Whether it’s fine French wines or molecular mixology, Hong Kong is no stranger when it comes to picking up on the latest nightlife trends — the newest being bars with extensive, specialist menus comprised entirely of gin.
While having boasted quality gins on its bar shelves since at least 2010 — Ungava and No. 3 London Dry Gin among them — gin is at the city’s forefront this year. Following the Ungava Cocktail Challenge in November, where some of the city’s top mixologists were pit against each other at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Peninsula Hong Kong’s elegant bar Felix, a number of quality gin bars opened around town.
Il Milione, a bar and restaurant focusing on cuisine from the Umbria region in Italy, prominently features gin on its cocktail menu alongside Italian liquors like Campari. Its range of gins and tonics paired with herbs and garnishes from kaffir lime leaves (the No. 209 cocktail) to basil (the Citadelle Reserve) to rose petals (the Martin Millers) make for simple yet sophisticated tipples. The establishment, which officially opened in early April, also offers special vermouth and gin classes every Saturday afternoon (with a tasting and small bites) for the truly discerning connoisseur.
As its name would suggest, Origin is all about the juniper-based liquor. Opened in April, the bar is a new project by mixologist Antonio Lai, who is also behind innovative mixology bar Quinary and author of recipe book Addicted to Multisensory Mixology. Lai’s mixologist background is evident in Origin’s menu, which mixes gin with daring ingredients such as rhubarb (in the appropriately named Rhubarb Rhubarb), ginger (in the Dark & Stormy with ginger beer, lime and Gosling rum) and elderflower (in the Spring Collins) along with the more classic egg white, lemon and soda (in the Clover Club). Interestingly, Lai explains, “Gin has always been famous in the West, but not as popular in Hong Kong. Juniper berries are the key ingredient in gin and don’t seem to be widely accepted in Asia.”
Lai decided to open a gin bar despite gin’s apparent lack of popularity in Asia because, as he says, “One can follow the trend, or create it, and I choose to create it.” Considering the flurry of openings in the last three months alone, Hong Kong residents and visitors can probably bank on seeing a lot more gin.
Last but not least is G&T Cocktail Bar, which also opened in April. Boasting 80 brands of gin from seven different countries, a few of G&T’s highlights are the
Monkey 47, which combines a German gin with Fever-Tree tonic (and comes highly recommended by Lai), and the G & Tea, which pairs gin with oolong tea in a chilled teapot for two.
Photos courtesy of Ori-gin and Ill Milione