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The sun also rises on Hong Kong’s first hemingway-inspired cocktail bar

The men behind The Old Man — and the inspiration behind the name The Old Man: James Tamang, Agung Prabowo, and Roman Ghale.

Hong Kong’s first Ernest Hemingway-inspired bar opened in a discreet location in Aberdeen, Soho last July 2017— and has become one of the hottest cocktail bars in the city today. (It just won Best Cocktails at the 2018 T Dining Best Restaurants Awards by Hong Kong Tatler held last week.)

The Old Man serves cocktails (all priced at HKD$90 + 10-percent service charge) inspired by the late American novelist but with an Asian twist. It is the brainchild of three cocktail pioneers:  Agung Prabowo (who used to head the bar and beverage program at the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong and later on, Island Shangri-La’s Lobster Bar & Grill), James Tamang (former bar manager of The Mira’s hotel bar, Vibes),  and Roman Ghale (former senior bar and restaurant operations manager at The Upper House).

Hemingway’s ernest pursuit

Why Hemingway? “He pushed the drinking culture around the world — he enjoyed drinking and preaching about drinking,” shared Agung. The nine experimental cocktails are named after his novels, and my friend Maita Quesada and I especially liked The Sun Also Rises #1926 (a kind of negroni with an Asian twist, made with copra fat-washed applejack, curry leaf-infused gin, sweet vermouth sous-vide pandan leaves, and lime kafir) and The Snows of Kilimanjaro #1936 (marshmallow gin, lacto-fermented raspberry, citrus, topped with gruyere cheese). But apart from inspired cocktails, the bar also serves drinks that Hemingway liked to drink like Perfect Whisky Highball, Negroni, and Cayo Hueso La Floridita.

Bar essentials

Front and center in the 1,000-sq ft. bar is Hemingway’s portrait on the wall —made from recycled materials and fabric. The table, shaped to their letter “I” logo, is designed so guests can stand anywhere —even behind the bar, inviting them to watch the bar guys in action. The décor is Havana-inspired, and also features plenty of wood, brass, and white marble accents. 

And as for the name of the bar, the owners decided to pay tribute to the 1952 novel The Old Man and the Sea as it’s a story of hard work, perseverance —similar to their story of opening their first bar in Hong Kong.

One more thing I’d like to add is that the guys are truly nice and service is warm and hospitable. In an industry where cockiness can sometimes override the craft, this is another reason that makes The Old Man a cut above the rest. Tip: The line to get in on weekends is snaking, come on a Monday night when it’s easier to snag a seat.

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The Old Man is at 37 Aberdeen Street, Central, Hong Kong. Open Monday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Visit <theoldmank.com>, email <info@theoldmanhk.com> or call +852 2703-1899.

You can reach me at inbetweendeadlines@gmail.com, on my blog www.cheryltiu.com, on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cheryltiu or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/chertiu. Photos By Cheryl Tiu

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