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Finding Elegance in Simplicity at Hong Kong’s Newest Cocktail Bar

January 22, 2019 Beverage No Comments Email Email

Hong Kong’s newest destination cocktail bar taps into the rich heritage of the Highball and the sensory journey this timeless libation affords today’s cocktail consumer. 

Located in a coveted location on Hollywood Road, The ThirtySix Bar & Co is a cocktail bar marries the glamour of the Art Deco-era with the simplicity of a drink that defined the early cocktail era. The Highball, a combination of any base spirit and a non-alcoholic mixer, usually soda water, was rumoured to have been popularized in America in the 1890s by English actor E.J. Ratcliffe. One of the most endearing two-ingredient cocktails of all time, the Highball, named for the high-pressure point on steam locomotive boilers, includes timeless combinations like Scotch & Soda, Gin & Tonic, the Cuba Libre, and the Seven & Seven.

Usually served in a large, straight-sided glass – the Highball glass – this elegant libation was a popular choice of guests travelling across Europe on luxury trains. In fact, the Highball has always been a drink on the move, and has a strong following in the United Kingdom, the US and Asia as it has been adapted to appeal to local palates.

At The ThirtySix Bar & Co, named for the 36 copper stills used at one of the world’s most celebrated luxury spirit brands, The Macallan’s new distillery, the classic Highball is elevated with the addition of house-made soda water, craft spirits, small-batch bitters and fresh botanicals. The bar, which is environmentally sustainable, and which operates without single-use plastics, whisks cocktail lovers away on a whirlwind voyage of discovery that traces the lineage of the iconic Highball through to its modern renditions.

Inspired by the way great drinks like the Highball travel to new horizons, The ThirtySix Bar & Co is dressed with elegant Art Deco décor, punctuated with touches of nostalgic Japanese pop culture. Eclectic yet chic, the new bar’s interiors, created by hospitality industry veteran and owner Philippe Nguyen and designed by Louis Chon, are inspired by the carriages of a luxury train – complete with black and white tile, touches of leather and blue-grey fabric, and brass accents – and offer the perfect setting for aficionados of boutique spirits to indulge their passion. Split into several spaces, The ThirtySix Bar & Co encompasses a Trunk Bar inspired by the old days’ travellers’ steamer trunks and dedicated to whisky tastings; The Vault, a luxurious, neon-bathed bottle keep and spirit showcase; and a private room that caters up to ten. Arriving guests are welcomed by a spectacular glass-encased display that tells the journey of whisky as it matures in the cask. Beyond, the main bar space is defined by an elegant cocktail bar in brass-accented tile; deep-set leather booths with marble table tops; and pullman-style couches bound with leather and set beneath vintage-esque carriage shelves.

With a collection of fine and rare premium spirits, The ThirtySix Bar & Co’s drink menu features both classic elixirs given a modern twist and a series of elevated Highballs. These include classics like the Highlander (HK$140), BenRiach 10 Years Old with house-made soda; and modern takes like the Terroir (HK$140), which has the herbaceousness of California bay laurel, coastal sage and pine to the palate, thanks to the use of St George Terroir Gin from Californian forest.

Many of the Highballs offered at The ThirtySix Bar & Co have fascinating stories behind them; the EL Mismo with Diplomatico Planas Rum and housemade lime zest soda, is a modern take on the Lo Mismo which in Spanish translates as “the same”, and is said to have derived from 1899, when a group of Americans at the Cosmopolitan Club in Cuba, heard their Cuban friends order a seltzer water and rum in Spanish and asked for “the same.” By contrast, the 21st Century California which blends San Baltazar’s mezcal with the subtle bitterness of dark chocolate has been inspired by the 20thCentury Limited train that once plied the rails between New York and Chicago from 1902 to 1967.

Some of the modern classic cocktails also come with a story; the B for Mayor’s Boilermaker with Becherovka herbal liqueur, Rebel Yell Kentucky straight bourbon, thyme syrup, lemon juice and beer foam, is an elegant take on the heady favourite drink of Antonín Josef Čermák, Chicago’s 34th and also the first foreign-born mayor, who loved to drink the bitter liqueur from his native Czechoslovakia paired with a beer.

For guests who would like to create their own Highball recipe, The Vault offers fine and rare spirits by both the bottle and the shot, allowing for unprecedented access to some of the world’s most sought-after whiskies and boutique spirits.

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