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.
Housed next to the Police Married Quarters in Central, Aberdeen Street Social is the most ambitious project by the team behind 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry. With a mix of custom classics – think a mezcal old fashioned or an upside-down martini – as well as other complex specialities, Ab Street rarely fails to surprise or delight.
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.
Those looking for more adventurous drinks than just another martini or old fashioned should head here. Expect drinks with ingredients like Iron Buddha tea, coffee-infused bourbon or orange marmalade. Oh, and don’t forget to try the smores.
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.
Tucked away on the ninth floor of The Loop building on Wellington Street, I Know John is a hidden gem serving up craft cocktails, gourmet hotdogs and niche wines and whiskies.
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.
Inspired by Prohibition-era drinks, Lily is a hypnotically welcoming bar focusing on old-school favourite cocktails and modern classics made with boutique spirits and always with consummate care.
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.
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.
With a menu bursting with specialist liquors, house-cured ingredients, infusions and hybrids of all kinds, The Woods has justifiably earned a reputation for hardcore, experimental mixology.
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.