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Best Cocktail Bars in Hong Kong (Central and Soho) for 2024

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2 months ago

After dark, Hong Kong truly comes alive. From the flashing neon signs of Nathan Road to the dive bars of Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong is certainly a city that never sleeps. As our home for a number of years, Hong Kong is central to the Travel Insighter story and we regularly make trips back to visit friends. Whether you are visiting on a quick 3-day Hong Kong itinerary, or here for a bit longer, I can’t recommend more strongly that you allocate time for Hong Kong’s best cocktail bars.

For my part, I’ve never been much of a beer guy and have always preferred a good gin & tonic, so I truly appreciate a high-quality cocktail. After visiting every country in the world, and calling many major world cities home (including New York), I can confirm that Hong Kong has the best cocktail bars in the world.

Why are Hong Kong’s cocktail bars the best in the world

In answering why Hong Kong has the best cocktail bars in the world, many reasons come to mind. It’s no secret that Hongkongers have a penchant for high-end and luxurious experiences. From Michelin-starred restaurants to glitzy shopping malls, Hong Kong is a very easy place to spend a lot of money.

But a good cocktail is so much more than its price tag. Hong Kong is truly a global melting pot, attracting the most innovative mixologists from across Asia and the world. Add to the mix a fusion of Cantonese, pan-Asian and Western flavors and a knack for both interior design and making good use of small spaces.

The result: Hong Kong’s cocktail bars easily come out on top. And yes, this is still the case in post-Covid Hong Kong.

While you can often be lucky with walk-ins, we generally recommend trying to reserve a table in advance (especially on weekends).

The Best Cocktail Bars in Hong Kong

Bar Leone

Dress code: Smart casual.

Bar Leone is a newcomer to Hong Kong’s cocktail scene. Located on Bridges Street and just a few steps from the creative hub of PMQ (a must-visit on any Hong Kong itinerary), Bar Leone is a journey across continents.

After passing through the sali e tabacchi sign, you are quickly transported to a cozy, neighborhood bar in the backstreets of Rome or Milan. But Bar Leone is not some tacky Italian-wannabe bar. With wood paneling and vintage Italian cinema posters, Bar Leone pays homage to Hong Kong’s respect for immaculate interiors.

The cocktail menu here is seasonal, so I can’t really pinpoint you to a specific cocktail. My personal favorite (which does seem to reappear) is the Fiesta Gimlet. A tequila-based cocktail with lime, toasted corn and orange blossom. Bar Leone’s Yuzu negroni is another crowd favorite and an easy choice if the Cocktail Popolari menu is a little too artisanal for you.

Bar Leone also have a small snack menu (pane e pomodoro anyone?) and a selection of sandwiches. In recent months, Bar Leone’s mortadella sandwich has certainly been trending among Hong Kong’s Instagram community.

Cardinal Point

Dress code: Smart casual.

Cardinal Point’s Lounge & Sky Terrace is located in Gloucester tower, in the uber-fancy Landmark. Adjacent to many of the largest companies, banks and law firms in Asia-Pacific, Cardinal Point is a favorite after-work drinks stop for the corporate elite of Central. But don’t let that intimidate you.

With sweeping views over Central’s skyline and Victoria Harbour, Cardinal Point is an easy contender for the best rooftop bar in Hong Kong. Time your visit to catch the late afternoon sun (or smoggy haze, depending on your luck) and wait for the dazzling lights of Hong Kong to light up around you.

Cardinal Point’s cocktail menu merges the flavors of East Asia with London dry gin and Irish whiskey. I’m always drawn to the Pandan Highball: gin-based, mandarin, pandan and, in the words of Hong Kong cocktail legend and Cardinal Point Bar Director John Nugent, ‘aggressively carbonated’.

Dead Poets

No dress code.

I’m not sure it gets anymore Soho than this. During the day, the minimalist Dead Poets operates as a hipster barbershop and café, offering high-quality lattes and some premium beers.

However, after dark, this neighborhood favorite transforms into a sleek cocktail bar. Keeping with the morgue-inspired stainless steel design, the cocktail menu at Dead Poets draws from your favorite (dead) musicians (John Lennon, Amy Winehouse, George Michael).

After a sweaty day of climbing Hong Kong’s hills, I love the Amy Winehouse-inspired ‘Cheated Myself’ – a smooth rum-based, clarified mango and condensed milk cocktail. Despite being one of the coolest hangouts in Soho, Dead Poets has somehow managed to offer extremely low cocktail prices at HK$80 (US$10) a glass.

The Diplomat

Dress code: Smart casual. Closed shoes required.

From the same iconic team as Cardinal Point, The Diplomat offers one of Hong Kong’s most elegant speakeasies and was awarded the ‘best new opening’ for Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021. This is not a knock-on-the-fridge-door of the 7/11 type of speakeasy. Rather, The Diplomat opts for a more hidden status behind the H Code building. Best of all, The Diplomat oozes class and has one of the most innovative cocktail menus in the city.

On the weekends, The Diplomat is one of the coolest places to be in Hong Kong. While the front room and bar is always a vibe, I prefer the back room, where you’ll often find a DJ playing quality late 2000s remixes with heavily sampled house music. You want to make sure you stay until midnight, when the waiters come around with fresh chocolate chip cookies!

As can be expected from one of my favorite bars, I naturally have a favorite cocktail. In case it wasn’t clear, I will opt for anything with pandan and the Tarling is one of Hong Kong’s smoothest drinks. With pandan-infused gin, coconut water, orange and all the flavors of the Spice Islands, the Tarling is beautifully balanced, soft flavors – often resulting in a few rounds.

The Diplomat’s snack menu is a little more extensive than other cocktail bars in Central. With wagyu burgers, chicken nuggets and more, The Diplomat’s menu leans into the self-styled high-end American tavern vibes.

Dragonfly

Dress code: Smart casual. Closed shoes required.

Within the Tai Kwun former police complex, make your way to the old Superintendent’s House. In quintessentially Hong Kong fashion, the old colonial heritage room has been transformed into a turquoise stained-glass, Art Nouveau masterpiece. Even if you are cocktail-ed out, it’s worth stopping past Dragonfly to admire one of Hong Kong’s most beautiful cocktail bars.

One of the reasons I love Dragonfly is the inclusion of local Hong Kong flavors on the cocktail menu. The Meng Po Martini fuses a bourbon whiskey base with the flavors of Hong Kong (red bean, soy milk) and and honey melon and apple overtones. There really isn’t anywhere else in the world creating that type of cocktail at this level of quality.

Iron Fairies

Dress code: Smart casual. Closed shoes required.

Much like Dragonfly, Iron Fairies almost seems too pretty to be a drinking establishment. Upon entry you are transported to a fairytale wonderland, with a ceiling decorated with over 10,000 suspended butterflies – all reflected off low-hanging candlelight chandeliers.

Playing into the iron and metal theme, the surrounding tables are set in old ovens and furnaces while the tables and bar are decorated in thousands of tiny brass fairies. This truly is a cocktail bar like no other in Hong Kong.

Most nights of the week you can expect to find a DJ at Iron Fairies playing everything from Afropop to reggae music. On the weekends, the bar organically transforms into a tiny club, with many people often moving to the beats and a long line waiting to enter.

Iron Fairies took Hong Kong by storm and has since opened up cocktail bars in Kuala Lumpur and Bali.

Maggie Choo’s

Dress code: Smart casual. Closed shoes required.

Leaning into the East meets West cliche, Maggie Choo’s recreates a 1930s Shanghai cabaret bar. Maggie Choo’s magnificent interior is designed to reflect an old East India Company bank, with spiral staircases and cocktail bars set in old bank-teller booths.

To enter Maggie Choo’s, you’ll need to enter an antique shop on Hollywood Road (just above Iron Fairies). Once inside, walk to the back and look for a small button inside one of the decorative masks.

The cocktail menu reflects the decor with a standout being the Maggie’s Martini, which comes with cherry apples. I’m also very appreciative of a diverse snack menu (especially the tacos and guacamole).

You can expect some form of entertainment at Maggie Choo’s, from Hong Kong’s latest jazz ensemble to weekend cabaret shows (including Shanghai 1930s costumes). Later in the evenings, Maggie Choo’s will often have a DJ and the bar stalls give way to a makeshift dance-floor – often heading late into the evening.

Quinary

No dress code.

I used to live around the corner from the Quinary and for many years the Quinary was my ‘local cocktail bar’. But the Quinary isn’t just your average neighborhood cocktail bar. Rather, the Quinary has been a regular feature of every well-curated list of Hong Kong’s best cocktail bars for years – and is regularly featured as one of the best 50 bars in the world.

You come to the Quinary for one cocktail alone, a cocktail which I dare say is the best cocktail in Hong Kong: the Earl Grey Caviar Martini.

The Quinary’s award-winning Earl Grey Caviar Martini alludes to Hong Kong’s ubiquitous obsession with boba tea. The multi-sensory martini is filled with small orange boba-style beads, all topped with a high earl-grey infused foam. The martini draws from the freshest flavors (elderflower, lemon, cucumber) and is the perfect drink after a muggy and humid Hong Kong day.

Best of all, the longer you leave the beads in your drink, the more alcoholic they taste upon bursting (I have no data to back this claim up…).

The Quinary doesn’t accept reservations, but don’t worry, you can often get a table on a walk-in basis.

Beyond Central and Soho

Throughout Hong Kong, you can expect to find some of the most innovative cocktail bars in the world. While Central and Soho are home to the best, some of my favorites are not too much further out. If you have a little more time in Hong Kong, don’t miss out on newly opened Mostly Harmless (Sheung Wan) and the world-class gin bar Pin Pong 129 (Sai Ying Pun).


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