For those looking to tap into highbrow cocktail culture, a new entry in Hong Kong’s nightlife scene is seeking to bring mixology to the masses by serving up a wide selection of expertly mixed drinks in a novel format: on draft.
The rationale behind Draft Land, which recently opened on Wyndham Street, is that serving keg-stable cocktails — many of them variations on tried-and-true classics — cuts down on both costs and wait times. That being the case, the thinking goes, cocktail neophytes need no longer shudder at the thought of paying an arm and a leg for a bespoke drink in a temple of mixology, only to be handed something ten minutes later that tastes like an old lady’s perfume.
The concept was imported from Taiwan by Angus Zhou, whose first Draft Land in Taipei was deemed one of Asia’s standout new bars in 2018 by DRiNK Magazine. The experience is meant to be “accessible,” according to Alex, one of Draft Land’s knowledgeable bartenders who walked a couple of Coconuts editors through the concept and a handful of samples during a recent tasting.
And the verdict? They’re good, once you get over the initial cognitive dissonance that comes from seeing a Caferoni — a Negroni variant spiked with cold brew coffee — emerging from the tap instead of a pint of Tsingtao. That Caferoni (HK$120), it should be noted, would likely please fans of either beverage, with the cold brew adding an additional layer to the drink’s signature bitterness.
Another twist on an old school classic, the Saratoga (HK$130), is a play on the Vieux Carré, the concoction of rye, cognac, vermouth and bitters that originated in 1930s New Orleans. This version swaps out the rye for bourbon, and the cognac for brandy, making it more reminiscent of a Manhattan — at least, in this taster’s humble opinion — with an almost herbal finish.
For those that don’t like their cocktails so spirit-forward but still want the tasting notes of the booze to come through (it’s what nature intended, OK?), then the Whiskey Fizz (HK$120) fits the bill. Given a peaty punch courtesy of Ardbeg scotch, the cocktail is basically a smokey version of a whiskey sour, with a bit of pineapple thrown in for good measure.
Some of the cocktails are even made with beer — appropriately enough, perhaps, for a bar with so many taps. Spiked with gin, passionfruit, and lime, the India Pale Punch (HK$100) tastes, unsurprisingly, like a very citrusy IPA, with a slight sweetness to offset the beer’s assertive hops. There’s also a drink called the Rum Stout (HK$90), which blends dark rum with a dark beer (you guessed it, stout), that’s then spiked with a bit of pandan and black tea.
Unless you’re in a large group, it’s unlikely that you’d be able to try all the drinks on offer within just a single visit. In all, Draft Land offers a rotating menu of more than 20 cocktails (along with some tasty, street food-style bar snacks — but let’s be real, we’re here for the liquor).
In addition to the aforementioned spirit-forward drinks and beer-based blends, there are also plenty of options on the lighter, more refreshing end of the scale — mostly based on citrus, tea, berries, or a combination of all three. Some are heavier on the herbs.
If you’re a bit lost on where to begin with ordering, then here’s a bit of good news: Since all the drinks are pre-mixed and available at the pull of a tap, customers are encouraged to take a try-before-you-buy approach, something that’s just not possible when every cocktail is being made to order.
Put that in your atomizer and smoke it, you waxed-mustache mixologists.
Draft Land is at 63 Wyndham St, Central
Open Monday through Thursday, 5pm-1am; Saturday and Sunday, 5pm-2am; Closed Sundays