Going out for a drink? Hong Kong overflows with bars that lure party-goers with their diverse crowd, sensational atmospheres, and a bevy of refreshing drinks. The question of which cocktail to put you in a party mood is now easier to answer than ever, as a new generation of mixologists push their creative limits.
After starting out as a barista, Amanda Wan soon developed an appreciation for spirits and liqueurs. In 2010, the Malaysian became the first female bartender to represent her country at the DIAGEO Global World Class Bartender of the Year Competition. Since then, she has created quite a stir. In 2014 and 2015, she was on the list of Top 25 Bartenders in Hong Kong by Drinks World Asia. She also placed third in the prestigious Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. Many of Wan’s concoctions are a nod to her Southeast Asian roots. The head bartender at Queen’s Road’s Pottinger Hotel has been fondly called “Pandan Princess” for her tropical creations revolving around the pandan (a type of plant commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisines). Her Dewdrops of the Heart—available at The Envoy—has vodka and pandan syrup, and pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes.
A few years after entering the bar scene at 19, Antonio Lai became famous for pioneering the “multisensory mixology” concept in Hong Kong—a drinking experience that engages all five senses. With international experience of two decades, Lai has won countless awards and published two cocktail books. He has been invited as a guest mixologist in drinking spots around the globe and occasionally conducts seminars at various functions. In Hong Kong, Lai’s drinks are featured in five restaurants, such as the Michelin-starred VEA Restaurant & Lounge on Wellington Street, where he is the co-owner.
Lai’s specialty drink is the Earl Grey Caviar Martini, which is a bestseller at his other restaurant, the Quinary on Hollywood Road, selling up to 800 glasses per month. An example of “multisensory mixology,” the cocktail features earl grey tea “caviar” at the bottom and topped with earl grey tea “air,” made using molecular techniques and ingredients such as algin and lecithin.
Drink trends may come and go but the classics never go out of style, according to Hungie Fong, whose specialty is the Gin Martini. Fong made his name in Wyndham Street’s Origin, Hong Kong’s first gin bar.
Fong’s bartending career began to take off when he joined the team at FINDS in 2008, where he met Antonio Lai, who was then just beginning to experiment with his signature style of “multisensory mixology.” Given the dynamics of the pair’s past working relationship, it was only a matter of time before they worked together again—first at The Envoy, and then at Origin, and now at The Envoy again, where Fong leads as bar manager. Both bars secured a place on the list of Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2016. Fong was also an international finalist at the 2015 Heering Sling Award Global Finals with his Singapore Sling-inspired entry, Tiger Tiger Plum.