One of the handover promotions of the Hong Kong Tourist Association's '100 Days of Wonder' campaign was to invite bartenders to create a handover cocktail to be sold from July 1 to October 8 at the bargain price of $19.97 during 'Wonder Hour'. Since this is less than the price of a beer in most bars, these cocktails are great value for money - but are they drinkable? Last week, participating bartenders were invited to the Convention and Exhibition Centre to create their cocktails before a team of six judges. The drinks were given marks in 11 categories, from the pertinent 'taste', 'creativity' and 'presentation' to the bizarre 'thirst-quenching quality'. Some of the drinks we sipped; others we spat out as quickly as possible. The taste of one stayed with us until three drinks later, so assaulting was its use of salt and citrus. When the results were announced 25 drinks later, the judges looked at each other with quizzical expressions. The winner, Raymond Lam from the New World Hotel Lobby Lounge, deserved first place for his crystal-clear blue and very clean-tasting 'Dragon's Spirit' made with rum and blue curacao. It looked extremely elegant in a glass with a dolphin stem, decorated simply with a star-shaped piece of watermelon. Overall, though, the seemingly arbitrary results showed that it had been difficult for the panel to agree on what ultimately works in cocktails. This in spite of apparent consensus on the important issues: that cocktails should have an alcoholic kick and if the barman smiles as he shakes and does not leave a dribble of grenadine down his shirt front, so much the better. Everyone was impressed with the shaking technique of Ivan Wong from the Whampoa Lounge at The Harbour Plaza Hotel and with the melon cut-outs of '9' and '7' on the glass by The Regent's Ng Tit-tai. But while some judges enjoyed the patter and bottle spinning of JJ's Ian MacCallum, food and wine consultant Thomas Lam said such behaviour - which will forever be associated with Tom Cruise - was entirely unsuitable for Hong Kong. So Mr MacCallum was marked down by some judges as many times as he was marked up by others. Similarly, judge Neil Wong, assistant food and beverage manager of the Kowloon Shangri-La, commented that vast wedges of pineapple decorated with cherries and orchids could work in Hawaii but not in a sophisticated Hong Kong hotel bar where something simple and elegant was called for. Others, however, might believe big is always better, and enjoy three sickly sweet liqueurs shaken together. Most contestants showed themselves unable to balance measures and flavours. A notable exception, Budde Fong from the Wharney Hotel's Nickleby's Bar, created a near-perfect concoction of malibu, vodka, creme de cassis, lemon juice and sugar syrup which saw judges drain their glasses. I was impressed by 'Cheers 1997' by Ben Chung from the Cheers Bar at the Hotel Concourse. On the Bloody Mary tack, he mixed gin, tomato juice, clam consomme, Worcestershire sauce, tabasco, kweichow moutai and pepper for a spicy and extremely grown-up pre-dinner drink. But the bulk of the drinks were anonymous, insipid and often thin blends of too many fruit juices with gin and far too much grenadine. Those who mixed London gin with a Chinese rice wine or fruit liqueur or even ginger beer at least showed some creativity. Andrew Fung of Kowloon Panda, for his inspired 'Mega Wonder', mixed Imperial Court sparkling wine from Shanghai with orange juice and creme de cassis, but it would have worked far better had he taken into account that Imperial Court was off-dry and could take minimal additional sugar. Judges were encouraged to award a high percentage of the marks for the cocktail's name. Clearly none of those given were going to help a drink achieve the nostalgia of a Singapore Sling, a Manhattan or a Long Island Iced Tea. We could understand why someone might call their drink 'Fragrant Harbour' or '97 Hang-over' but did it make you want to order them? We even agreed the winning cocktail 'Dragon's Spirit' sounded a big aggressive, but it at least captured that great July 1 moment, from wherever you were sitting. Dragon's Spirit Serves 1 by Raymond Lam, New World Hotel 30 ml rum 10 ml peach liqueur 5 ml blue curacao 15 ml lemon juice 1 egg white Shake up ingredients well, top up glass with tonic water.