Did you know that there was a hidden bar behind Ham & Sherry in Wanchai called Back Bar? Neither did we! This almost speakeasy bar not only looks cool, but actually serves up some pretty good looking and tasting movie-inspired cocktails. Check out our chat with the man behind the cocktails - Ryan Nightingale.
1) So what got you into bartending? Is that different from being a Mixologist and how did you transit into that?
While in university, I started working in the student pub and really fell in love with the idea of getting paid to hangout with my friends and to ultimately make new friends. After I finished school, I looked for another bar job and eventually got lucky enough to work in a really forward-thinking cocktail bar in Halifax, Nova Scotia called Mosaic. I had to work my way up from dishwasher/bar back to waiter and eventually to a junior bartender. I'm proud to call myself a bartender, I feel it defines the job better than mixologist. A mixologist will just create or mix cocktails, a bartender tends to the needs of the guests and the bar as a whole.
2) How did you end up in Hong Kong, and ultimately at Back Bar?
While working in London for Jason Atherton’s Social Company, I was asked to move to Hong Kong to take over as the Bar Manager at Ham & Sherry’s (unofficially named at the time) Back Bar.
3) How does Hong Kong’s drinking scene compare to that of London and Canada?
The scene in Hong Kong is still very fresh, so the best part is that people don't have a lot of preconceived notions of what a cocktail bar should be. Locals and expats alike tend to be a lot more adventurous and open to new combinations and flavours.
4) Do bartenders really hear a lot of stories behind the bar? Tell us one of the most memorable ones!
Some of the best stories don't have a place in journalism, either to protect your editors or the people involved! A good bartender knows when things are told to them in confidence or when people embellish the truth. A great bartender never breaks that confidence and always laughs along to the exaggerated punchline.
5) What is THE coolest cocktails you’ve made or drank?
Nightjar in London has style in spades. Really happy to have worked in the Blind Pig, I think all the drinks they put out there are really cool.
6) Your favourite cocktail to make vs. your favourite cocktail to drink? Why?
(Favourite cocktail to make) Whatever makes the guest happiest! That's my job.
(Favourite cocktail to drink) Whatever makes me happy. A martini before dinner, a Manhattan to digest. Can't imagine better.
7) If you could, what’s the one drink you would want everyone to stop ordering?
Long Island Iced Teas are ridiculous if you really look at what it is.
8) What’s a drinking myth that you’d like to bust for the Hong Kong people?
Different spirits don't get you different “kinds” of drunk. 40% ABV tequila shots are going to make you just as dunk as 40% ABV vodka shots.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite liquor: Whisky and whiskey!
Favourite restaurant in HK (not your own!): Chachawan and 298 Nikuya Room
Favourite bar in HK (the one you work at doesn’t count either…) : Tai Lung Fung – unpretentiously hip bar in Wan Chai
Favourite club in HK: Boujis
One word to describe your concoctions: Fun
Drink for when you’re feeling down: Whisky, straight
Drink for when you’re partying hard: Tequila shots and beer chasers
Drink for when you’ve had a long day: Cold generic lager
Questions by Karen Chiang