There are quite a few renowned bartenders visiting town these few weeks, so we took the chance to chat to one of them this week. Erick Castro, the  man behind San Francisco's Rickhouse and Bourbon & Branch, is now busy with a brand new web series AND a movie. Just how did all this come together? Find out below the cut!

1) Hi Erick! Welcome to Hong Kong. So what got you into bartending? Tell us your back story.

I started bartending almost 15 years ago & feel in love with craft cocktail about 10 years ago. It is such a great time for our industry right now, because so many bartenders are getting back to our roots and making classic drinks they way they are supposed to be made.

2) How does owning your own bar compare to just being a bartender? Do you miss not having to worry about cost and expenses?

Although, the challenges of owning your own bar can be much wider in scope than the regular bartender shift, at the end of the day, it really comes down to making sure that people are happy and want to come back. Which is why in many ways they can be similar in philosophy, but from the perspective of any owner, you must pull back and see the entire picture rather than thinking about the task at hand.

3) For you, what’s the difference between a good cocktail and a bad cocktail?

Very often the difference between a good cocktail and a great cocktail is the very simple elements going wrong. These are instances of inconsistency, dilution and temperature. However, the difference between a good cocktail and a bad one, can make the bad one undrinkable. The bad ones are awful from the beginning, and are not fit to be served to my worst enemy.

4) What’s the weirdest encounter you’ve had behind the bar?

Strange encounters are to be expected from time to time,  as people will lose inhibitions when drinking and enjoying themselves on a night out. I have seen everything from a woman in a white dress shitting herself to celebrities being propositioned for sex. In this line of work, you have to be able to retain composure no matter what the night throws at you.

5) Your favourite cocktail to make vs. your favourite cocktail to drink? Why?

No matter how much time passes, I never get tired of making or drinking Old-Fashioneds. They are so wonderful, because you can manipulate and change them depending on your mood & feelings at the time. Want it a little funkier? Why not try it with Jamaican Rum & Orange Bitters? Want it a bit more refined? Why not try it with Armagnac & Boker’s Bitters? The possibilities are truly unlimited.

6) If you could, what’s the one drink you want everyone to stop ordering?

I wish everyone would calm down regarding Pappy Van Winkle. Yes, it is a great bourbon and I thoroughly enjoy drinking it, but there are so many other fantastic bourbons out there that are equally impressive. Folks shouldn’t be so shy about trying new whiskies. So often, it is helpful to ignore the hype.


7) Tell us about the web series you started this year – Bartender at Large!

Bartender at Large is a love letter to the art of bartending and the world of craft cocktails. It provides an examination into the modern cocktail renaissance, and allows you to experience it all through the lens of one bartender’s road trip. It is an online series available on YouTube now, but the feature film will be debuting this summer. Stay tuned via

8) Any projects you’re working on right now? Perhaps one in Hong Kong?

Right now, I am just focused on getting the movie out, but you never know what could happen in the future! ;-)

Quick fire questions:

Favourite liquor: Bourbon!

Favourite restaurant in HK: I haven’t been to that many places here yet, but have fallen in love with a little Dim Sum place near my hotel.

Favourite bar in HK: Whichever one I happen to find myself at!

Favourite club in HK: Anywhere with good music & strong drinks

One word to describe your concoctions: Clean

Drink for when you’re feeling down: Southside (gin, mint leaves, lemon juice & simple syrup)

Drink for when you’re partying hard: Shots of Tequila!

Drink for when you’ve had a long day: Boulevardier (Negroni with whisky instead of gin)

Follow Erick on Instagram to keep up with his adventures around the globe!

Written by Karen Chiang


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