The “CNY” in CNY Bar’s name does not stand for Chinese New Year, but the bar will officially launch during that time in January. Standing for chau naam yan, or stinky gentlemen, the moniker is old-school Cantonese slang used to describe sleazy Casanova types. In reality, CNY Bar is open to all, attracting those looking for a relaxed, discreet place for craft cocktails, globally sourced whisky and cigars.
CNY Bar is a dark, sophisticated den complete with a private room.
The state-of-the-art hi-fi sound system is not only rare but of the highest quality for audiophiles. Each night, something different is played on set.
Left to right: Bitter Symphony; Love Me Don’t Go
The drinks here are well shaken and spirit forward. They’re all named after famous songs from the 90s, ranging from classic rock, to Taiwanese pop, to Chinese ballads. Bitter Symphony (HK$180) and its counterpart, Love Me Don’t Go (HK$140), are great options to open the evening.
Bittersweet Symphony’s focus is Wild Turkey bourbon. Each sip is super smooth; coffee liqueur immediately hits the palate, followed by a hint of chocolate. Pepper, a blended bitter aperitif and Pedro Ximénez sherry provide subtle bitterness.
Love Me Don’t Go, smelling initially of savoury grilled orange, contains gin that is perfumed and floral, shaken with a tropical pineapple and passionfruit base.
Left to right: Chan Chan; Wine Red No Kokoro
Chan Chan (HK$160) is another boozy drink. Smelling of banana, it contains rum, cacao and sherry. Slightly sweet and served ice cold, the drink is also shaken with Fernet-Branca.
Wine Red No Kokoro (HK$180) directly takes its name from Koji Tamaki’s 1999 song. Aged sake is infused with hojicha, red wine and cranberry juice to give a cloudy ruby colour to the tipple. It’s smoked at the counter with Japanese hay. I don’t recommend drinking this one immediately upon serving since the smoke can be pretty harsh on the nose, but once the smoke clears, the sake in this smooth, sweet drink does not overpower the orange brandy liqueur and Barolo Chinato, a fruity Italian aperitif.
We finished our night with Bad Apples (HK$140), a light, well-balanced drink inspired by the 1991 Guns N’ Roses album Use Your Illusion I. It’s made with Johnny Walker Black and aquavit, with clean, earthy osmanthus and jasmine tea balancing out the peaty whisky, topped with refreshing green apple soda.
The bar bites are Chinese style, just like back in the day. Ox-tongue sandwiches, abalone and steamed egg probably wouldn’t be considered common go-tos at bars these days, but I recommend trying the sausages (HK$98), which are supplied by local restaurant Ser Wong Fun. The plate features lap cheong (Chinese sweet pork sausage) and – my favourite – Chinese duck-liver sausage with grilled spring onion.
CNY Bar is a quirky new spot, attracting a sophisticated local crowd in this soft-opening phase. I honestly find it quite pricey compared to other bars in the Central/SoHo area, however, I appreciate the boozy cocktails and traditional Chinese bar bites on offer.
Where: 12/F, FOCO, 48 Cochrane Street, Central
For reservations: phone/WhatsApp 9881 7380
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.