Drinking Whisky at Ginger (Hong Kong, December 2018)

Here finally is my last report from my Hong Kong trip. Don’t worry, whisky people, it’s not another restaurant report; instead, it’s a brief account of a whisky bar I spent a bit of time in on my first night in Hong Kong: Ginger. I found it by asking for whisky bar recommendations on the Malt Maniacs and Friends Facebook page. It was one of a few that were recommended. I didn’t choose it for any particular reason other than it was all but right next to Kau Kee, where I had dinner that first night, and a quick walk from my hotel on Wellington in Central. Accordingly, after my bowl of tendon and noodles in curry soup I repaired to Ginger.

It really is located mere steps from Kau Kee but it was not easy to find. There is no prominent signage and nor does there appear to be any business at its location until you notice the word Ginger printed on a lamp above what turns out to be a door in a cement wall. You grab the handle on the door and figure out that you have to slide it to the left and once you do, you’re in. There’s no one standing there to greet you—you go in and find yourself in a fairly industrial looking space, which these days is what continues to pass for hip all over the world. It’s not a large bar and not particularly well-appointed. You won’t find much leather or anything else designed to give you the feel of being in a library or a tony club. Instead there’s a bar, teeming with bottles, around which some 10-12 people can sit. Behind the bar are a couple of tables that can accommodate 4 people. That is pretty much it at the main level. Upstairs there is a private room. I did not go up to take a look at it as there was a party in there—but I doubt that it’s very large.

It’s a low-key place—at least it was the night I went there. It wasn’t full but it wasn’t empty either. It was full of whisky though. They have a very large selection that runs the gamut of official bottlings and more esoteric releases. There is no whisky list. If you see something you are interested in you ask one of the bartenders how much a pour is and he tells you. I was particularly interested in trying things that were exclusive to the East Asian market. One of these turned out to be a 23 yo Lagavulin bottled for something called the Hong Kong Syndicate but the price was well above my pay grade. A SMWS Laphroaig bottled for Japan also caught my eye but, alas, the bottle was empty. In the end I settled on a Bowmore 15 bottled for a collection of Hong Kong whisky bars including Ginger, and a Mortlach 10 bottled by a Taiwanese importer. Both were good; the Bowmore was very good. If I can find the brief notes I took on what I drank I will post them in February.

The bartenders are pleasant and at least the one I did business with was reasonably knowledgeable. As far as I could make out, most of the others at the bar were relatively casual drinkers and the staff were quick with recommendations and clarifications. The atmosphere in general was pleasant—though I could see how, given the small size, it wouldn’t take more than one asshole or two to ruin the vibe. No assholes were present that night, however, and I was left ruing the absence of a whisky bar of this kind anywhere within reach in my town, and also idly considering losing all my money in attempting to open one.

For a look at the bar and what I drank, please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what’s coming next.

Oh yes, prices were quite reasonable despite the high liquor tax in Hong Kong. With the included service charge I paid $41 USD for two reasonably-sized pours of high-quality, non-standard whisky. You could come close or pay as much for pretty vanilla selections in most American cities. I’d expected that I would come back here at least one more time but it was not to be. All my dinners after this were in the company of other people and as all the meals included drinks, I passed on late night whisky bar visits. But I’ll be back on my next trip and next time I’ll also try Club Qing in Central, which was another of the MM&F recommendations.

Okay, that’s it for Hong Kong. The trip reports next month will wind up London and Bombay.

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