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Awaken your senses with Antonio Lai’s cocktails
Take a few moments to discover Antonio and his passion for cocktails through an exciting interview. Inspiration from the Pacific!
Can you tell us about how you became the man you are today? Where do you come from? Tell us about your career and how did you become a bartender?
Growing up, I recall my mother regularly being told by teachers at school that I talked too much in class. There was just no stopping me from being a talkative child, I decided to pursue a job where talking to people is key and where I didn’t have to sit still– hence, bartending.
I began my career at Planet Hollywood (Hong Kong) and then joined Drop Bar (Hong Kong). My interest was then diverted into the work of coffee; I became a trainer for Jackie Chan’s Café (Hong Kong) and subsequently opened a handful of cafés in the South Pacific region.
At that time, I also had opportunity to train in Italy where I found my true passion and destiny – Multisensory Mixology, which is the aim to entice your five senses through the flavour perception and experience of a cocktail. I’ve actually published two awarded cocktail books as a platform to share my passion in this field.
What is your situation now?
I am now the Co-Owner of a few bars around Hong Kong:
- A two storey concept : The VEA Restaurant & Lounge (www.vea.hk) that offers modern French cuisine with cocktail pairing on the upper floor and the Quinary (www.quinary.hk) the first multisensory cocktail on the lower floor.
- Origin a gin-focused bar – (www.originbar.hk)
- The Envoy Bar & Dining Room located at boutique hotel The Pottinger Hong Kong (www.theenvoy.hk).
How do you see your work?
I see my work as an opportunity to express creativity, through the cocktails at Quinary. I take inspiration from many channels with anything from Pokemon games to food combination that I try. Movies are a huge influence for me especially because of the universal and multi-generational appeal, I have a soft spot for Star Wars.
Who inspires you? Who is the most remarkable bartender for you?
Dario Comini, the godfather of molecular mixology. I first came across his book in Italy when I was working for a coffee company. He truly was the first Molecular Mixologist yet still works 6.5 days a week and his bar (Nottingham Forrest, Milan - http://www.nottingham-forest.com/) is filled with pilgrims and locals alike, every night of the week.
Finally, can you tell us what your favorite MONIN flavour is?
Mojito Mint. We have a cocktail at Quinary called “On the Meadow”, where MONIN Mojito Mint syrup greatly enhances the flavours and aroma of our redistilled lemongrass gin.
- 2015 - Diageo Reserve World Class Global Finals; World Class Hong Kong & Macau Champion & Best Bartender of The Year.
- 2014 - Bols Around The World Bartending Championship, Amsterdam: 1st runner up Grand Final and quoted as ‘Best Tasting Cocktail’ by the jury panel; Regional Champion
- 2013 - Bols Around The World Bartending Championship: National Champion
- 2013 - G’Vine Gin Connoisseur Program Global Finalist
- 2013 - Foodie Folks Award, Most Lethal Mixologist (Editor's Choice): Antonio Lai of Quinary
- 2012 - Gourmand World Cookbook Awards: 'Addicted to Multisensory Mixology' by Antonio Lai
- 2011- Gourmand World Cookbook Awards: ‘Multisensory Mixology, FINDS’ by Antonio Lai
- 2011 - International Bartender Association World Competition, Warsaw: Silver Medal (Pre-dinner drink)
- 2011 - De Kuyper Cocktail Competition by HKBA, Hong Kong: Champion
- 2010 - Ketel One Global Ritual Competition: Hong Kong Region Champion & World Final Champion
- 2010 - China Hotelex Bartenders Competition Creative Classic, Shanghai: Champion
- 2017 - Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau Champion (Samuel Kwok – Bar Manager, Quinary)
- 2016 - Drinks International, The World’s 50 Best Bars Award: Quinary #41
- 2016 - Drinks International, Asia’s 50 Best Bars: Quinary #6
- 2015 - Drinks International, The World’s 50 Best Bars Award: Quinary #39
- 2014 - Drinks International, The World's 50 Best Bars Award: Quinary #42
- 2014 - Stunningplaces.net: Top 10 interesting bars and nightclubs around the World
- 2013 - Drinks International, The World's 50 Best Bars Award: Quinary #38
- 2013 - Condé Nast Traveler, Best New Bars in 20 Cities
- 2013 - Sassy Hong Kong Award, Best Cocktail Bar
- 2013 - The Spirits Business, World's Best Bar 2013: Asia
- 2012 - China Spirits Award, Top 8 Bars Hong Kong