We often dream of making the kind of cocktails found at Hong Kong’s most cutting-edge bars — all from the comforts of our own home. Here at our column Handpicked, Four Seasons beverage ambassador Lorenzo Antinori invites top talents from the Hong Kong bar scene to teach us how to use ingredients easily found in Hong Kong’s backyard (or supermarkets). This month, Four Seasons Hong Kong’s own Summer Lo steps up to the plate.
Summer Lo from Caprice Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, had a 2019 to remember. Not only did she wipe out a few competitions with her prowess, but as well got crowned 2019 Speed Rack Champion, a global cocktail competition which raises awareness on breast cancer and gender equality.
With her bright personality, Summer Lo has become one of the main faces of the Hong Kong bar scene, combining creativity in cocktail making with a great sense of hospitality and a veteran-like sense of leadership.
This March on Handpicked, Summer Lo tackles Yakult, a common Hong Kong kid’s probiotic drink — and for those who are unfamiliar, it’s a sweet, milky beverage that’s good for the gut.
I would like to start by asking you, how did you begin as a bartender and get your start in the industry?
At the beginning, after I just graduated from high school, I didn’t have a first ‘job’, I just opened my own store because I felt like it was easy to earn money from females [who liked to shop] — that’s why I opened my own boutique shop in Mong Kok. But just after one year, I closed it down. Then, I was thinking I had to find a job. So I went to a hotel on Kowloon side to find a casual, waitress job. I saw the bartender there [making drinks], it was so cool. That’s why I wanted to be a bartender. But at that time, I never got the chance to try. Only when I moved to the Four Seasons did they give me the chance to work behind the bar.
This year you have won the Speed Rack Asia, which is this great competition that raises awareness for breast cancer. There is this whole movement where, finally, especially now in our industry, female bartenders and female bar operators are finally recognised. How did you feel about winning the competition and what did it mean to you?
Me winning this competition was unexpected. At the beginning, I just wanted to have fun, but after I won this competition, I got the chance to be interviewed by the BBC. For me I think nowadays we are equal — both genders are equal. There’s no ‘you are a man, you are more powerful than me.’
So if you could give any advice to other female bartenders or people hoping to join the industry, what suggestions would you give to them?
Nowadays, male and female bartenders should be considered the same. Just have confidence, and be humble.
In the industry, do you have any other bartenders that you look up to and take inspiration from?
Giano Chan. She is not a bartender now, she’s working more in back of house. But at the beginning when I joined this company, she was the one who taught me how to use the jigger and how to shake cocktails. She used to work at Coa and 8 1/2 Bombana as well.
As a bartender, how did you embrace your creativity and relate to ingredients from daily life? Do you use them a lot in your creations? And have you seen your creativity evolve since you started as a bartender?
At the beginning before you [Lorenzo] came to this hotel, I just always looked at food recipes for inspiration, like from Thai dishes such as Tom Yum Kung. After you became a mentor to me, you taught me ‘you need to look for the story.’ All drinks need to have a story behind it to link with the ingredients.
What kind of cocktails are you most interested in drinking and is that the same as the type of drinks you typically like to make? What are your main interests in mixology?
I like gin, because I use gin a lot in my creations. Gin is more favourable these days too. My favourite drinks are negronis, dirty martinis, I like the botanical flavours so I use gin a lot. I also love to use chilli and sichuan pepper. They’re kind of unique Chinese flavours, so not many people in Europe are using these ingredients.
As you know, this column is all about asking bartenders to pick a common ingredient and unfold their creativity. You’ve decided on Yakult. I’m curious to know how you came up with your cocktail?
My idea of Yakult is that it’s such a childhood memory, it’s something that we drink every morning. Today I’m going to make a Ramos Gin Fizz where I’ve added Yakult to it. Ramos Gin Fizz was invented in 1888, when [legendary New Orleans bartender] Henry Ramos wanted to create a morning cocktail. It’s a morning pick-me-up that’s based on gin, milk, cream, lemon, lime, soda water, egg white, orange flower water. So I want to combine these two ideas — for me, how Yakult is a morning drink and how Ramos Gin Fizz is a morning cocktail.
Were there any challenges associated with using Yakult?
Challenging, not really, because I put this in a Ramos Gin Fizz and this drink also uses a milk by-product as an ingredient. It goes very well with Yakult’s flavours.
You know, these kinds of drinks, milk cocktails, are freaking difficult to make, actually. Because in a cocktail you always create dilution with the ice. When you introduce an element that is not a spirit or a liqueur, and especially an element that doesn’t have any sugar, you always have that tricky part of dilution. Milk always tends to dilute the drink, so it’s very important to use the right technique. It’s very hard, Yakult, it’s very thin.
Luckily, Yakult has quite a concentrated flavour. I did a competition in Prague two years ago where I also used Yakult for a mocktail: I paired it with fresh passionfruit, pineapple juice, soda water and mint syrup.
Sounds great. Let’s make the drink!
Summer Lo’s ‘Ramos Gin Fizz with Yakult’
60ml Widges London Dry Gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml fresh lime juice
20ml sugar syrup
30ml double cream
1 egg white
60ml soda water
Add all ingredients except soda water to an ice-filled tumbler and shake for a minute. Then strain and pour back into a clean tumbler with no ice, to ‘dry shake’ for another minute continuously. Pour and serve into a tall glass, then carefully pour soda water while disrupting the foam as little as possible — the foam should then rise evenly like a souffle, and be strong enough to hold up a straw without it leaning.