10 Hong Kong summer cocktails to kick off a hot night
We asked savvy Hong Kong booze hounds, mixologists and barflies to come up with 10 summer cocktails - drinks that say something about the places that serve them and the people who drink them
From Anime Star to a combination of wasabi, tequila and Bloody Mary, here's our summer cocktail guide from A to W.
The drink: Anime Star
The place: Fatty Crab
The cost: HK$120
It's all about attention to detail at Fatty Crab, with regular updates to their offerings and staff who sit back from the various conversations banging on around the downstairs bar but never miss a trick. Shots and beers seemed the order of the evening. We came for their heralded Prison Sex, but were immediately pointed towards its recent replacement on the menu.
Anime Star combines shochu with sparkling wine, passion fruit, cinnamon vanilla sugar, and fresh lime - and it proved a masterstroke from the barman given the steamy conditions outside and our pressing need for a quick burst of energy.
11-13 Old Bailey Street, Central, tel: 2521 2033
The drink: Apple Pie Moonshine
The place: Blue Butcher
The cost: HK$140
The meat cleavers rammed into the staircase wall declare in no uncertain terms what Blue Butcher's true purpose is, but downstairs from the steakhouse their roadside bar has also built a reputation as a meeting point where you can kick your evening into overdrive with a cocktail or two. An ample serving of home-made apple-infused moonshine comes wrapped in a brown paper bag and with a stick of smouldering cinnamon that sparks its flavours into life - there's apple juice, apple cider, brown sugar and cinnamon also chilling away under the ice, tempering the bite of the hard liquor but not its delicious kick.
108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, tel: 2613 9286
The drink: Chocotini
The place: Varga Lounge
The cost: HK$80
The people at Varga say they want to take you back to the America of the 1950s, with their lounges, pin-up girls on the walls and an ambience that encourages sitting back and simply sipping away.
Case in point was a recent evening where there were three groups downstairs - quietly chatting away as the tourists peered in from outside. And on each table was at least one Chocotini, too decadent to be devoured with its Godiva caramel milk chocolate liqueur and vodka, and the dark chocolate that cases the rim of the glass - daring you to resist the odd lick.
36 Staunton Street, Central, tel: 2104 9697
The drink: Dark Sandy Beach
The place: Honi Honi
The cost: HK$130
The impression you get when you walk through the doors is that you've stumbled onto the set of Gilligan's Island - it's all palms, bamboo and floral shirts. It was an atmosphere enhanced during our recent spate of stormy weather, but a few sips into this potent rum-based delight and you won't know whether you're Mary Ann or Thurston Howell III. Gosling's Black Seal Spiced Rum comes with Cartron white cacao liqueur, Aztec Chocolate Bitters, coconut milk and a dash (they say) of Wray & Nephew overproof rum. Fresh banana binds it all together, and proves it's good for your well-being. That's the theory at least.
3/F Somptueux Central, 52 Wellington Street, Central, tel: 2353 0885
The drink: Old Smokey
The place: The Blck Brd
The cost: HK$168
It's hard not to be distracted by the variety of whisky on offer here, or by the excellent dry Manhattans, but the Old Smokey fits the bar's ambience and the trophy-room aesthetic of its leather sofas and wooden panels. It's a tweaking of traditions - an advance of the Old Fashioned that emerged in the 1800s - and it blends Ron Zacapa 23-year-old rum with a Talisker 10-year-old single malt. But the chocolate bitters, syrup, Ardbeg mist, orange bitters and a few drops of saline solution account for its lingering smoky taste, while the slice of orange rind next the one large lump of ice adds a lovely citrus tang to every sip.
6/F 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central, tel: 2545 8555
The drink: Padre Blanco
The place: Flint Grill & Bar
The cost: HK$88
Flint is where the award-winning Padre Blanco was conceived and inspired, we are told, by both the character and the exploits of Ernest Hemingway. And chances are Papa would have approved, too, as he did like the odd tipple or two. The drink is as smooth as they come, blending Bacardi Superior, kaffir lime leaf, freshly squeezed lime juice and white vinegar. If you're not here for lunch or dinner, it's available off-menu at the Marriott's lobby bar, also - if you ask nicely.
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel: 2810 8366
The drink: Porn Star
The place: Aqua
The cost: HK$168
You can't beat that view - Aqua is an oasis high above the grind and grime of Tsim Sha Tsui's daily bustle. If you arrive around 4pm, position yourself to watch the sun slowly fade and give in to purely "summery" sensations of a cocktail that comes in three stages.
First, you swallow a spoonful of passion fruit, then you have to decide whether to down the shot of prosecco or mix it straight into the main event - Ketel One vodka, vanilla sugar and more passion fruit (this time a purée).
30/F, 1 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 3427 2288
The drink: Snickers Old Fashioned
The place: Lily & Bloom
The cost: HK$150
It's a drink that is as chilled as the dark wood decor in this bar that - in the early evening at least - is favoured by those looking for a cosy corner to chat. The world can wait and you can leave that slice of Snickers to seep into the whisky and add richness. And eat it when the drink is done. Another variant on a theme (that Old Fashioned again) has Michter's Whiskey, vanilla-infused demerara sugar, Bittermen's Xocolatl Mole bitters and Fee Brother's Black Walnut Bitters.
5&6/F LKF Tower, 33 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2810 6166
The drink: Spicy Fifty
The place: Le Boudoir
The cost: HK$100
A framed portrait of French tennis ace René Lacoste greets you with an enigmatic grin as you descend the stairs of this basement bar. It's almost as though he knows you're in for a treat. The bar's name gives its decor away and a recent visit saw two visiting Australian women - dressed to the nines - kicking up their heels as they took up residency on one of the sofas, immediately ordering this signature cocktail and looking satisfied when they arrived ("It's why we are here," one said). Absolut Vanilla vodka, lime, elderflower cordial and honey syrup fill your glass - and a Thai red chili adds enough kick to keep you on your toes.
Basement, 65 Wyndham Street, Central, tel: 2530 3870
The drinks: Wasabi, Tequila and Bloody Mary Shots
The place: The Globe
The cost: HK$70
The Globe has long been known for the high standard of its Bloody Mary - and the secrecy which surrounds its ingredients. The dilemma here is whether to make this ingenious little combination the start of your session or the start of your recovery. The deal is that you take in a dollop of wasabi paste, swirl it round your mouth with the tequila and then wash finish off the experience with a shot of Bloody Mary. Guaranteed to spark you into action, or back to life.
45-53A Graham Street, Central, tel: 2543 1941