Hong Kong’s best specialist bars
It’s tough deciding Hong Kong’s best beer bar, the craft beer scene here becoming more and more competitive and 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 newcomer 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 serves creative pizzas (and more) alongside a fantastic range of bourbon. Stone Nullah Tavern runs it close in terms of range, but 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 Ori Gin and Ping Pong, but it’s relative newcomer Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour that we frequent these days. Why? Because this speakeasy, tucked away in the Landmark, houses more than 250 premium gins from around the world – the largest collection in Hong Kong.
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.
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 some 235 bottles. That includes rare types such as St Nicholas Abbey 15 Year ($240), Doorly’s 12 Year Old Barbados Rum ($160) and Pyrat Rum 1623 ($480) for those serious about things.
Despite Hongkongers’ fondness for all things Japanese, there are surprisingly few good places to appreciate sake. Until recently, only Sake Beya Masu sprung to mind. 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 the largest collection of tequila in East Asia, Agave’s new Hollywood Road outspot 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. Impeccable ‘bartender-in-chief’ Masahiko Endo also creates fantastic cocktails if you feel the need to mix things up.
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Once the seedy heart of Hong Kong, Wan Chai has shed much of its sleazy reputation and is now home to an increasing number of top tier bars – of which these are the best.