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The Dispensary

  • Bars and pubs
  • Central
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. The Dispensary
    Photograph: Courtesy The Dispensary
  2. 1997 Punch at The Dispensary
    Photograph: Courtesy The Dispensary
  3. Mango Tree cocktail
    Photograph: The Dispensary

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Gorgeous bar in Tai Kwun serving eastern- and western-inspired cocktails

Updated, October 27, 2023: Along with The Dispensary’s team, Aqua Restaurant Group’s beverage director, Lorenzo Coppola, has created a series of cocktails inspired by Eastern and Western natural remedies. The menu is presented in a reimagined apothecary box, and guests are invited to open each cabinet to find hand-drawn pictures of their desired cocktails. Aside from using ingredients inspired by natural remedies, The Dispensary’s latest drinks also incorporate presentation elements that pay tribute to the concept. For instance, the spicy chilli haw margarita ($148) is served in a can designed to resemble haw flakes, a nostalgic treat for many Hongkongers that is often enjoyed with bitter herbal medicine. Another notable creation is the eucalyptus martini ($128), which draws inspiration from Ricqules’ peppermint cure. This cocktail features Tanqueray No.10 Gin, grappa, Mancino Bianco, and lemon bitters, all mixed with fresh aromatic eucalyptus to recreate the refreshing sensation of peppermint. 

Old review, November 22, 2018: Contrasting details are a deliberate feature of Tai Kwun. It’s why the Victorian era Barrack Block sits a stone’s throw from the 21st-century JC Contemporary building and stark colour schemes are employed to help guests navigate the different sections of the site. It’s a theme that extends to the various bars and restaurants operating there, too. Nowhere is this more apparent than at The Dispensary. Not only is it resolutely traditional in comparison to Behind Bars and Dragonfly, but it sits in-between Aqua Group’s Sino-centric concept The Chinese Library and Statement, its western-focused restaurant.

Thankfully, unlike Hugger Mugger, The Dispensary feels like its own space rather than a holding pen for either restaurant. The design is gorgeous. Occupying a spot that was formerly part of the police officers’ mess, the black and white flooring is similar to the mess’s original, and the rich blue colouring the walls is apparently inspired by old police uniforms. These are just some of the thoughtful touches that have gone into the design.

Fittingly for a bar bridging an eastern and a western restaurant, the cocktail menu here is separated into a Chinese and a British collection. Flavours like mango and egg tart are present in the former while rhubarb and chestnuts feature in the latter. Starting close to home, we order a Dan Tat ($98), which takes pineapple rum and shakes it with the aforementioned egg tart, cream soda cordial and elements of lemon and nutmeg. Probably best served as a digestif, it’s an unsurprisingly sweet mix but the creaminess of the tart comes through nicely and balances pleasantly with the kick of the rum. 

Staying in the east, we move on to an Opium Old Fashion ($148), which sees the classic reimagined with oolong tea-infused bourbon acting as the base, honey substituted for sugar, and mandarin replacing orange. It’s not a bad effort but like so many reinvented old fashioneds, it fails to improve upon the original.

We finish with a Vet’s Antidote ($138), a mix of Bulleit bourbon, Mancio Rosso vermouth and absinthe. A real early 20th-century style cocktail, this punchy combination is similar to a manhattan but the anise from the absinthe provides an interesting contrast to the sweetness of the whiskey.

Of all the bars at Tai Kwun, The Dispensary is the most accomplished. The range of cocktails is slight but focused, and there’s a surprising willingness to play with flavours. It dovetails perfectly with its neighbouring restaurants, for either pre or postprandial drinks, and should be an excellent date spot. In short, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

Written by
Douglas Parkes


1/F, Police Headquarters, Tai Kwun
10 Hollywood Road
Hong Kong
2848 3000
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