Hong Kong is home to no shortage of bars, which means our city is home to a small army of bartenders who shake, stir and pour every drink served around town. For drinks lovers, following these talented individuals on Instagram is an effective way to keep up to date with all the happenings in the local drinks scene. They’re usually amongst the first to know when a new venue is on the horizon; and the best bartenders take you behind the curtain for a look at the intricate process that goes into making award-winning cocktails that are capable of standing up to regional (and indeed international) competition. Granted, it hardly beats a personal visit to their respective establishments, but engaging with these drinks industry professionals online can temporarily slake the thirst that only a good drink can quench. Without further ado, here are our favourite 10 Hong Kong bartenders to follow on Instagram.
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Agung Prabowo is a man who needs no introduction. Even prior to establishing The Old Man— one of the best cocktail bars on the planet— he had amassed a cult following amongst mixology nerds for his highly acclaimed stints developing cocktail programmes at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental and Island Shangri-La respectively. Fiercely meticulous, you’ll often find Prabowo documenting his lengthy labour intensive creative process over on Instagram, or scoping out new spirits brands to leverage into the unexpected, clever beverages for which his SoHo bar is known.
Acerbic, witty and ever-engaged, Schmidt is the de-factor head bartender at PDT Hong Kong — our local iteration of Jim Meehan‘s seminal NYC speakeasy. Unsurprisingly, Schmidt spends a lot of time on the proverbial industry frontline, documenting a variety of his experiences behind one of Hong Kong’s most exciting bars. When not manning the fort at PDT, Schmidt extensively records his own educational experiences: Browsing through his Instagram is a phenomenal way to get the lowdown on the best wine and spirits in locations ranging from Barcelona to Haneda and, naturally of course, right here in our own backyard.
If you’re keen to add a classic bartender to your social media repertoire, look no further than Mr. Michael Cheung. An alumnus of TST’s excellent Bar Butler, Cheung complements his more rigid formalistic training with lessons learned at Angel’s Share (the whisky-centred Tastings Group venue in Central unfortunately closed its doors late last month). He now tends bar at VEA, focusing on perennial classics like the Boulevardier or Old Fashioned. (Cheung’s off-the-menu take on the latter, employing chocolate and peach bitters, is addictively good). A native of Taiwan, Cheung’s extensive home trips are an invaluable resource when considering what to eat and drink on your next Taipei-bound getaway.
When it comes to the realm of booze, Victoria Chow— of KWOON and The Woods fame — is a woman of prodigious talent. By turns an educator, sommelier and mixologist, Chow is well regarded throughout Hong Kong for her approachable writing on various alcoholic subject matter (ranging from wine to whisky and sake). Her Instagram stories — the closest proxy the medium has to photojournalism — are imbued with a not-insubstantial eye for aesthetics, so whether you’re learning about regional variations in Cognac or sherry, you’re bound to get a side of travel inspiration to pair with your homework.
Egerton is the head bartender at Potato Head Hong Kong— a thoughtfully conceived multi-concept space (consisting of a restaurant, bars and listening room) — located in the middle of Sai Ying Pun. A proponent of sustainable and tropical drinking, Egerton has more than a decade of international experience under his belt, including a notable stint managing Eau De Vie — arguably Sydney’s iconic whisky bar. Well versed in many of the Balinese ingredients that are essential to Potato Head’s F&B programming (e.g. sambal, tamarind and the infamous arak distillate) you’re likely to find Egerton cataloguing new drinks recipes over on Instagram, many of which eventually find their way onto Potato Head’s cocktail menu.
It’s impossible to talk about Hong Kong’s bartending community without mentioning Antonio Lai. A pillar in the city’s F&B community since the ’90s, Lai is in many ways responsible for the mass popularisation of “multisensory mixology”, a cocktail-making style widely imitated by Lai’s competitors, yet rarely ever equalled. Along with business partner Charlene Dawes, he co-founded Tastings Group, one of Hong Kong’s most recognisable hospitality organisations, which boasts venues like Quinary and VEA. One look at Instagram, and you’ll frequently see Lai shuttling between his various venues or at one of the many showcases he runs abroad.
Jay Khan is the co-founder and beverage director behind COA, an exceptional neighbourhood bar on Shin Hing Street focused on agave spirits. Crowned “Ultimate Bartender of the Year” at the RPB Bartender Invitational 2018, Khan measures up (and then some) to his title with an emphasis on service and unique insight into Mexican spirits. Even a passing examination of his Instagram will teach you something new about mixology. From experimental fermenting to rooftop gardening notes, one gets the sense that Khan is exposing Hongkongers to an interesting and (more importantly) delicious new wilderness of traditional Central American alcohols.
Avid readers will undoubtedly be familiar with Beckaly Franks — Hong Kong’s “First Lady of Mixology” and co-owner of Asia’s 50 Best Bars awardee The Pontiac. An ambassador for various tentpole spirits producers such as Fernet Branca, Franks is uniquely well-informed when it comes to upcoming brands that are making their way onto the Hong Kong bartending scene. To stay abreast of all the latest events (parties, guest shifts, showcases and more) happening at The Pontiac — and rest assured, there are many — her Instagram is also an extremely helpful resource.
Kumar is the loquacious head bartender at Umberto Bombana’s award-winning Italian fine diner 8 1/2, a lofty position amply backed by his impressive C.V. Winner of both the Bacardi Legacy (HK & Macau) and Bacardi Martini Grand Prix competitions, Kumar has an encyclopaedic and rigorous mastery over classic hotel-bar cocktails. From umpteenth varieties of Martini to the best damn Negroni in the Landmark building (made with Nebbiolo-based vermouth no less), Kumar has you covered when it comes to classic technique driven drinking. Fun fact — on his off-days, Kumar puts his expertly steady hands to use as a potter, a craft he spends much time documenting on his own feed.
Recently elevated to the position of hotel-wide Head Bartender, Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s Summer Lo is easily one of the city’s rising stars when it comes to all things mixology. A veteran of the Bacardi Legacy and Champion of China Master Bartender competitions, on any given day you’ll find Lo at Blue Bar, pouring one of the venue’s attentively made tableside martinis. Her social feed is an excellent place to get the inside track on upcoming star bartenders who frequently flock to the Four Seasons for guest shifts.