is a somewhat incoherent mishmash of styles. The place takes its drinks seriously but serves them on light-up coasters that look like they belong at Levels or Drop. The furniture, also, is a mix of clubby tables and stools and deep leather chairs that look like they were left behind by the previ
This buzzing, two-floor bar and Japanese restaurant has a well-stocked bar of Japanese sakes and whiskies. But it’s Zuma’s knack for visually appealing cocktails that’s helped propel it to the upper echelons of Hong Kong’s bar scene. The new range of adorable kokeshi cocktails, served in Japanese wooden dolls, are equally delicious and great for photo ops.