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. We speak to St. Regis' Senior Bartender Taki Li about her favourite winter aromas.
Behind her sweet smile and ebullient personality, Taki Li is a rising powerhouse to be reckoned with. Since starting her mixology career seven years ago, the Hong Kong-born Li has worked behind the bars of the city’s most iconic hotels. Today, she concocts many of the St Regis Bar’s wondrous, tale-laden cocktails – and the industry is taking note. For her creations BLK 6 (a whisky-based cocktail with Japanese honey green tea) and Pollination (where gin meets freshly squeezed grapefruit juice and verjus sous vide bee pollen), Li was recently awarded second runner-up at the Diageo World Class Competition Hong Kong & Macau 2021.
What do you love the most about the holidays?
The festive season reminds me of barbecue parties with family and friends, music playing by the fireside, food, drinks and being in love. In hospitality, I often need to work during the festive periods, so those are especially pleasurable moments. It also gives me joy to devote my creativity and passion into delivering exquisite beverages to celebrate the holidays.
Is there an ingredient that evokes the festive feeling for you?
Tonka bean. Its aroma is like vanilla and almond with mixed winter spices. The sweet smell reminds me of the heartwarming joy and memorable moments shared with family and friends. It goes especially well with desserts and creamy cocktails.
What spurred your passion in mixology and the
I studied multimedia design, which equipped me with creative thinking and a desire for beauty. If design is a two-dimensional creation, mixology is a four-dimensional one. Not only does the visual aesthetic count, but also its taste, its smell, its concept and the story behind it. Mixology is still a very male-dominated profession, so it gives me positive challenges and satisfaction to grow as a female mixologist – to expand and diversify innovation and creativity in this domain.
Another lovely thing about this industry is that we co-exist and collaborate as a global community in which sustainability and giving back are priorities – and we behind the bar, we care! We care about what we serve, and the impacts we can create as individuals. Simple things like sourcing locally, to reduce CO2 footprint, to promote local produce and to create far-reaching inspirations that celebrate Hong Kong’s unique features.
What do you like to indulge in during the holidays and why?
I like to prepare a big batch of sangria in the fridge, which makes it handy to share. When there’s a party, I make canapés with the good-looking parts of fruits and use the rest for the sangria – we have a no-waste policy!
What’s a refreshing and festive cocktail we can easily whip up at home?
The Bee’s Knee is my go-to. You just need 50ml of gin, 20ml of 2:1 honey syrup and 20ml of lemon juice. Shake all the ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled cocktail glass. All the ingredients can easily be sourced at any grocery store. My only tip is to use good honey and freshly squeezed lemon juice.