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Hong Kong’s 2016 spirit trends

A lively mix of sipping rums, Cognac and ‘shrub’ cocktails are all set to make waves this year as Hong Kong’s drinkers battle with a cold start to 2016 and anticipate the return of a typically humid summer.

The well-stocked spirits bar at Maholo

Max Traverse, the creative brains behind Mahalo, Wan Chai’s Tiki bar and lounge and Honi Honi, the Polynesian getaway in Central, recaps the most popular spirits of 2015 and speaks to the drinks business HK about how 2016 will look in spirits trends.

“2015 was an interesting year for cocktails,” said Traverse. “In the beginning of the year, we saw a huge uptick in rum and gin drinks which carried through early winter. Vodka made a comeback as the spirit of choice toward the end of the year, when people looked toward classic drinks such as the Moscow Mule and the Vodka Gimlet.”

Traverse predicts that 2016 will see the return of simple, traditional spirits such as Cognac and brandy regaining popularity – especially as Hong Kong is experiencing an unseasonably chilly start to the year so far. “Calvados, an apple brandy made in Normandy, has been the recent drink of choice for beverage aficianados and we are starting to see it catch on with our regular guests,”  he said. “It’s a dark spirit, the flavours of apple and pear are balanced with butterscotch, nut, and chocolate, making it sweet and simple enough to drink on its own. People really enjoy it during the cooler winter months.”

Max Traverse, behind Hong Kong’s Maholo and Honi Honi exotic cocktail bars

Hong Kong’s annual Rum Fest on 27-28 May, just after Vinexpo, will predictably see a resurgence in popularity for rum-based cocktails. “After our annual Rum Fest in May, people are always looking for different ways to consume the spirit. This year, I think people’s familiarity with the spirit will ignite a rise in sipping rums. At Mahalo, we make an infused version by adding fruits and spices to Clément Rhum, making it perfect to drink slowly.”

As Hong Kong’s hot and humid summer approaches, Traverse also expects a renewed interest in ‘shrubs’, a cocktail also known as drinking vinegar which first became popular in the 17th and 18th centuries and is a sweetened vinegar-based syrup typically mixed with spirits, fruit juice, herbs and spices. Shrub is a derivative of the word “shurb” which itself originates from the Arabic word sharāb meaning “to drink”.

“There is a reason why shrubs have been around for so long,” said Traverse. “They are the perfect refreshing beverage for a warm and muggy day.”


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