Summer is the best season to be a drinker. Winter with its hot toddies and mulled wine has its charms but the summer months, with their sweltering heat and markets full of ripe produce are definitely the thirstiest. Hong Kong bartenders seem to agree and bars across the city are pulling out all the stops creating thirst-slaking concoctions of shaved ice, tropical fruits, flowers and exotic liquors.
This year the Common Room takes refreshing to a new level in a partnership with Lola's Ice Pops. They will be offering two standalone alcoholic popsicles or boozesicles, but we're most excited about the drunken boozesicles - icy cocktails served with the popsicles as a garnish.
Try the Drunken Bramble, a berry-based boozesicle dipped into the Common Room's gin and crème de mure bramble cocktail, or the Drunken Espresso Martini, a rich chocolate iced coffee served with a boozy fudgsicle. Before making the boozesicles, Lola's Ice Pops founders Sandra W. Wong and Julie Tuan spent the day with the mixologists from the Common Room. "We had a fun afternoon drinking and talking and trying a lot of the different booze they had," says Wong. While alcohol's low freezing temperature can present challenges, they tell us doubling the freezing time seems to do the trick.
Jason Atherton's newest venue, Aberdeen Street Social, opened its doors just in time for summer with a nod to the season in the form of Down Mexico Way, a floral south-of-the-border-inspired mezcal cocktail served in a cactus-shaped glass and heaped with crushed ice.
A more authentic Mexican quaff to cool you off is on offer at Brickhouse. Their Michelada takes the traditional mix of ice cold beer, lime juice, chilli and tomato juice and adds apple, orange, cucumber and mint to up the freshness factor. Fatty Crab's signature Prison Sex - sake, house-made strawberry shrub, lemon and sparkling wine - is a crisp refreshing drink on which many an overheated Hong Kong inebriate has come to depend.
If these sweltering after-work evenings don't find us at Fatty Crab, we'll probably be down the road at Chachawan where the ChaCha Smash - Hendrick's gin, cucumber, coriander, mint and ginger beer - is another light and fizzy drink that is dangerously easy to drink.
The negroni trend is still going strong in Hong Kong and bars have begun updating the intensely flavoured drink for summertime palates. The Summer Negroni at Fish & Meat, made with Summer Cup, Hana gin, Campari and Antica formula red vermouth, is one of the best.
New Indonesian restaurant Mama San's take on the Negroni features similar ingredients served over an ice ball about the size of an elephant's testicle. With their Moscow Mule they incorporate the ice bucket into the drink.
"The copper pot is a play both on the mug the drink is traditionally served in and the buckets used to distribute food to the needy in Indian temples," says bar manager Max Gurung. The vodka here is mixed with house-made ginger beer, syrup and plenty of mint.
At Peruvian restaurant Mayta, the cocktails are generally stirred and not shaken. "Shaking creates friction that melts the ice and dilutes the drink," says bartender Manuel Saavedra.
Most of his cocktails are based on pisco, a South American brandy that tastes like grappa, but nicer. He has 30 types of pisco infused with different herbs and fruits and has even made his own bitters. The Pisco Punche is a mix of pineapple-charcoal-oil-infused pisco, lime juice, smoked sugar syrup, house-made clove bitters and fresh pineapple juice. The drink is garnished with a cube of grilled pineapple on a skewer. For an even prettier drink try the Blackberry Machacado. The fruit is muddled with crushed ice and mixed with house-made blackberry syrup, thyme-infused pisco, blackberry-infused pisco and lime juice. Two blackberries sit in a bowl made from cracked ice on top of the drink with thyme sprigs and burnt orange peel.
In all this talk of high concept cocktails let's not forget good old club 7-Eleven. A Slurpee with a glug or two of King Robert gin has seen many a Hongkonger through the hot season.
Lola’s Drunken Bramble
Need a refreshing, inhibition-destroying treat for your next party? Why not make your own boozy bramble ice pops. Moulds vary in shape and size. Makes 10.
- 2 punnets of fresh blackberries
- 100ml distilled water
- Juice from quarter of a lemon
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar (to taste)
- 20ml gin
- 20ml crème de mure
- Thoroughly wash and soak blackberries in salt water. Rinse well.
- Blend blackberries, lemon juice, sugar, gin, crème de mure and water.
- Taste for sweetness, add more sugar and reblend if necessary.
- Pour mixture into moulds.
- Place sticks into the moulds and freeze for at least six hours.
- To remove the ice pops, dip the moulds in room temperature water for five-10 seconds before pulling them out.