The finest of Antonio Lai’s various excellent cocktail bars
Charlene Dawes once confessed to us that she was a shopaholic. Hardly rare for a Hongkonger, you might be thinking, but for Dawes – the owner of the just-opened Quinary on Hollywood Road – her addiction comes with a slight twist: not bags and shoes, but wine and booze. With the opening of her latest, beautifully manicured bar, it seems Dawes has conjured another reason to fuel her shopaholic affliction.
She has two reasons already, of course. There’s Tastings, which opened back in 2008. It’s a sleek yet diminutive bar with a colossal selection of wine and what was then-rare enomatic technology located down a hidden alley just below Wellington Street. And then, early last year, came Angel’s Share, home to more than 100 whiskies just down the road, decked out with all the wood and warmth of old-school malt lounges.
On opening, both Tastings and Angel’s Share boasted the same distinctive hallmark – an almost overwhelming obsession with a specific tipple that made both ‘go to’ places for aficionados of their respective specialities. Quinary – decked out like an immaculate factory, with concrete-floors, retro-bulb lighting and meshed gates – attempts to do likewise, but with cocktails.
The cocktail market, however, is different to that of wine and whisky. A couple of years ago, everyone predicted it to boom, with Lily and Bloom in Lan Kwai Fong held up as the spark to the cocktail powder keg. But, since then, try as some have, not too many top cocktail bars have further filled the cocktail void. Few, if any, that is, as well as Quinary.
That may have something to do with Antonio Lai heading up the Quinary bar. Lai, who made a name for himself at FINDS as one of the city’s premier cocktail experts specialising in the art of molecular mixology, has crafted a sufficiently safe but innovation-nodding menu – perfectly placed, really, for HK’s nascent cocktail tastes – that’s intended to touch the five senses.
His Earl Grey Martini (vodka, elderflower syrup, apple juice, Cointreau, lemon and lime, earl grey caviar, $120) – the light, visually extravagant Lai signature that he perfected at FINDS – is one of the few on the menu that hints at his molecular abilities. But, looking at the rest of the drinks list, it’s clear Quinary has gone with a reinvented classic cocktails focus with a food-science twist.
Take the Bloody Mary (wasabi-redistilled vodka, homemade bloody mary mix, lemon and tomato juice, $130), for example, which utilises a fancy maze of tubes and flasks in the corner (aka, a distillation machine) to wasabi-infuse the vodka. Or the Oaked Havana (Havana rum, Cointreau, Martini Rosso, bitters, $130) – punchy, strong yet balanced and Cointreau rounded – where the mixture is aged three months. Or A Touch of Rose (Blackcurrant vodka, Monin rose and violet reduction, champagne, $160), where the floral flavours have been crafted in-house.
These technical details don’t come cheap – Quinary serves up some of the pricier cocktails going around. But it is the kind of bar that we would have hoped would be sprouting up everywhere last year – a cocktail bar with substance, taking the next step in the natural cocktail evolution.
And we’re hoping that, beneath the already scratched off wine, whisky and cocktails entries, there may be more scribblings on the Dawes shopping list. Mark Tjhung
G/F, 56-58 Hollywood Rd, Central, 2851 3223; www.quinary.hk.
58 Hollywood Road
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