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Originally published by Sophie Pettit. Last updated by Celia Lee.
Speakeasies (or hidden bars) have blown up in Hong Kong over the past couple of years, meeting our growing desire to enjoy our cocktails with a dash of mystery and a twist of adventure. So we thought it was about time we ventured down the alleyways, behind thick curtains, and down spiral staircases to find you the very best our city has to offer. Finding these hidden gems is an adventure in itself, so next time you hit the town, why not take on the challenge and get in on the secret?
For those who love imbibing and being in the know, you won’t want to wait long to hit up XX. The opening of this refined ladies-only speakeasy is inspired by the pair of XX chromosomes that distinguish females from other genders. Concealed inside the distinguished Rosewood Hong Kong, this stylish hidden bar provides an intimate and cosy oasis for all the ladies in town, with expert drinks inspired by the hotel’s own botanical garden.
Remember to make a reservation beforehand for the location of the speakeasy inside the hotel before you step into this reserved space!
XX, Rosewood Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 5239 9219
Oops, we told! If you’re looking to sip on exquisite cocktails and sink your teeth into top-notch hot dogs, then dial “1” in the secret phone booth located on the mezzanine above MO bar, and let yourself in on this stylish little secret. Staying true to its roots, the Walls are decorated with taxidermy animals playfully donning funky accessories, herringbone patterned wood ceiling panels, and a copper bar top.
Here you can enjoy an extensive menu of cocktails, wines, beers, and mocktails, including specials hailing from PDT New York, Hong Kong specials, and a range of twisted classic cocktails. Stars of the show include the Paper Plane made with Bourbon whiskey, Amaro Nonino, and orange air, and the ode to Hong Kong-style milk tea, clarified milk punch, made with black tea, evaporated milk, and lemon juice. Seating only 25 people at a time, PDT has certainly nailed the cosy speakeasy vibe. This joint only accepts reservations one week in advance for parties up to six, so call now and get in on the action.
PDT (Please Don’t Tell), The Landmark, 15 Queen’s Road Central | (+852) 2132 0110
Another bar-within-a-bar concept that doesn’t fail to impress, Room 309 is a discreet little cocktail bar oozes class and creativity. Hidden behind a seemingly ordinary hotel room nestled within boutique hotel The Pottinger. Helmed by award-winning mixologist Antonio Lai of Quinary and Origin fame, the bar only seats a maximum of 13 guests at a time, making it an excellent choice for an intimate catch up—or a date.
To gain entry to this little haven, you need to check-in at the “Reception” and receive a key card, which allows you to enter the confined space of 309. Two menus are on offer at this speakeasy. The “Invisible Cocktails” takes an interesting approach to normal crafted drinks by taking away the element of colour in these creations; highlights include the Translucent Toaster made with roasted sunflower seeds infused with Heradura reposado, mezcal, and pandan syrup. The “R309 Golden Key Classics” elevates eight long-standing cocktail classics with upgrades: the Deluxe Room, the Harbour View, and the Presidential Suite.
Room 309, 3/F ,The Pottinger Hong Kong, 74 Queen’s Road Central, Central
Presented with an opportunity to sit down and create his dream bar, award-winning mixologist John Nugent envisioned an inviting place to share his passion for classic, reimagined cocktails, and their history. This gradually paved the way for the 18-seat speakeasy that is The Diplomat, a high-energy space to entertain parties, but also elusive enough for small get-togethers and the cocktail enthusiast who wants to discover something new. Head over to H Code and step into the reimagined cosy gastropub, with sleek brown leather banquettes, motif ceiling tiles, and custom brass finishes.
The Diplomat, LG/F, High Block, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central | (+852) 2619 0302
Concealed behind an unassuming red door on Wyndham Street, British salon Hugger Mugger is the latest Pirata Group venue to cause a stir in the city’s popular drinking district of Central. Located just across the road from the new Tai Kwun heritage and arts hub, this hidden underground gem offers an intriguing atmosphere, seating only 29 guests at any one time, giving it an exclusive kind of feel.
Inspired by 1970s London, the bar features British racing green leather sofas, accents of brass, warm timbers, and an impressive menu of cocktails inspired by Britain’s cultural legends—not unique amongst the hidden bars of Hong Kong, but Hugger Mugger executes the concept with a flourish. Guests can sip on the likes of Ian Fleming, Pink Floyd, and William Shakespeare—quite an eclectic mix, we say! On the far side of the salon is a majestic hand-carved wooden door leading into Chaiwala, the adjoining Indian restaurant.
Hugger Mugger, Basement, 43–55 Wyndham Street, Central | (+852) 2362 8988
Nestled away in an alleyway off Staunton Street, behind a discreet door beside a mural of stoic and medieval kings, lies The Wise King, a Spanish-themed cocktail bar which takes the name of the 13th-century king, Alfonso X of Castile. Here, you will stumble upon a small yet opulent interior, where soft, golden lighting illuminates decadent wallpaper scattered with golden crowns and giant letter Ws to remind you that you are in the presence of royalty.
As legend goes, the Wise King issued a decree that no alcoholic beverage should be served without food, so within this old-world lounge, you will find a menu of delicious tapas to enjoy alongside exquisitely made cocktails and non-alcoholic mixes, as well as selections of wines and champagnes. And of course, no court is complete without music, and thankfully, Alfonso X had great taste and The King often serves up jazzy tunes perfect for those who want to escape the bustling streets of modern-day Hong Kong and catch up with friends.
The Wise King, Basement, 25 Staunton Street, Soho, Central | (+852) 2326 5822
A speakeasy within a speakeasy—whatever next? Concealed behind a red velvet curtain and fake elevator control panel in hidden retro jazz bar Foxglove (further down on our list) is cocktail den, Frank’s Library. Push the right button (we won’t tell you which, because that’s half the fun!) and lo and behold, the door will open to a secret alcove filled with novels, trinkets, and cocktails inspired by the globe-trotting adventures of Frank Minza.
This fictitious English gentleman loved to travel and was pretty unlucky in love—it turns out, he failed to capture the heart of his beloved, and so created a place named after her favourite flower, the foxglove, to win her over. Here in his secret den, which seats only 20 people, guests can sip on a range of cocktail selections created by Frank’s Library’s acclaimed mixologists. Thankfully, Frank’s Library takes advanced reservations and walk-ins, so you won’t have to wait forever to check it out—that’s if you can find it!
Frank’s Library, Foxglove, 18 Ice House Street, 6 Duddell Street, Central | (+852) 2116 2449
Feeling a little under the weather? Maybe Doctor Fern can help you out. Dodge the countless bags of unnecessary pills your local doc will prescribe you and let this eccentric physician cure your ailments with a healthy dose of gin and tonic. After all, this doctor has dedicated his life to studying botanicals and creating his own concoctions of fresh local herbs, paired with gins from around the world that he has handpicked for his patients.
And if you find yourself overwhelmed with the 20-page drinks menu, then his trusty team of physicians (you’ll spot them in white lab coats) are only too happy to assist. As soon as you enter the “waiting room” of this delightfully quirky basement bar, you’re in for a real treat.
Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour, Shop B31A, First Basement Floor, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central | (+852) 2111 9449
Things aren’t always as they seem. Enter the Fox Shop umbrella boutique on Duddell Street, take a gander at the silver-handled brollies displayed in glass cabinets along the wall, and—if you press down on the right one—unveil a secret doorway into one of Hong Kong’s most impressive hidden bars. Inspired by the globe-trotting adventures of a fictitious English gentleman, Mr Minza, who (as mentioned before) could never capture the heart of his beloved and so created a place named after her favourite flower to win her over, this cinematic venue is a real sight for sore eyes.
Once inside, you are met with a glamorous interior inspired by a 1950s first-class luxury liner decked out with plush upholstery, a low ceiling, and even cabin portholes in the washrooms. Harking back to the golden age of cocktails and jazz, this spacious yet intimate lounge plays host to live music several nights a week, where you get to sip on insanely strong gin martinis and marvel at the sense of lost luxury. Take a sneaky peek at the VIP room while you’re there—it’s designed to look like a vintage first-class train carriage and is really quite fabulous.
Foxglove, G/F, 18 Ice House Street, 6 Duddell Street, Central | (+852) 2116 8949
Tucked away down an alleyway off Aberdeen Street, the Old Man is the charming creation of cocktail pioneer Agung Prabowo, previously of the Island Shangri-la’s Lobster Bar and Mandarin Oriental, who was also crowned one of Asia’s Top 10 Bartenders in 2017. It’s not hard to see why when you step inside this Ernest Hemingway-inspired gem and watch him whip you up an insanely delicious cocktail inspired by the author’s novels.
Shelves of books, dark wooden cabinets, and crystal decanters line the walls of this modestly-sized bar, which covers around the same amount of space as your average Hong Kong living room, and makes you feel like you’re in one too. The Old Man oozes sophistication and old-world charm, but also a level of intimacy that’s made all the more endearing by Agung’s cracking smile.
The Old Man, Lower Ground Floor, 37 Aberdeen Street, Central | (+852) 2703 1899
If Neverland or Narnia were your “happy place” as a kid, then this enchanted wonderland will blow you away. Ten thousand butterflies dangle overhead, little bottles of fairy dust hang from the ceiling in clusters, and candles flicker inside six large iron furnaces which invite you in to explore. Inspired by designer Ashley Sutton’s experience in the iron ore mines in Western Australia, and his trilogy of children’s books about a band of miners who forge iron-fairy figurines, this fantasy land is both mysterious and magical and will make you feel like you’ve stepped into another world.
The Iron Fairies, LG/F, Chinachem Hollywood Centre, 1–13 Hollywood Road, Central | (+852) 2603 6992
Space is an illusion. Venture through the ominous-looking red door in Sai Ying Pun and make your way down the staircase to discover a gin-infused wonderland that will make you feel like you’ve just entered Doctor Who’s Tardis. There’s really only one word to describe Ping Pong 129—huge. The bar is huge, the drinks are huge, and so are the red lit-up neon Chinese characters that sit above the bar, translating to the slogan, “Train your body”. It is quite ironic really, considering the only training you’ll be doing here is lifting your giant-sized glass to your lips. It is weighed down by gigantic ice cubes though, so you will need two hands.
Be warned, the cocktails here aren’t cheap, but they certainly last a long time. Once inside this spacious basement, adorned with chic leather couches and rug-draped floors that scream bachelor pad, you’ll come face-to-face with an overwhelming variety of Spanish and international gins and a giant wall of boobs (pop art is a big feature here) and wonder why you didn’t discover it sooner.
Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria, 129 Second Street, Nam Cheong House, Sai Ying Pun | (+852) 9835 5061
Heading up the bar team, award-winning bartender Masahiko Endo’s 20-plus years of bar experience, knowledge, and meticulous bartending technique ensures consistently high standards of service and exceptional libations. A true whisky haven, Mizunara offers a remarkable list of over 700 labels, including bottlings from artisan Japanese distilleries and selections of aged whiskies from top-tier and lesser-known producers. It is modelled closely on a sophisticated Tokyo bar aesthetic and has full-height glass windows that overlook the outdoor terrace space that has been transformed into a tranquil Japanese garden—replete with furniture crafted from mizunara (Japanese oak wood) whisky barrels.
Mizunara, 4/F, Kiu Yin Building, 361–363 Lockhart Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 3571 9797
Tucked away behind an easy-to-miss door on the steps of Shin Hing Street, this understated hidden bar offers a laid-back, intimate vibe and purposely shies away from the grandeur of many of Hong Kong’s whisky joints in an attempt to make the spirit more approachable. In this cosy setting, decorated with muted tones, a high ceiling, and wallpaper which resembles a library of books, guests can enjoy a menu of expertly-balanced cocktails without the flashy presentation, and a fantastic happy hour. Out of many hidden bars in Hong Kong on this list, this one is the perfect spot to relax with friends with excellent drinks and zero intimidation.
Whisky & Words, 7 Shin Hing Street, Sheung Wan | (+852) 9889 8590
A cheeky nod to Hong Kong’s cultural past, this unmarked Kennedy Town gem is filled with references to the city’s traditions, such as birdcages, historical photographs, and an impressive collection of weird and wonderful trinkets. There’s also a costume dress-up closet for you to create the ultimate selfie, as well as two hidden swings that can be enjoyed if you ask the bar staff nicely.
Missy Ho’s, G/F, Sincere Western House, 48 Forbes Street, Kennedy Town | (+852) 2817 3808
One of our favourite hidden bars in Hong Kong—ode to its shabby chic appearance and old-school Hong Kong vibe—is Tai Lung Fung. Old photos and memorabilia from the 1960s make up the fun interior of this quirky bar, which pays homage to the city’s cultural past and is often packed with punters overflowing on to the street. Here you can find home-brewed alcoholic drinks and a huge menu of cocktails at just $45 a pop during happy hour (from noon until 9 pm), plus some tasty street food to boot. Playful, low-key, and full of personality, this charming hidden gem earns a well-deserved spot on our list.
Tai Lung Fung, 5–9 Hing Wan Street, Wan Chai | (+852) 2572 0055
Tucked away down a dark, narrow alleyway, marked only by a few flickering candles on the ground, lies a staircase leading up to a dark and broody land filled with hard liquor and dreamy cocktails. This seductively hidden bar oozes a sophisticated colonial vibe with rich vintage furniture, antique knick-knacks, and the occasional mounted stag head working together to create a country manor house feel, made all the more dramatic by the ultra-dim lighting—be careful where you step.
Aside from boasting an impressive collection of taxidermy and human skulls (yep, you read that right), Stockton homes a secret cigar room which only requires a minimum spend of $150 to enter. But don’t be put off if you’re not a hardcore liquor lover, as there are some beautifully crafted cocktails on offer here. There’s a reason this place snapped up the eighth spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for 2017.
Stockton, 32 Wyndham Street, Central | (+852) 2898 3788
Not a speakeasy as such, but certainly off the beaten track, is Scarlett Café & Wine Bar, a cosy venue tucked away on Austin Avenue in Tsim Sha Tsui. Spread over two floors, and open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This modern venue has a chic French bistro vibe, with blackboard menus, metal and wooden decor, and an open kitchen serving up a range of tasty tapas, dreamy cheese boards, and great value French wines. Not only home to one of our favourite happy hour deals, it also hosts monthly wine masterclasses and live music events. With a restaurant upstairs, and casual bar opening onto the street downstairs, this hidden gem on the ‘dark side’ is perfect for date night too!
Scarlett Café & Wine Bar, 2 Austin Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2565 6513
Size isn’t everything, and while classic American-style bar Butler may be small, it’s certainly not lacking in personality. Seating only ten guests along the counter and twelve spread across two tables, this Japanese-run watering hole is the ideal spot to enjoy a quiet drink in an intimate setting. No wonder then that it’s the bar of choice for many Japanese businessmen in Hong Kong who admire the bartenders’ ability to showcase the precision of Japanese cocktail-making techniques and whip them up whatever bespoke creations they desire. That, and the fact that they’re dressed up in Casablanca-style white dinner jackets—smooth, and definitely a sight to behold amongst the hidden bars of Hong Kong.
Be sure to come early to grab one of the few seats available, and if whiskey is your spirit of choice, make sure to check out the whiskey bar upstairs. With over 200 different types on offer, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Butler, 5/F, Mody House, 30 Mody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2724 3828