Tucked away in a commercial building off the cusp of Lan Kwai Fong is Sam Fancy, a bar inspired by San Francisco’s Chinatown, opening us to a page in our history books reflecting on the families of Asian descent who immigrated to the USA in pursuit of better lives. Managed by Jon Ching, who honed his skills at Obp. and speakeasy Wiltshire at 11 Westside, has lived abroad and spent a great deal of time travelling throughout the USA.
Sam Fancy consists of two floors. Downstairs, there’s a dive bar called Association, a term used to refer to a community of Chinese immigrants. The bar is casual and easygoing, focusing on both classic cocktails and tiki-style drinks as well as American beer on tap. Upstairs is The Merchant, a sleek speakeasy offering sophisticated, exotic cocktails using prized spirits.
The menu is split into two sections – the signature cocktails (HK$130 each) are inspired by the history of Chinese-American immigrants, while the frontier classics (prices vary; see below) are influenced by the West Coast in general and Old Gold Mountain (San Francisco) in particular, with many immigrants flocking to San Fran in the mid-1800s owing to its gold mines.
Starting with a refreshing, well-balanced signature cocktail, orange-hued Las Americas contains Bacardi rum, mango, lime, cucumber, honey and sriracha, with the fiery flavour of chilli lingering with each sip. It takes inspiration from a group known as Chino Latinos; these Chinese immigrants landed in Latin American countries before ending up in the USA as their final destination, and they speak both Chinese and Spanish.
On is the left is an old-fashioned, a classic off-menu concoction.
A must-order frontier classic is the Mai Tai Deluxe (HK$268), given a complex, premium twist at Sam Fancy with a blend of rums. Jon incorporates two of the most expensive rums around – Hampden Estate and Saint James XO. These rums are mixed with Clément Créole Shrubb D’Orange (an intensely flavoured liqueur made with orange peel that lingers on the palate), orgeat (a sweet syrup made with almond and rose water), demerara sugar and lime. The mix is poured into an ice-cold glass filled with crushed ice. Boozy and filled with citrusy and fruity flavours, this is one of the best cocktails I’ve had in a long while!
The subdued California Milk Punch (HK$128) – another frontier classic – ends on a clean, earthy note, but it’s set to be given a tweak or two by Jon, with the goal of intensifying its flavours. This Cali-inspired cocktail showcases pineapple flesh that is smashed down and infused with alcohol. Sam Fancy’s recipe also uses concentrated pineapple juice to accentuate its fruity flavour, along with rum, brandy, lemon and green tea.
For a spirit-forward, Japanese-influenced cocktail, signature tipple Empty Hand is a good choice. This drink places the spotlight on Ryukyu awamori (Japan’s oldest distilled spirit), which contains subtle notes of chocolate and pear, alongside gentian liqueur, providing a slightly bitter undertone. Absinthe is microdosed to harmonise the drink’s delicate flavours. It’s finished off with sweet, herbaceous white vermouth, balancing the gentian liqueur’s bitterness.
The cocktails at Sam Fancy are well balanced and refreshing, featuring a mix of fruity tipples and smooth, boozy numbers that incorporate rare, premium spirits. There’s a lot of history behind the drinks, with each giving us a glimpse of the history of Chinese immigrants in the USA. Association is a great option for your next night out with the gang, while The Merchant is tailored for more intimate chats.
Where: 3/F & 4/F, The Plaza, 21 D’Aguilar Street, LKF, Central
For reservations: DM on Instagram
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.