Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. In our new 27 Questions column, we get up close and personal with notable Hong Kong personalities, learning about their whims and aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all found out in roughly the same time it takes to have a 2-minute speed date.
This week, we chat with Tastings Group executive mixologist Antonio Lai. For a man who’s credited as being one of the leaders of the mixology movement in Hong Kong, he has a reputation for being surprisingly down-to-earth. In addition to opening speakeasy Quinary in 2012, Hong Kong’s first gin-based bar Origin in 2013, and colonial-influenced The Envoy in 2014, Lai is the pioneer behind Multisensory Mixology — the philosophy that cocktails should engage all five senses, and the driving force behind Quinary’s esteemed reputation (the bar has placed high on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list since 2013). Lai is a true icon of the cocktail scene, known best for his innovative cocktails; and for those who know him, perhaps equally as much for being seen schlepping up and down Central in his outrageous sneakers. Get to know him more below.
Name: Antonio Lai
“If you don’t ask you don’t get.”
Once when I was very ill, my mum cooked a bowl of congee for me. Although simple, that was the best.
Charlene (my business partner) is my role model. Learning from her and working with her makes me be a better person.
As a waiter at Planet Hollywood in Tsim Sha Tsui.
Spirit-free or low-ABV cocktails — not too much alcohol but tastes good and easy to drink.
In my X-box (Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT).
Location –- right next to Quinary, where it takes me 1 minute to get to work.
I am an afternoon person, as I feel most awake in the afternoon. But also a night owl (only when I am working, because I love my job and can’t stop when I start a shift).
WhatsApp — it’s important to talk and communicate with both my teams and my guests.
Not studying hard enough in school.
I want to see the Northern Lights, so anything that gets me there to see them, I would love to take it on!
Once a week (with my wife).
Losing my phone.
About a month ago.
Video games (what can I say, I’m a child at heart!).
Cocktail (starring Tom Cruise).
Sleep, wake up, video games and movie date with my wife.
Opening Quinary. It’s like waiting for a baby to be born — all of it including the stress, the excitement, and the anticipation of seeing your dream come to life.
When you are ok with having to line up for everything.
Family — they are the most important people in my life, especially my mum and dad and my wife.
None — because I make them up as I go!
We don’t do that as Hong Kong is a free city!