Other spirits may rise and fall in popularity, but gin is always in — or at least it has been since it first rose to prominence in London in the 1700s. Since then, the clear spirit, which attains its unmistakable taste from being distilled with juniper berries and other botanicals, has gained a global audience, thanks in no small part to the spread of the British Empire. (In tropical colonies, the British added gin to bitter-tasting tonic water, once used as an antimalarial treatment, unwittingly creating a simple, two-ingredient cocktail that remains popular to this day.)
Here in Hong Kong, gin lovers are lucky to find their favourite spirit in any bar, but the best amongst these are temples to the distilled spirit where you can find dozens or even hundreds of different bottles from around the world. Whether you like your gin shaken and served in a martini glass, stirred into a Negroni, or simply paired with tonic water for a classic G&T, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for (and more) at Hong Kong’s best gin bars.
Having opened in early 2017 to immediate acclaim, Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour was ranked #48 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017 with less than six months of operation under its belt. Clearly, they’re doing something right. It all starts with the cheeky speakeasy setup: The handsomely designed space is tucked away in the basement of Landmark Atrium, behind a door that guests wouldn’t think to enter. The drinks program speaks for itself, with more than 250 gins from around the world in stock — supposedly the largest selection in all of Hong Kong. You can have your gin any way you like it here, but don’t pass up one of the signature gin & tonics on offer, as every aspect — from the cold storage of the gin to the shape of the glass it’s served in — is designed to preserve the integrity of the spirit whilst concentrating its aromas as well as the carbonation of the tonic.
Dr. Fern’s Gin Parlour, Shop B31A, First Basement Floor, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Road Central, Central, Hong Kong; +852 2111 9449
Whether or not you’ve had the pleasure of sipping a few gin tonicas on the streets of Madrid, you can tap into Spaniards’ shared love for the spirit at Ping Pong Gintonería, hidden away behind an unremarkable red door on Second Street. Once inside, you’ll descend a staircase and enter one of Hong Kong’s coolest watering holes, which utilises local design elements (think neon signs) yet manages to feel like something found in one of Berlin’s hipper districts. The former ping pong supply store is now a haven for Spanish-style G&Ts, served with hunks of ice in balloon-shaped goblets that are designed to keep drinks cold whilst enhancing the scent of the aromatics in each concoction. The menu helpfully offers tasting notes on each gin, and there’s also a range of classic tapas on offer from the kitchen should you feel a bit hungry. Our only complaint is that last call for drinks happens at a shocking early 11pm every night.
Ping Pong Gintonería, 129 Second Street, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong, +852 9158 1584
Helmed by master mixologist Antonio Lai, trailblazer Origin paved the way for Hong Kong’s future gin bars when it opened back in 2013. With a design that nods to British history and Prohibition-era America, this Wyndham Street standby is the place to go when you want to take your gin game to the next level. Lai and his team use high-tech equipment (rotary evaporators, vacuums, water baths) to craft more than a dozen custom gins, each of which is infused with different flavours (basil & kaffir leaf, coriander & cucumber, Earl Grey & lemon, cinnamon & orange). These unique creations serve as the base for both classic gin cocktails as well as Origin’s signature drinks, providing the ideal setting for all gin lovers, from novices to aficionados.
Origin, 48 Wyndham Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2668 5583
Upstairs you’ll find a dining room serving grilled meats and seafood inspired by Northern Spain, but at The Optimist, we’re partial to the lovely ground-floor bar that transports you to early-20th-century Southern Europe with vintage detailing and hanging plants. As for the drinks, the bar serves two dozen Spanish-style gin & tonics at any given time — be sure to try Portobello Road No. 171 from London, and Germany’s Monkey 47 — plus a couple of signature cocktails made with infused gins. Other cocktails and wines are on offer as well, but we think this is an ideal place to slowly work your way through the G&T list whilst nibbling on bites of ham croquettes and Spanish omelette from the all-day menu.
The Optimist, 239 Hennessy Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong, +852 2433 3324
Named World’s Best Bar in 2015, Artesian (in The Langham, London) fortunately has a Hong Kong outpost where you can soak up posh surrounds — a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of TST — and enjoy a selection of expertly made G&Ts and other cocktails. Adding to the sophisticated feel are live music performances starting from 8:30pm (Monday–Saturday) and the Art Deco design flourishes. The gin & tonics, in particular, are served with beautifully prepared garnishes such as elegant ribbons of cucumber, and they go down well with the complimentary platter of charcuterie, cheeses, and house-made artisanal breads you receive when join for aperitivo hour between 6 and 8pm daily.
Artesian, Lobby Level, The Langham, Hong Kong, 8 Peking Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong, +852 2132 7898