From aromatic decoctions perfumed with blossoms and herbs, to tea-inspired brews you’ll want to sip rather than swig, here’s your guide to the best Hong Kong-made spirits and liqueurs.
Over the past decade, Hong Kong breweries have revolutionised craft beer in the city and continent. And although distilled alcohols remain taxed at a rate of 100%, spirits and liqueurs are no longer far behind. A small but strong contingent of movers, shakers, and cocktail-makers have been busy at work. Tinkering with tipples, and pouring out winners that express Hong Kong’s unique heritage and terroir, they deserve credit for persevering despite the odds.
With a growing focus on conscious consumption, these labels emphasise quality over quantity – so enjoy responsibly, and make sure to seek support if you’re struggling to strike a balance. Here are Hong Kong-made spirits and liqueurs to know, support and sip!
Conspiracy is one of our top go-tos for bean-to-bar chocolate in Hong Kong. A newer product to emerge from their Wong Chuk Hang-based lab is Acan, the world’s first single origin chocolate liqueur. Just like Conspiracy’s bars, the cacao for this comes from Vietnam’s Dak Lak region, renowned for cherry, wood, and spice notes that tingle and warm the palate. Acan may be a more recent addition to the lineup, but the liqueur pays homage to the ancient origins of chocolate – a divine elixir to be savoured low and slow.
Siesta may be a dying tradition but Hongkongers’ love for saam dim saam – teatime treats at 3:15 pm – lives on! For those who relish tea o’clock as much as cocktail hour, there’s a new beverage on the block that unites the two. CHAKO, created by Quinary’s Antonio Lai and mixologist Alex Ko, offers spiked sparkling tea in a can. Featuring bases of oolong, white tea, and tieguanyin or iron goddess tea, these tea cocktails are super refreshing and so effortless.
Higher Than by Young Master Ales
Operating since 2013, Young Master has risen to prominence as one of the most forward-thinking craft breweries in Hong Kong and Asia. Now it’s treading new ground with its line of canned cocktails, Higher Than. These self-styled highballs seize on thrilling local flavours like robust tieguanyin, numbing Sichuan peppercorn, and salted lime, a nostalgic cha chaan teng mainstay.
Dong leng chaa – but make it boozy! As the name suggests, Homeshake is all about bringing cocktail hour home, and empowering you – yes, you! – to become a master mixologist in your own right. In addition to DIY cocktail sets, Homeshake has become well-known for Tipsy Cat Lemon Tea. You may have seen the iconic glass bottle around – it’s emblazoned with a cat carrying a calabash (try saying that ten times). Since first launching, the Tipsy range has expanded to include flower tea and roselle variants too.
Homeshake Cocktail, www.homeshakecocktail.com
Our city is dotted with historic shops vending ingredients for every soup, tonic, and tincture in the canon of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Each a compact library of fungi, herbs, roots and spices, it’s no wonder that former bartender Dennis Mak and practitioner James Ting Ho were inspired to concoct botanical liqueurs using these distinctive flavours. Magnolia’s mixology connects contemporary drinkers to Hong Kong’s heritage – one sip at a time.
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Soda’s more than a mixer – it can be the star of the show if you let it. Unleashing the sparkles is local brand Mezzanine Makers. The current lineup, though small, reveals this label’s sharp vision: to distill the distinctive flavours of Hong Kong into low/no ABV potions. While the quinine-free Herbal Tonic Water showcases Chinese gentian root and locally farmed citrus, the Spicy Ginger Soda swallows you into a feverish mala dreamscape. Combining bartending precision with artistic flair, these bubbly beverages hit all the right notes.
Low and non-alcoholic drinks are becoming more and more popular – and we’re so glad to see it. Whether you’re sober-curious, supporting a friend or partner, or simply keen to reawaken your world-wearied palate, Mindful Sparks offers a broad and ever-expanding selection of craft sodas in compelling flavour combos. Hojicha and vanilla ice cream? Genmaicha and yuzu? Blood orange and cacao? Earl grey and white peach? Sip it and see for yourself.
Juniper is where it all started in gin, but that’s certainly not where it ends. Hong Kong gin label N.I.P. infuses 21 botanicals into its signature gin, including goji berries, chenpi or aged tangerine peel, and longjing and shoumei tea leaves. It’s sweet and spicy, floral and a little vegetal, and it boasts a lingering woodsy finish. All in all, this is a well-rounded spirit you can get creative with – or you can always phone it in with quality tonic and a wedge of lime.
N.I.P. Gin, www.nipdistilling.com
It’s not often that you see the words “health” and “vodka” go together. Yet, despite what your intuition (or past hangovers) may say, ONLY’s canned vodka sodas are arguably among the more low-impact alcoholic drinks available at your local grocery store. No sugar, no carbs, and naturally flavoured, ONLY strives to be a health-conscious option in a world of synthetic flavours and unpronounceable additives. Vodka may mean “little water”, but don’t skimp on the hydration no matter what!
Perfume Trees Gin
Conceptualised in Hong Kong and realised in the Netherlands, Perfume Trees breaks out of the box with its new style of gin. Resisting the old categories and conventions, this gin features fresh, locally-focused flavours like white champaca, sandalwood and coriander seed that evoke the city’s native botany, and put the “fragrant” back in “fragrant harbour”. If you’re looking to learn more about gin, Perfume Trees also hosts an informative and engaging gin tasting session at Tankyu Distillery, The Mills.
When dried and pickled, Japanese plum or ume makes for the perfect zingy filling for musubi. Steeped in shochu and rock sugar, however, the tart fruit transforms into umeshu: a honeyed, viscous libation as layered as agave and maple syrup. For a local option, experiment with Tinshing Umeshu. Crafting the highly concentrated brew by hand takes founder Eddie Ng over a year, and the labour-intensive process yields only a small output each season. To order, simply message the brand on Instagram.
Tinshing Umeshu, www.instagram.com/tinshing.umeshu
Two Moons Distillery
When Two Moons landed on the gin scene in Hong Kong, it made a splash. Launched by Ivan Chang and Dimple Yuen, this gin label infuses local aromatics like Chinese apricot kernels, aged tangerine peels, and five flower tea into their spirits. To craft their beloved calamansi gin, which features in many a cocktail at gin bars around town, Two Moons partnered with historic coppersmiths Ping Kee and fabricated a mini copper still. An intergenerational collab? Say no more.
Two Moons Distillery, 9A Kut Shing Building, 8 Kut Shing Street, Chai Wan, Hong Kong (by appointment only), www.twomoonsdistillery.com
Main image courtesy of @twomoonsdistillery via Instagram, image 1 courtesy of @conspiracychocolate via Instagram, image 2 courtesy of Magnolia Lab via Facebook, image 3 courtesy of @mezzaninemakers via Instagram, image 4 courtesy of @perfumetreesgin_hk via Instagram, image 5 courtesy of @tinshing.umeshu via Instagram.