From a bar housed inside a former prison cell, to another that serves drinks with painstakingly made artisanal ice, discover the watering holes in Hong Kong that stand out from the pack.
A brainchild of the team behind uber-successful Ping Pong 129 Gintoneria, Dai Bing serves up long cocktails accompanied by artisanal ice, produced in its very own ice room. Creations include spins on classics like the rebujito, a Spanish-inspired mojito, and shiso gin and tonic. On the food menu, Portuguese petiscos (think tapas) take center stage. Dai Bing also functions as an art space, with pieces displayed in a space that boasts double-height ceilings — a rarity these days in Hong Kong.
52 Bonham Strand West, Sheung Wan, 9838-4438
Nightclub-slash-restaurant Ignis by Linx puts on DJ gigs with heavy beats downstairs and offers European and Asian fare upstairs. Expect heavyweights from the house and techno world gracing its decks. Order up modern classic cocktails, or champagne bottles with sparklers if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. And unlike a club that simply serves a basic food menu, the restaurant really does go all out with dishes like morel, king mushroom and confit egg yolk and Galician octopus served with kimchi mayonnaise and ponzu daikon.
1/F-2/F, California Tower, 30-32 D’Aguilar Street, Central, 2623-0298
After The Old Man opened to great fanfare, the team behind the SoHo watering hole have now brought us The Sea. Similarly inspired by the works of Ernest Hemingway, this bar — tucked away on a stretch off the western end of Hollywood Road — features a seasonal cocktail menu with unexpected tipples like algae gin and peanut milk rum. Like its sister joint, here you can expect a space that’s a little bit hidden, or what some might even call unassuming — complete with dim lighting and cozy seating.
2 Po Yan Street, Sheung Wan, 2307-0030
Tai Kwun’s Behind Bars takes up a space that was formerly a jail — so that should satisfy your Instagram needs right there. Grab a table placed inside nooks transformed from jail cells, and order from a menu that offers wines, beers and premade cocktails.
Prison Yard, Block E, Tai Kwun, 10 Hollywood Road, Central
Several years after it first opened its doors, Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour continues to please cocktail lovers looking for something a bit unusual. Despite being housed inside a luxury mall bang in the middle of Central, this speakeasy keeps things interesting with more than 250 types of gin and carefully crafted drinks that go way above and beyond your regular G&T. Like its sister bars Foxglove and Mrs Pound, there’s a whole tale behind Dr Fern’s Gin Parlour: basically, the bar is named after a fictional physician-botanist who gives patients gin to treat their ailments.
Shop B31A, B1/F, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, 2111-9449
It might sound unorthodox, but somehow, it works. Draft Land serves cocktails on tap, and even though there’s less of an emphasis on things like garnish, a lot of thought has clearly gone into these seasonal, pre-batch tipples. You can choose from a selection that indicates booze strength — surely good news for cheap drunks looking to stay out. Draft Land is a joint venture between cocktail bar veteran Antonio Lai of beloved Quinary and other firm favorites in Hong Kong, and famed Taiwanese mixologist Angus Zou, who first opened a bar of this kind back in Taipei.
63 Wyndham Street, Central
Differing from the cookie-cutter pubs and subpar restaurants that surround it, Varga Lounge stands out as a SoHo gem — and a long-time favorite — thanks to its whimsical decor and position as a prime people-watching spot. This is the perfect place to hit if you’re not particularly interested in a big night, yet want to grab a strawberry daiquiri somewhere a little bit out of the ordinary.
Shop D, G/F, 36 Staunton Street, Central