After dark delights of Hong Kong’s nightlife scene

Hong Kong’s reputation as a party city isn’t an urban legend. From sports pubs, dive bars and award-winning cocktail lounges to live-music venues and mainstream or alternative clubs — the list of options for a fun night out is long. While tourists tend to swarm the trendy Lan Kwai Fong strip, locals have long explored far beyond this hot spot to fully experience the city’s vibrant nightlife.

Over the past decade, enterprising Hongkongers have also been creating their own alcoholic offerings to contribute to the local scene (and beyond). First came the rise of the mixologists, serving cocktails with exceptional technique, innovation and creativity. Then homegrown craft beer breweries and gin distilleries popped up around the city, with the brews and spirits served at some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.

Dimple Yuen: the woman behind the city’s first gin distillery

Hong Kong’s homegrown spirits renaissance got underway in 2019 with Two Moons Distillery — the city’s first craft gin distillery — was opened by local enthusiasts Dimple Yuen and Ivan Chang.

They originally started by experimenting with flavours, which they infused into store-bought gins in their home kitchens. “We were in the middle of one of those infusion experiments when we realised there weren’t any craft gins made in Hong Kong at the time,” Yuen, 31, says.

Two years later, Two Moons Distillery, based in Chai Wan, was born, with the founders now the proud recipients of the 2020 World Gin Awards’ Silver medal for their Signature Dry Gin.

Yuen says the journey to achieving international recognition has been arduous and also rather lonely.

“As we were the first gin distillery here, there weren’t any past references to take pointers from,” she says. “No one was able to give us any guidance or advice. We had to deal with challenges as they came, and learn along the way.”

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically affected the world’s food and drink industry, with Two Moons, like many businesses, hard hit.

However, Yuen says the Two Moons’ team remain undeterred. “We’ve been forced to think outside the box in the last couple of months, so we’ve been planning an array of collaborations that can be launched once the situation improves,” she says, hinting at a forthcoming partnership with a “very famous bar in Central”.

The thriving gin scene among Hongkongers is another reason why she remains upbeat.

“Many people here are taking an interest in local craft gin over international brands, which may be the safer choice, but not necessarily as interesting,” she says. “Often, there’s also a very nice story behind the bottle, or the brand, which locals can relate to.”

Yuen was determined for her first gin to “embody the spirit of Hong Kong”. So, for a unique, local twist, half of Two Moons’ botanicals were sourced from Asia: Chinese mandarin peel, liquorice root, Chinese apricot kernels, coriander seeds and green cardamom.

“ [These ingredients] make the gin more relatable and personable [than] a typical international gin,” she says. “This is why gin is such an amazing spirit — it’s expressive and you can get super-creative.”

When not working at the distillery concocting new flavours, Yuen, like many Hongkongers, enjoys a night out in the bars, too. Some of her favourite haunts include Ping Pong 129 “because it is a gin-focused bar”, 001 in Central and Room 309 at The Pottinger Hong Kong.

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Written by the South China Morning Post (Morning Studio)
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