48-50 Staunton St, Central, Hong Kong
+852 2858 8580
There’s always a risk when a bar gives itself over to experimentation and invention instead of sticking to tried-and-true classics. However, Little L.A.B. has managed to craft a menu that’s equal parts weird and wonderful, attracting new customers through a mix of curiosity and novelty while retaining old ones through decidedly delicious, sippable drinks.
Founded in 2014 by local, self-taught mixologist, Cyrus Li, this homegrown bar has earned a devoted following amongst the Central crowd, whistling to a different tune than the junky, overpriced watering holes that are scattered through the area. It may be called Little L.A.B., but instead of a stark white space, the bar is cosy and comfortable, outfitted with red brick walls, warm lighting and graffiti art that wouldn’t be out of place in a Brooklyn alleyway.
Start your experience with the Eastern Fashioned, a twist on a classic with jujube syrup and tangerine peel presented in a crystal-cut glass tumbler. The East-meets-West pairing is spot on, blending Chinese ingredients with smooth bourbon for a comforting libation. Or perhaps you’ll enjoy Tommy’s Spices, Dewar’s white label whisky mixed with Angostura bitters, lemon and cinnamon. A warming aroma is the first to hit before you take a sip of the smooth, slightly spicy concoction.
Other drinks dig deep into the city’s roots: the HK Tea Time is inspired by Hong Kong’s most ubiquitous beverage, with spiced rum, black tea syrup, blond ale, milk, black walnut bitters and tequila that’s been slowly simmered with coffee beans. The secret is in the ‘yuen yueng’ syrup, resulting in a drink that glides down the back of your throat, faintly medicinal yet balanced by the creamy richness from the milk.
While the drinks nod to Hong Kong flavours, the food pairings spin off in all directions of the globe, bound by a common theme: good old-fashioned pub grub. Snack on slices of the bright tomato- and basil-peppered margherita pizza, crunch into chicken wing lollipops marinated in Coca-Cola and slicked over with a tangy barbecue sauce or relish the salty-sweet combo of crispy sweet potato fries drizzled in cinnamon honey mustard.
Parked in front of bottles of more obscure liquors and vials filled with homemade syrups and infused spirits, Little L.A.B.’s bartenders work with all the careful intensity of lab scientists, fitted out in tan aprons and pristine white button-up shirts. The pleasure of watching your drink prepared before you precedes the first sip, making Little L.A.B. as much an immersive experience as a palatable one.
Whether you’re a cocktail connoisseur or just appreciate a well-made drink, Little L.A.B. stands out in the crowd with a combination of creativity and expertise. Cyrus and his team have ditched the classics to create their own brand of Hong Kong-style cocktails, which could very well become local classics in their own right. From the unfamiliar to the nostalgic, Little L.A.B. is worthy of more than one visit.