Australian-born mixologist Tom Wood arrived in Hong Kong in January this year to oversee the bar at Wyndham the 4th, which has just opened in Central. Diageo Reserve named him a world class bartender of the year, Hong Kong's first, before the venue even opened.
So who is Wyndham the 4th?
It was created to sound like an earl's name, and obviously it's a play on the address as well [it's four floors up]. The overall concept was to make it feel like the owner, Sir Wyndham's, gallery and apartment. It can be so crazy down on Wyndham Street, so this is like going up to your friend's apartment. It's an escape.
You became Hong Kong's best bartender ahead of its opening. How did that happen?
There were a few delays in opening, but I thought I might as well enter the competition. So I did and kind of, well, won.
One of your winning concoctions was a Chinese tea mist and Johnnie Walker served with a piece of dragon's beard candy. Has Hong Kong inspired you?
One of my bigger inspirations would be that luxury element. One of the ways I've been getting inspiration is by going to City'super or Great Food Hall and walking around, looking for high-end ingredients.
What's caught your eye? Truffles. I took truffle butter and used a process called fat washing. I got some almonds, toasted them in a pan, then covered them in truffle butter and honey to make a mixture, then poured a bottle of Fino sherry over it and sat it for 24 hours. It sounds delicious
It comes out as a sherry with a beautiful nuttiness and richness because of the truffles and honey. I made a martini-style drink with it.
What is the drink called?
I called it the Dutch Book. A Dutch book is a set of odds that guarantees a win, a bit of a gambling term, but it's a traders' term too, so I figured that, in a city like Hong Kong it would be a great name for a drink.
Is this molecular mixology?
No, not molecular. For a long time I had a focus on classic drinks. If you go too experimental at the start, you lose that foundation. I like to keep things fairly simple, but always with a surprise element.
How did you become interested in cocktails?
I'd always liked cocktails. My parents didn't encourage drinking, but I used to like going into my mum's liquor cabinet and seeing what I could make. They always had cocktail books so I would go through them and think: "I can make that."
You studied business and hospitality My intention was to work in a big hotel. I started working in bars in Sydney and got to enjoy the lifestyle. As soon as I finished university, I did the "Aussie thing" and went to London. There, I worked under someone really professional - Simon King. And I've never looked back.
You've been in bars in London, Dublin and Sydney. How does Hong Kong compare?
It's starting to take off. People are starting to ask for more unusual items ... Globally, New York and London will always lead the way. Classics are really starting to come in. Right now, the Old Fashioned is huge. All the bartenders in Hong Kong are going for that classic style.
Do you have any recent creations?
I have one called the Pickwick Flip, from Charles Dickens' The Pickwick Papers. An original drink in the book was called a Dog's Nose, consisting of sugar, a pint of stout and gin, served warm. My Pickwick is a modern-day interpretation - a flip. I've turned the Guinness into a syrup, added an egg and presented it like a little pot of stout.