Ahead of the most wonderful time of the year, five of the city’s top chefs and mixologists invite us behind their culinary curtains and open up about some of their favourite holiday memories. Catch Lorenzo Antinori, Beverage manager at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and Beverage Ambassador of Four Seasons Asia Pacific reminisce about festive times in Italy.
Since Argo was unveiled this July, the sweeping, conservatory-inspired ground-floor cocktail bar at the revitalised Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong has been the talk of the town. This comes as no surprise—helming its bar programme (as well as that of Caprice Bar, which recently claimed the 10th spot on Asia’s 50 Best Bars) is Lorenzo Antinori, whose infectious exuberance and passion for innovative mixology have captivated legions of discerning drinkers from his hometown of Rome to London, Seoul, and Hong Kong. This shines through on Argo’s inaugural menu, which spotlights unconventional ingredients such as honey (sourced from Argo’s beehive in Mai Po), indigenously farmed Malaysian cacao, ultra-rare artisanal spirits, and custom-made Argo gin—with a generous splash of creativity and joviality.
What’s your favourite day of celebration?
It would have to be January 6th, the Epiphany in the Catholic tradition – although in Italy it’s related to the day of the witch! Kids hang socks near the fireplace that are filled up with candies and sweets by [La Befana] the witch—aka my parents—in the morning. Fun memories with family and friends, with lots of candy.
How do the holidays inspire your cocktails?
Every season is related to flavours. I like being seasonal with my creations, and autumn/winter to me is all about warm and comforting flavours. I still remember from back home the scents of candied orange and sandalwood candles, and the tradition of eating dried fruits and nuts such as dates, walnuts and chestnuts.
What are the most important aspects of a festive party?
A festive party is a marathon and needs to be well strategized. If I entertain I always make sure we have enough food and booze to keep everyone happy. The music is crucial; needs to be a blend of festive songs but also some fun and vibey tunes. Everyone should set up a gambling room and a space where perhaps indulge a cigar and a chat.
What drinks do you like to whip up during the holidays?
A spiced-up Old Fashioned, with warm and cosy flavours like cinnamon or chai tea. I also treat myself to a nice dram or an old cognac. The festive season is the time to spoil ourselves a bit, so it’s a good opportunity to dust off the cabinet and indulge in some precious bottles that are great to be shared with friends.
Show us a go-to drink that’s easy for the uninitiated mixologist to make at home.
I love the Rooibos Old Fashioned. You need 50ml of Rooibos tea-infused bourbon – two tea bags cold-infused into 700ml of bourbon for two hours – one teaspoon of agave nectar and two dashes of Angostura bitters. Combine all this in a tin or a glass with ice. Mix well and garnish with orange zest.
Where will you be ringing in the end of the year?
After the last two years, I’d be very happy to get back to Italy and spend some quality time with my family around one table, with no restrictions. Free-flow champagne, possibly with some snow outside and a marathon of Christmas movies.