By The Loop HK
There was a time when people could order at bars without needing to look at the menu, but nowadays, the drinks have gotten sophisticated and are filled with unheard-of ingredients and fresh combinations. “The younger generation has wider exposure, and their palate is actually quite sophisticated,” observes Lorenzo Antinori, beverage ambassador of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong.
The latest trend in gin, one of the most popular spirits in recent years, is creating gin drinks “based on regional flavors and local ingredients,” Lorenzo says. He recommends the Caprice Martini at Caprice Bar: “We've paid tribute to the Jura region in France, using a nutty yellow wine, combined with French artisanal gin. Highly recommended as an aperitif!”
People want to be surprised by the drinks, according to Jay Khan, co-founder and beverage director of Mexican-inspired cocktail bar COA. “We use interesting regional ingredients that tell a story,” he says. La Chinesca, fusing Chinese and Mexican ingredients, is one of COA’s most popular drinks.
“It’s named after a neighbourhood in Mexico, which historically had the largest Chinese population,” Jay says. “It has sesame oil and ginger, both widely used ingredients in Cantonese cuisine. And then there are Mexican ingredients like cilantro, jalapeño, tajín, and tomato and capsicum water. It reminds you of Cantonese cuisine, while bringing to you Mexican influences.”
‘Dry January’ may well be extending to the rest of the year, as a low- and no-alcohol movement spreads in town. “Low- or no-alcohol cocktails or spirits are playing an important role in menus,” says Lorenzo. “The younger generations are more educated when it comes to drinking habits and wellness in general, which defines their drinking choices.”
In the past, mocktails were seen as overly sweet and not as 'cool', but Hong Kong bartenders are upping their game in terms of creating beautifully layered and thoughtful low- or no-alcohol drinks.
“No-alcohol cocktails are now flavourful as well and feature some interesting combinations,” Lorenzo says, pointing to non-alcoholic cocktails based on Seedlip Groove, the first non-alcoholic spirit. “It carries a vegetal flavor, which suits a spritz-style cocktail perfectly. We combine it with black tea, some lemon, honey and a touch of olive brine for complexity.”
Having a fun time drinking and chilling with friends is great, but doing so while staying health-conscious and protecting the planet is even greater. With many opting for a more sustainable lifestyle, bars are putting out drinks that are good for one’s health as well as the planet.
“We try to put in the least amount of sugar to bring out the maximum flavor,” says Jay. “La Paloma de Oaxaca, one of our most popular drinks, doesn’t have any added sugar. There’s some sugar from the grapefruit soda, but we don’t put a lot inside.”
Being environmentally friendly also comes into play in terms of recipe development. “We make sure to utilise the entire ingredient rather than just one part of it,” Jay explains. Rather than throwing extra grapefruit peels into the bin, for example, COA soaks them in sugar to make grapefruit syrup. “The La Paloma de Oaxaca is my favorite drink. It’s refreshing and packs a ton of grapefruit flavour. It’s truly for every occasion.”