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The Stories Behind The Names: Bars in Hong Kong

Not known by many, the names behind restaurants often have hidden meanings and carry inspiration behind each unique concept. We talk to the founders behind some of Hong Kong’s venues and delve into the stories behind their names.

By Amber Lai
October 5, 2022


Photo: COA

Jay Khan was invited to an agave farm in Santa Catarina Minas only a month before the bar’s opening. After having trialled a few machetes it was when using a coa, the most recognised tool for harvesting agave, that inspiration suddenly struck. The name pays homage to the farmers who work under such extreme conditions and are represented by the coa mounted in the bar in Hong Kong and its logo. Many don’t know but the tool came from the family-run Mezcal Los Javis brand and has a full history of harvesting before being gifted to Khan.

Coa, Shop A, LG/F Wah Shin House, 6-10 Shin Hing Street, Central; +852 2813 5787 



Photo: Argo

Having already come up with its niche concept of exploring the world of spirits the team behind Argo would come together in big brainstorming sessions to share names with each other. Ideas stemmed from the world of botany and nature but took an overly literal approach with suggestions from Darwin Bar, Bird & Bee Bar and Pollen Society. It wasn’t until Lorenzo Antinori was on a call with his mother, whom he calls a big nerd, who encouraged a one-word easy-to-remember name with a level of mystique. She was the one to come up with the name Argo which is short for the boat that the argonauts explored unknown territories in, similar to the bar but with spirits.

Argo, Four Seasons Hotel, 8 Finance Street, Central; +852 3196 8882 

See also: Four Seasons' New Cocktail Bar ARGO Is a Celebration of Innovation, Creativity and Rarity



Photo: Tell Camellia

The roots of tea inspired Gagan Gurung when opening Tell Camellia. As his first bar, representing himself and sharing stories of his culture were paramount in the ethos behind the concept. Named after the mother plant of all types of tea, Tell Camellia was fashioned from his passion for showcasing to the world the power of tea and all its vivid tastes. Its bartenders have the creative freedom to create concoctions to explore all the angles and uses of brewed teas from day to night.

Tell Camellia, LG/F, H Code, 45 Pottinger Street, Central; +852 5686 8979 



Photo: Barcode

Barcode came to life through the days of lockdown and the difficult times of running a bar. Looking for regulation loopholes, the hidden bar serves coffee and desserts (bar-co-de) throughout the day before transforming into its cocktail character as the sun sets. Its three distinctive elements were chosen for their ability to go from night to day when paired correctly. The various hidden meanings in its name were all part of its story of opening a unique venue through a time of hardships. 

Barcode, G/F Glenealy Tower, 1 Glenealy, Central; +852 6661 3161



Photo: Twenty-Fifth Hour

Gaining an extra hour in a day sounds like a storyline for a sci-fi movie but instead is the concept behind 25:00, also known as Twenty-Fifth Hour. Kenzo Lee, head mixologist, came by the name when imagining a bar that would become a total escape, somewhere where guests might feel like they’ve gained one more hour in their day. Playing into its time-inspired narrative the speakeasy bar has a cocktail tasting menu that chronologically travels through a typical day in Hong Kong. 

Twenty-Fifth Hour, 13/F, Luk Yu Building, 24-26 Stanley Street, Central; +852 5546 8540 



Photo: Candour

It was key for Nelson Htoo and Elin Fu, co-founders of Candour, to find a name that wasn’t overly generic and had a hidden meaning that most people wouldn’t know. As part of their brainstorming process, they reflected on the history of hip-hop and its fundamentally expressive origins. They searched for inventive words to describe the honesty behind the genre before coming across Candour. The name of the bar represents the story of hip-hop and the sense of community it has depicted through music. 

Candour, 65 Peel Street, Soho, Central; +852 2362 8100 



Photo: Penicillin

As part of the journey to open Hong Kong’s first closed-loop bar the team behind PENICILLIN experimented and undertook scientific research to achieve sustainability breakthroughs within cocktail culture; similar to the discovery of penicillin which was how the name for the bar came to be. Throughout its opening menu were three cocktails that paid respect to Sam Ross and his “penicillin” cocktail crafted in Milk & Honey, New York. The two stories tie into the concept of the bar with its fermentation and scientific-based inspiration. 

PENICILLIN, L/G, Amber Lodge, 23 Hollywood Road, Central; +852 9880 7995