It might have been a bitterly cold month but Hong Kong’s bartenders and mixologists seem to have had their thoughts on warmth and sunshine if some of their new drinks are anything to go by.
Joao Balzani and Alexander Ko, two of Fatty Crab’s bartenders, are entrants for a contest that could see them competing in Russia in May in a world championship cocktail competition sponsored by a renowned rum distillery. Judging by what they make at their bar, they’re unlikely to be making Moscow Mules.
New drinks at the SoHo bar include the Darkest Hour, made with dark rum, poire William eau de vie, punt e mes vermouth, walnut bitters and maple syrup. This is a true winter warmer. Try following it with the very summery Loch Ness. Cucumber syrup brings out the salty cucumber notes in the Hendricks gin, while elderflower liqueur and fresh lime add further summer notes.
There’s a reason why over at Stockton, the new bar with a Victorian private club feel, there’s a limit of two per person for the Kill Devil. This ultimate winter warmer mixes absinthe with four types of Caribbean rum – including one at 151˚overproof. That’s about 75 per cent alcohol. It’s a little deceptive, as all the booze is mixed with sweet syrups, fresh fruit juices, ginger beer and bitters. The first impression of the first sip is that this might be quite innocuous. Yeah, right – the second impression of the first sip is like a hearty sock to the jaw. But take this slowly and it mellows into a pleasant drink.
I wonder if anyone has ever asked for a second serving?
Also much in keeping with the recent weather is the Brass Monkey, a cocktail-based on a whisky sour, Scotch flavoured with Peruvian fruits and bitters and loaded with enough ice to sink the Titanic. This being trendy ice, it’s one huge cube that actually looks like an iceberg.
Round the corner at the base of Lan Kwai Fong is the new branch of Mexican theme bar Agave, which sells craft beer rather than Carlsberg. Expect margaritas, of course, but these are made with a curacao distilled to an 18th century recipe from a rare breed of orange.
The highlight of the opening night was tequila from a machine that freezes shots of the spirit to minus 18 degrees Celsius, making it dangerously palatable. There’s none of that pungency and intense alcohol feel that some of us find so off-putting. Unfortunately, the device was there just for the night – hopefully someone from owners’ Epicurean Group will read this and bring the dangerous device back.
Tequila is taken more traditionally as shots with salt and lime at nearby Brickhouse. Some 18 months after opening, the restaurant and bar still has a buzz. The menu was given a revamp recently with the addition of new tacos (we recommend the “fat man dancing” pork belly), ceviches and cocktails.
The bar, which lists 45 tequilas, has some innovative cocktails. The Cubano is made from tobacco-infused aged tequila, mescal and brandy and a slice of grilled pineapple that can be eaten like a crisp or dipped into the drink, which it helps balance. Also worth a try – the cocktail of the month.
G/F 11-13 Old Bailey Street
Central, Hong Kong
Tel: 2521 2033
32 Wyndham Street, Central
Tel: 2565 5268
G/F 9 Lan Kwai Fong, Central
Tel: 2973 0168
G/F, 20A D’Aguilar Street, Central