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
Age: 39
Neighbourhood: Central
Occupation: Bartender

Antonio Lai - 27 Questions
As one of the most respected mixologists in the region, Lai is really a self-professed big kid at heart.
1. What is your life motto?

“If you don’t ask you don’t get.”

2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?

Once when I was very ill, my mum cooked a bowl of congee for me. Although simple, that was the best.

3. Who is your role model?

Charlene (my business partner) is my role model. Learning from her and working with her makes me be a better person.

4. What was your first job?

As a waiter at Planet Hollywood in Tsim Sha Tsui.

5. What is your drink of choice?

Spirit-free or low-ABV cocktails — not too much alcohol but tastes good and easy to drink.

Antonio Lai - 27 Questions

6. When was the last time you drove a car?

In my X-box (Mercedes-Benz AMG-GT).

7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

Location –- right next to Quinary, where it takes me 1 minute to get to work.

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

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).

9. Which phone app could you not live without?

WhatsApp — it’s important to talk and communicate with both my teams and my guests.

10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Fried rice.

11. What is your biggest regret in life?

Not studying hard enough in school.

12. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

Cockroachessssssssssss…

13. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

I want to see the Northern Lights, so anything that gets me there to see them, I would love to take it on!

14. How often do you prepare your own meals?

Once a week (with my wife).

15. What is your greatest fear?

Losing my phone.

16. When did you last ride the Star Ferry?

About a month ago.

17. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Video games (what can I say, I’m a child at heart!).

18. What is one movie everyone should see?

Cocktail (starring Tom Cruise).

19. What is your typical Sunday like?

Sleep, wake up, video games and movie date with my wife.

20. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

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.

Antonio Lai - 27 Questions
The Quinary Sour, one of the bar’s most recent seasonal cocktails.
21. If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

Korea.

22. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

When you are ok with having to line up for everything.

23. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?

Family — they are the most important people in my life, especially my mum and dad and my wife.

24. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

None — because I make them up as I go!

Antonio Lai - 27 Questions

25. If you could banish someone from Hong Kong forever, who would it be?

We don’t do that as Hong Kong is a free city!

26. Where do you go when you want to be alone?

Game shop.

27. If you had to describe Hong Kong in one word, what would it be?

Fast.

Evelyn Lok
Managing Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.