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New Bars: Where to drink in Hong Kong this summer

By Annette Chan 5 August 2021

Header image courtesy of DarkSide

Hong Kong’s bar industry has been through the wringer the past year, with months upon months of Covid-required closure—but amazingly, there are still plenty of new openings, new menus, and innovative events happening. From conservatory-inspired cocktail bars to martini specialists and jazz lounges with esoteric menus based on the lunar phases, here are the best places to drink in Hong Kong this summer.

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Argo

Following a revamp, Four Seasons Hong Kong has unveiled its much-anticipated successor to Blue Bar—Argo, a modern cocktail bar named after the ancient Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Using glass features, terrariums, mirrors, and entomological art, the space has been reimagined as a glamorous conservatory with sweeping views of Victoria Harbour.

Inspired by the discoveries the eponymous travellers made on their journey, Argo explores the influence that our surroundings have on what we consume, with six staple ingredients—honey, cacao, vanilla, coffee, rice, and apple—forming the basis of the debut cocktail menu, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow.” Try the single-origin Negroni ($140) for a modern take on the classic cocktail made with St. George Terroir gin, cascara vermouth, single-origin cocoa, Campari, and smoked jalapeño.

Meanwhile, you can find seasonal creations and creative collaborations on the ever-changing “Canvas” section of the menu. One new addition is the Upcycled Gimlet, a zero-waste concoction utilising a cordial made with leftover lemon peels, Flor de Caña rum, cocoa nib tincture, and homemade coffee oil.

Argo, Lobby, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, 8 Finance Street, Central | (+852) 3196 8882

K&B Martini. Photo: Kyle & Bain

Kyle & Bain

Stopping by Margo to check out its modern European brasserie fare? Start or finish your meal with a visit to Kyle & Bain, the American martini bar hidden behind a set of opaque sliding doors on the restaurant’s mezzanine level. In homage to the Scottish engineers who patented the first ice machine in Hong Kong, both the décor and menu bear colonial influences, with sumptuous amber lighting and gleaming golden fixtures giving the space an Art Deco feel.

Order the K&B martini ($140)—made from a precise combination of Plymouth gin, Mancino Secco and Dolin Blanc vermouth, filtered water, apple cider vinegar, and a squeeze of Amalfi lemon—for a taste of a “proper American martini,” or the Spumoni ($140) to enjoy a sweet, spicy, and tart concoction made with Campari, grappa, Sichuan pepper, white balsamic vinegar, and Greek grapefruit soda.

Kyle & Bain, Shop 6, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Road Central, Central | (+852) 2133 1137

The Aubrey

The Aubrey—Mandarin Oriental’s “eccentric Japanese izakaya”—has introduced not one, but two new bar concepts to its sprawling space: an omakase cocktail bar and a Champagne and sake bar. Both are intimate, exclusive experiences, with a capacity of just four guests each.

The former, which debuted in June, takes inspiration from the Japanese tradition of omakase dining, where the guests’ experience is left wholly in the chef’s hands. In this case, however, the hands in question belong to expert mixologist Devender Sehgal, who creates personalised, original cocktails with lesser-known Japanese spirits like shochu, awamori, and umeshu as part of the omakase experience.

Inside the Curio Lounge, you’ll find the Champagne and sake bar, which showcases over 50 Champagne labels and 25 sakes, including three sparkling sakes. For a fun and educational experience, book one of the weekly Champagne masterclasses, where you can taste five glasses of champagne from leading Champagne houses and growers. The classes, which are based on specific themes such as blanc de blanc Champagnes and vintage versus non-vintage, will rotate topics bimonthly.

The Aubrey, 25/F, Mandarin Oriental, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central | (+852) 2825 4001

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Pepper Miso. Photo: Roji

Roji

Despite only being a few months old, buzzing Lan Kwai Fong izakaya Roji is proving that it’s more than capable of keeping things fresh, with newly-introduced drinks, hours, and a resident DJ. Like the food menu, the new cocktail menu features Japanese flavours prominently, with concoctions like the margarita-inspired Pepper Miso ($120)—featuring tequila, mezcal, fresh yuzu and mango, red miso, and Japanese pepper—and the melon liqueur-spiked Yamanashi ($120).

Don’t fear, Roji signatures like the Kinome ($120)—prickly ash-infused vodka, Fernet Hunter, coconut syrup, and tropical citrus—and Old Fashioned-esque Red Bean ($135) are still available. Get yourself into the party spirit with the tropical Roji shot ($85), a combination of coconut and pandan tequila, mezcal, agave syrup, and frozen fruit that goes down a treat.

Roji, 20A D’Aguilar Street, Central

Coriander Feast. Photo: @thepoet_bar (via Instagram)

The Poet

Amplify alcohol’s properties as a social lubricant throughout the month of August with The Poet’s new limited-time “CBD Mindful Menu,” which was created with premium CBD brand OTO’s non-alcoholic bitters. The menu of five cocktails ($158 each) and five mocktails ($138 each) builds on the bar’s use of signature Asian ingredients like osmanthus, longan, and hawthorn, with bold and lesser-utilised (in mixology, anyway) ingredients with health-boosting properties like carrot, coriander, and pepper.

No doubt inspired by the diet of leporine creatures, the Bunny in Disguise mocktail pairs pepper and carrot cordial with OTO’s lightly herbaceous, citrusy bitters, while the verdant Coriander Feast marries the bitters with mezcal, coriander leaves, celery seed syrup, lime juice, and jalapeño.

The Poet, 13 Staunton Street, Soho, Central | (+852) 9880 1550

Darkside

While it isn’t time for mooncakes just yet, you can still get into the Mid-Autumn spirit at DarkSide, Rosewood Hong Kong’s sophisticated jazz cocktail bar. The latest addition to its lengthy, comprehensive menu is the “Moon Menu.” Director of bars Arkadiusz Rybak and DarkSide’s beverage manager Simone Rossi have created eight distinct drinks inspired by the moon’s eight phases, with the intensity of each drink corresponding to the lightness or darkness of the moon at each given phase.

Presented as a hologram video, the menu includes an interactive element called the Moon Magic Ball—which calls to mind the Magic 8-Ball—that can help indecisive guests choose their beverages, which each come in a unique vessel designed either by ceramist Ryan Foote or resin artist Magdalena Klim. Gratitude (full moon phase) represents the moon at its full power, and this gin-based drink packs a punch in the flavour department with a clarified milk punch and sour cherry wine. A lighter experience can be found during the waxing gibbous phase, with the vodka- and sherry-based Patience providing tropical refreshment with flavours of coconut, pandan, and taro.

DarkSide, Rosewood Hong Kong, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 3891 8732

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Apothecary

The latest high-concept watering hole to hit Central is Apothecary, a bar that celebrates all things boozy and botanical. Helmed by a team of young and talented mixologists—Austen Lendrum from Foxglove, Lik Hang-fung of Boba Bear, and Joe Wong from J.Boroski—this ambitious apothecary-themed bar is set to be one of the most exciting openings this summer. Each and every cocktail has been lovingly rendered in illustrated form for their menu, a.k.a. “The Herbalist’s Notebook,” with enticing options including the Swallow’s Banquet (a vodka-based drink with clarified dried fig and apricot) and Newton’s Punch (a rich and silky drink made with clarified chestnut scotch, Drambuie, almond, and chocolate bitters).

Apothecary, Unit 3A, Carfield Commercial Building, 75–77 Wyndham Street, Central

Photo: @findingdaisyhk (via Instagram)

Finding Daisy

Peek behind the velvet curtain at the newly opened theatre-themed bar on Elgin Street, Finding Daisy. Outfitted in sumptuous reds and bathed in warm golden light, it’s a mood-setting space that lends itself well to romantic dates as well as catch-ups with friends. (Especially if you order the Six Mules—a “remix” of the classic French 75, which is also known by its raunchier name, the “Lick It Like You Mean It” drink.) Despite their youthful looks, founders-slash-bartenders Max Bajracharya and Rai Amrit are both career mixologists, with years of experience at international hospitality groups—so feel free to throw caution to the wind when ordering your bevvies.

Finding Daisy, 16A Elgin Street, Soho, Central | (+852) 5135 7377

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Pontiac co-founder Beckaly Franks with the Heir and a Spare

The Pontiac debuts its new menu

Created by The Pontiac’s co-founder Beckaly Franks and her wife, Ezra Star, the beloved neo-dive bar’s new menu is a swansong of sorts from Franks, who has taken a step back from operations. At once both familiar and new, it features classic concoctions that have been given the signature Ponty twist—a sophisticated take on the Long Island Iced Tea (Shells and Cigarettes; $88) here, a daiquiri made with a craft beer syrup (Defender Daiquiri; $88) there.

Fans of the gingery, citrus-spiked Hobnail ($88) need not worry, as it’s still very much on the menu—but if you’re looking to try something new and different, we like the High Tide Martini ($108), made with Widges gin, dry dashi vermouth, and wormwood tincture from Sai Ying Pun’s iconoclastic izakaya, Okra. Savoury and supremely drinkable, it’s the kind of out-of-the-box drink that proves the rock-and-roll cocktail bar is still one-of-a-kind, six years on.

The Pontiac, 13 Old Bailey Street, Central | (+852) 2521 3855

Awa Awa

With its cerulean façade and brightly lit theatre-inspired marquee, this addition to Peel Street has caught our eye—even if it’s not officially open just yet. Awa Awa, which is a collaboration between the Sake Central team and nascent creative studio Double 00, is a loving tribute to Okinawa, the tropical archipelago also known as the Hawaii of Japan (and the birthplace of karate). Like Sake Central and Saketen, Awa Awa’s namesake is a definitively Japanese liquor: awamori, a distilled liquor with over 500 years’ heritage, made from black koji and long-grain (indica) rice.

It’s still early days, but the Awa Awa team hopes to represent all of Okinawa’s 47 awamori distilleries in its collection soon. The drinks offerings are rounded out by cocktails from Double 00’s co-founder, Arlene Wong, an F&B veteran and Mr Black ambassador who cut her teeth at The Pontiac. More details to follow.

Awa Awa, 42–44 Peel Street, Soho, Central

Photo: @kennethtjon (via Instagram)

Major Tom

Café-hoppers and Sham Shui Po locals may already be familiar with Major Tom, a futuristic white slice of a café that looks more like a spaceship than somewhere to get a single-origin hand-drip coffee. If you happen to stop by after 6 pm, though, you’ll find something rather different—a buzzing bar bathed in colour (courtesy of their colour-changing LED ceiling panels) and serving potent cocktails. Try Lover ($100)—a bourbon-based drink with blood orange, peach, lemon, and egg white—or Monster ($100) if you’re in the mood for something quirkier; the gin drink’s ingredient list reads almost like a green juice’s, with asparagus and bitter melon featuring alongside green apple and cucumber.

Major Tom, 14 Nam Cheong Street, Sham Shui Po

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Annette Chan

Senior editor

Annette is an editor and copywriter with a lifetime of experience in hunting out the most interesting, odd, and delightful things about her beloved home city. Having written extensively about everything from food and culture to fashion, music, and hospitality, she considers her speciality to be Hong Kong itself. In her free time, you can find Annette trying out new dumpling recipes or playing Big Two at her favourite local bars with a cocktail in hand.

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