With the launch of the first PDT speakeasy outside the Big Apple, Boris Lo talks with Please Don’t Tell New York founder Jim Meehan about Asia’s rapidly evolving cocktail scene, incorporating local flavours into the bar’s cocktail menu, and the venue’s iconic hot dogs.
Why was Hong Kong chosen to be the first permanent PDT outside of New York City?
I had the privilege of being part of MO Bar’s first “Masters of Mixology” series nine years ago as a guest of chef Richard Ekkebus, whose made mixology a priority at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Two years ago, I returned with Jeff Bell to host a PDT popup in partnership with Diageo World Class and the event was a huge success. Shortly afterwards, we began discussing the opportunity to bring PDT back permanently
How do you maintain the authenticity of PDT New York while catering to local tastes?
By being PDT Hong Kong. We’ve brought a handful of signature recipes, hot dogs and two of our best team members (head bartender Adam Schmidt and manager Malaika Suarez) to Hong Kong; and Nelson Chow’s décor takes cues from our bar in New York, including a phone booth entrance, but if you take a closer look, everything is new and improved for Hong Kong.
What are the key similarities and differences between PDT Hong Kong and the original?
The primary difference is you enter the bar through a bustling five-star hotel bar versus a raucous hot dog stand, and our food menu was written by one of the best chefs in the world. We’re featuring ingredients such as kabosu, pomelo, pickled lime and dragon eye that we don’t have access to in New York City. We also have the Mandarin Oriental as our partner in Hong Kong, which means we have access to their unparalleled resources in the hotel group’s hometown.
What are the PDT Hong Kong signature drinks?
We don’t decide the signature drinks: our guests do. In our first week, we saw the Safari, Long Ball, Benton’s Old Fashioned and Zuyu Collins all share time at the top of the sales report. Based on these four, it looks like the white spirit-based refreshers will be most popular in Hong Kong.
What trends are you seeing in the global cocktail scene?
Shrubs are really popular in the U.S. right now. We work with an amazing French fruit vinegar producer called Huilerie Beaujolaise and Andy Ricker’s U.S. Sohm line, but acetic acid is an acquired taste for sure. Given the growth of kombucha sales in the U.S., I think we’ll see more of both behind the bar.
What are your favourite libations?
I always say that my favourite drink is the one in front of me. This keeps me focused on the moment I’m in and the people I’m with.
What are the cocktail trends that you think we should keep an eye on in the year ahead?
Non-alcoholic drinks, low ABV drinks, and sustainable cocktails.
What cocktail ingredients are you experimenting at the moment?
Chef Ekkebus brought some kinome leaves and mirin down to the bar a few nights ago, which I mixed into an Old Fashioned with Hakushu 12-year-old Japanese whisky for our reserve cocktail menu. Developing drinks with Richard is going to take our cocktails to the next level.
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