Review: Baijiu Bar in Wan Chai adds new twists on old cocktail classics
From a Chocolate New Fashion to a Coriander Mojito, this bar dedicated to the Chinese spirit provides an intimate setting for a pleasantly different after-work drink
The vibe: it feels like a mini temple to baijiu, with bottles and jars of the spirit featuring prominently in the decor. A large mirror at one end of the room makes the small space feel bigger. The bar only offers high seating, with stools at both the bar and tables.
Staff are friendly and make it a relaxing spot to unwind at the end of a long day in the office. However, it feels like an annex to the restaurant rather than a serious bar in its own right. The bar is a good choice for a group wanting to order snacks from the Sichuan menu with their drinks.
The drinks: the baijiu list is organised by region and fragrance, with most options only available by the bottle. However, a small number can be ordered in 100ml measures, which are somewhat ambitiously priced.
The list seems intended mostly for use in the restaurant – it isn’t automatically presented to you when you take a seat at the bar. The spirit is the base for several of the cocktails, which mostly comprise of twists on well known classics, as is acknowledged by their names.
There’s no baijiu in Deng’s Mule (HK$120), which has a ginger-infused vodka base, or Deng’s Wife (HK$70), which is a pineapple juice and green tea mocktail, but the spirit is the core of the Baijiu Tonic, Coriander Mojito, and Chocolate New Fashion (all HK$100).
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The three drinks were made with HKB – a baijiu from Sichuan with 43 per cent alcohol by volume. It’s clearly a product made with export markets in mind, with the initials standing for Hong Kong Baijiu. My bartender kindly poured me a small tasting sample, and it struck me as fiery but palatable. Any grappa drinker would have felt on familiar ground.
The Baijiu Tonic appeared, disconcertingly, in a champagne flute filled largely with ice and crowned with a slice of dried lemon. It didn’t seem to either show off the spirit or to seriously recall a good gin and tonic.
The Coriander Mojito was a refreshing twist on the Cuban classic, although the baijiu still struck me as an inferior choice to rum. Carefully poured over crushed ice, the drink was served with a straw, separately presented in a porcelain flask.
The best cocktail I tried was the Chocolate New Fashion. The spirit, chocolate and orange bitters were satisfyingly balanced.
If not opting for cocktails you could choose from a short but decent wine list, several good whisk(e)ys or a couple of draught beers.
The verdict: this is a pleasantly different watering hole to drop into for a quiet drink and conversation, and nothing like anywhere else I can think of in Wan Chai. It will certainly appeal to anybody who already has a taste for baijiu, but I can’t imagine these cocktails converting many sceptics.
Baijiu Bar at Deng G, 2/F Weswick Commercial Building, 147-149 Queen’s Road East, Wan Chai.
Tel: 2609 2328. Open: noon-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm (Saturday dinner only)