Whisky bars and speakeasies are not new concepts to Hong Kong. Places such as Ginger, Butler, Nocturne and Mizunara: The Library adhere to the classic dark wood interior and sophisticated music selection associated with these spots. The menus focus purely on whisky, which is ordered straight or on the rocks. After all, these are places borne to appreciate the spirit.
While Whisky & Words does incorporate key whisky bar elements such as dim lights and dramatic backlighting, the sleek and modern bar is a breath of fresh air from established whisky holes, with high ceilings, walls lined with vintage books and old-school, quirky trinkets, completing the atmosphere with lo-fi hip-hop background music.
The solid menu attracts whisky connoisseurs and consists of classic cocktails given a twist using spirits such as gin and bourbon. There’s also a small selection of beer, wine and mocktails at the back. All cocktails are priced at $150, but during happy hour, these cocktails are $88 – a price I haven’t come across in Hong Kong’s bar scene for awhile.
Education is the most important aspect of Whisky & Words, demonstrating to guests that the art of crafting a good cocktail is meticulous and precise. Take the simple yet delicious Coffee Old Fashioned, for example – bourbon is fused with Mexican and Colombian coffee beans for 24 hours, then muddled with orange and Angostura bitters and garnished with orange peel and a maraschino cherry. The bitters brought out hints of vanilla and warm spice in the coffee, with a kick of citrus.
Another signature cocktail is the Tangy & Smoky. It’s an easy intro to whisky for beginners and uses peat whisky from Scotland, egg white, freshly squeezed orange juice and homemade tamarind syrup. Its flavour profile is true to its name, with a suitable smokiness mixed with zingy, sweet citrus that makes the drink light and wonderful for sipping.
To mix it up, the popular Dr Dre is served. Almond and rose syrups are combined with citrus and green apple, which is strained with Hendricks Gin and tonic water. A spiral of thin green apple wedges secured with a toothpick is served as the garnish and becomes part of this interactive drink. Take a bite of the apple garnish, then drink! This reimagined gin and tonic was fresh with bursts of rose flavour without being overpowering.
Let’s Detox is a new cocktail being released in a few weeks. Anti-inflammatory, detoxing ingredients such as ginger and honey are combined with an infused turmeric gin and shaken with pineapple juice. This was refreshing, slightly sweet and one of the best detox/retox combos I’ve had in awhile, with a hint of spice as part of the aftertaste.
For a heavier tempting tipple, I recommend trying the Laphroaig Project. Laphraoig single-malt Scotch whisky is mixed with yellow and green Chartreuse, citrus and Dry Curaçao. This drink was tangy, smoky and refreshing, but I’m putting a warning label on this one as it’s one of the strongest served at Whisky & Words.
Whisky & Words reminds me of the rebellious sibling to traditional whisky dens that are overly serious in Hong Kong. It’s not just a whisky bar, but a space for education and the progression of classic cocktails containing zingy twists. Whether you’re a long-time whisky expert or swan-diving into the spirit for the first time via cocktails, this bar is approachable and humble, offering something for everyone.
7 Shin Hing Street, Sheung Wan, 9889 8590
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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