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It’s not everyday you come across a jukebox in Hong Kong that includes the Gorilla Biscuits’ early hardcore anthem Start Today. But the Pontiac is that rare breed in this city – a grungy, down-at-heel American-style bar that looks like it would fit in just as well in downtown NYC as it does on the steep slope of Old Bailey Street. When it strikes midnight and a couple of bartenders hop on the counter to begin pouring Becherovka into patrons’ mouths, the Coyote Ugly comparisons are even harder to resist.
The bar is helmed by Beckaly Franks, a lady who’s mixed it with the best. She was formerly lead bartender at Portland’s Clyde Common, the highly respected tavern led by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the mixologist credited with inventing barrel-aged cocktails. Beckaly is an affable hostess, one who belts out the lyrics to Livin’ on a Prayer (her and half the bar) when the track comes on and tells us ‘talk to me’ when we grab a seat at the counter.
Eager to please, we ask for a Death Row ($88), an interesting sounding mix of Plantation Original Dark rum, Cynar, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth and lemon juice. Unfortunately, the drink is rather sticky and its disparate elements don’t combine well – the vermouth is overly sweet and while the Cynar leaves behind an excessively bitter aftertaste. Stung by our experiment with one of the house signatures, we opt for a classic Old Fashioned ($108). Franks checks what bourbon we’d like, but we run with her suggestion of Rowan’s Creek. It’s a much more pleasant drink than the preceding one, a silky tipple diluted just enough.
The bar’s a fun spot, and though the music occasionally gets loud, it’s worth visiting for the lively atmosphere and the quality classic cocktails. Just sidestep the signatures.
13 Old Bailey Street
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