Cocktails Inspired Hong Kong’s Colonial Past in Celebration of the Handover


Lobby Bar of the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Food + Beverage

Just before midnight on 30 June 1997, the Union Jack was lowered for the last time over Hong Kong as a military band played “God Save the Queen”.

As the midnight hour struck, another band launched into a spirited rendition of “The March of the Volunteers”, and the Chinese National Flag was slowly raised in its place.

As this solemn ceremony was taking place at the newly completed Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wanchai, I was one of hundreds if not thousands of celebrants at what was then known as The Regent Hong Kong, which is now known as the InterContinental Hong Kong.

A five-star hotel, The Regent Hong Kong had a grand lobby with floor to ceiling picture windows overlooking Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

The hotel was, in fact, directly opposite the Convention and Exhibition Centre. With numerous parties to choose from, we chose this one because of the view.

Has it really been 20 years?

A friend from New Zealand that accompanied me to the party had earlier commented that most societies were defined by a key date in their past.  

The United States, for example, was defined by an event that took place on July 4th, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Hong Kong, however, was defined by a key event that was going to take place in its future: its return to Chinese sovereignty following 150 years as a British colony on July 1st, 1997.

Just a Coincidence?

Was it just a coincidence that I received an invitation to attend a press event at the hotel's Lobby Bar previewing #852TAILS, a cocktail menu “inspired by Hong Kong’s unique history and culture and its mixed heritage before reverting to China in 1997”?

Of course it was just a coincidence! I doubt if anyone in the hotel’s public relations department could have known that I had attended that party.

But even if it was just a coincidence, it didn't lessen the excitement I felt to return to that venue nearly 20 years later and reminisce about that historic event. 

Hong kong intercontinental lobby bar

Sebastian Gassen (left) and Carole Klein (right) with travel and food bloggers in the Lobby Bar of the InterContinental Hong Kong.

With apologies to the producer of that 1958 classic about the Titanic, it was a night to remember.

And in case you don’t understand the significance of the cocktail menu's name, 852 has nothing to do with the historic event that took place in Hong Kong in 1997.

It was before the Handover – and so it remains after the Handover – Hong Kong’s international “country code”. There are no apparent political or historical implications.

What's in a Name?

With names such as President’s Gift, Sai Yeung Choi Street, Mr Yu, and Fists of Fury, I couldn’t help but wonder where the inspiration for the cocktails – and their names – came from.

So I asked William Wong, Lobby Lounge Bartender at the InterContinental Hong Kong, who was in charge of developing the menu.

"We wanted to create exciting new signature cocktails that reflected the unique Hong Kong experience we offer in our Lobby Lounge, with our extraordinary vantage point of Victoria Harbour and the Hong Kong skyline,” William said.

“My team and I worked with an international mixologist who helped us to incorporate local flavours and ingredients to create the new signature cocktails."

So what was the inspiration for the cocktails themselves?

"Each cocktail has a story describing its inspiration from Hong Kong's rich culture and heritage," William said.

"This provides our guests with an ‘in the know’ experience as they enjoy the cocktails and take in our spectacular panoramic harbour views."

Lounge with a View

Built on the site of Holt's Wharf, the hotel opened as The Regent Hong Kong in 1980 and was owned  and operated by New World Development.

I was living in Hong Kong at the time, and I often had lunch at the hotel's cafe because of its magnificent harbour view.

The hotel was sold in 2001 to Six Continents, which has since been renamed the InterContinental Hotel Group, and it was rebranded as the InterContinental Hong Kong.

IHG sold the hotel in 2015 but will continue to manage property for the foreseeable future.

Despite the name changes and the changes in ownership, the Lobby Lounge was and remains my favourite vantage point of Victoria Harbour.

By day, you get an up-close view of the passing tugboats and yachts and ocean liners.

At sunset, the yellows and oranges and reds reflect dramatically off the massive glass window panes  of the Convention and Exhibition Centre across the harbour.

Symphony of Lights

In the evening, Hong Kong’s spectacular skyline glistens like a diamond – or a rhinestone, depending on your point of view.

I’m not a huge fan of the Symphony of Lights laser show, which lights up the Hong Kong skyline each night at 8 pm. I think it’s a bit gaudy and lacks coordination.

It seems as if the management of each building has a different idea of what should take place, with colours that clash rather than complement one another.

Whatever … Many people like it …

And if you’re into such stuff, you couldn’t ask for a better view of it than from the InterContinental’s Lobby Lounge!

A list of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages on the menu follows, together with their ingredients and what inspired them.


President's Gift

White Rabbit infused Vodka, Espresso, Chocolate Rabbit

Inspired by Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s gift of White Rabbit chocolate to U.S. President Richard Nixon during his historic visit to China in 1972.

Sai Yeung Choi Street

Watercress, Citrus, Local-Honey, Champagne

In memory of the watercress, or sai yeung choi, that was cultivated in what is now Mongkok, and after which one of the district’s most famous streets is named.

From Condiment to Confection

Bourbon, Citrus, Local Honey, Ginger, Bitters

A tribute to preserved ginger, one of Hong Kong’s  oldest exports.

New Territories

Gin, Tonic, Citrus, Cucumber, Bitter Melon

A tribute to the bitter melons, which were once cultivated in the New Territories.

Mr. Yu

Cognac, Port, Berries, Vanilla, Citrus, Yu Kwen Yick Hot Sauce

In memory of Mr. Yu Siu Kee, whose hot sauces are marketed around the world.

Jia Jia

Yellow Wine, Spicy Mango, Citrus, Bamboo, Bitters

A tribute to Jia Jia, the giant panda that charmed the crowds at Ocean Park.

Tea Time

Butter Rum, Pineapple, Local Honey, Citrus, Pineapple Bun

Inspired by the Hong Kong’s ever popular pineapple buns, a popular snack at afternoon tea.

Victorian Lager

Chinese Tea, Tequila, Orange, Hong Kong Beer

In tribute to Victoria Harbour, a witness to Hong Kong history.


Sleeping Dragon

Dragon-fruit, Citrus, Orange Blossom, Lavender

Kowloon is Cantonese for nine dragons, and dragons reputedly pass through the hotel’s lobby on their ways to Victoria Harbour.

Fist of Fury

Ginger, Chili, Sugar Cane

Named after the 1972 Hong Kong martial arts classic Fist of Fury, which starred Chinese-American actor Bruce Lee.

Caged Birds

Jasmine, Apple, Citrus

In tribute to the caged birds that Hong Kong’s elderly once brought to tea houses as they partook of morning dim sum.

Fanling's Bees

Grapefruit, Honey, Mint

In memory of Hong Kong's first bee farm, which was located in Fanling, a market town in the New Territories.

Oolong Lemonade

Lime, Sugar Cane, Salt, Oolong Tea

In tribute to tea made with salted limes, which was thought to be a remedy for coughs and sore throats.


The Lobby Lounge, InterContinental Hong Kong, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Telephone: (852) 2721-1211.

Check rooms rates and guest reviews at: TripAdvisorHotels.comExpedia

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