During the 18th century, a gin craze swept through London. So widely consumed was the spirit that the government rolled out a series of Prohibition-style taxes and laws to restrict the flow. Nicknamed “Mother’s Milk,” gin was the spirit of choice, not only by everyday Brits but also Queen Anne herself, who ruled England, Scotland and Ireland at the time.
As a British colony for 150 years, Hong Kong acquired quite a few traits from the English — and a taste for juniper was one of them. After all, gin is the perfect spirit for the climate. At the peak of the port city’s sweltering summer season, there’s no better way to refresh than with a crisp gin and tonic.
From glamorous hotel lounges to hard-to-find speakeasies, we’ve sought out the best gin bars in Hong Kong.
The journey to Felix, located inside Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Hong Kong, is almost as mesmerizing as the establishment itself. A sleek elevator in the arcade whisks you to the 28th floor, dimming the lights during the ascent. When the doors open, you’ll enter a wood-paneled hall and a sky-high dining space, where incredible harbor views await.
Designed by Philippe Starck, Felix is divided into several distinct areas, with the various bars winding in a cylindrical shape, much like a snail’s shell.
Here, you can enjoy some of the city’s best gin and tonics, classic martinis and potent Negronis (choose from five varieties). However, if you like your gin, the bartenders here will make it sing.
Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour
Located inside The Landmark mall — where you’ll also find Five-Star The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong — this whimsical speakeasy is nestled among luxury fashion brands and coffeehouses on the basement floor. A tiny door marks the spot, opening into Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour, a wonderland of fern-patterned walls and mason jars full of herbs.
Opened in February 2017, the botanical bar is inspired by a fictional physician healing patients with gin-powered remedies, hence the servers decked out in lab coats. Try the Doctor’s Order for a refreshing surprise, or browse the 250-strong list of specialty gins, including G’Vine Gin from France, Napues from Finland and The Botanist from Scotland’s Islay isle.
This is also the only place in Hong Kong where you’ll find Blind Tiger Organic Gin, a peppery number from Southern Australia that is best savored in a martini or on the rocks.
A longtime all-star of Hong Kong’s nightlife scene, Origin occupies a prime location on Wyndham Street. The bar is dedicated to gin, with more than 150 labels gracing the menu. Owner and head mixologist Antonio Lai borrows techniques from molecular gastronomy — using a rotary evaporator and sous vide for his homemade ingredients — so you’re always in for a surprise.
The juniper spirit arrives in wild and whimsical presentations, from creative cocktails to tried-and-true classics. The KGB (Kyoho Grape Bathtub) martini, for example, comes in a tiny white tub full of tea, Tanqueray, Cointreau, elderflower syrup, Kyoho (a Japanese grape liqueur) and citrus juices — giving a whole new meaning to the term “bathtub gin.”
For those craving a twist on the classics, the goji julep is a refreshing option, as is the cucumber-infused Spring Collins.
Ping Pong Gintonería
A Spanish speakeasy, Ping Pong Gintonería is tucked away in the hills of Sai Ying Pun — a western district about 20 minutes from Central. Behind a red metal door, a long stairwell leads into an incredible open space featuring double-height ceilings, a rare sight in cramped Hong Kong. Avant-garde artwork lines the walls, while a shock of neon signage hangs above the bar.
If it feels a little vintage, that’s because it is: the space was used as a ping-pong hall in a previous incarnation, hence its name. Now, it’s one of Hong Kong’s best gin bars, serving specialty cocktails in enormous goblets.
Settle in for the evening with a few tapas and a classic Martin Miller with Fever-Tree tonic.
Anchoring the lobby’s Palm Court at Five-Star The Langham, Hong Kong, Artesian is a vision — picture a sleek U-shaped bar, art deco décor and a wall full of boutique spirits. The expertly crafted gin and tonics are made using your choice of more than 30 botanical blends, including Pink Gin from Germany, Mahon Xoriguer from Spain and Vor from Iceland.
Head here for a European-style aperitivo (from 6 to 8 p.m. daily), where you can graze on a generous spread of cheese and charcuterie while soothing piano melodies float in the background.
After you’ve warmed up, finish with dinner at recently renovated The Bostonian for surf, turf and gorgeous maritime-inspired surrounds.