Argo At Four Seasons Hong Kong Is One Of 2021's Most Ambitious Bar Openings
After an annus horribilis, Hong Kong's bar scene is back in force, with perhaps no better sign of its recovery than the much-awaited blockbuster arrival of Argo. Replacing the Blue Bar at Four Seasons Hong Kong, Argo is a bold new venue that aims to bolster the 15-year-old hotel's drinking and dining credentials in the region at large.
Conceived as 'a cocktail bar that explores the modern world', the 70-seat establishment takes its name from the Greek fable of Jason and the Argonauts, who sailed in search of the legendary Golden Fleece. The design of the venue by Hong Kong-based studio AB Concept certainly evokes mythical proportions, with a double-height volume anchored in the centre by a gilded tree-like column of rarefied spirits. Argo's prodigious use of chrome-plated furnishings mixed with bright pastel upholstery evokes retro-futuristic comparisons to the Futurism art movement of the early 20th century, in a nod to the cocktail programme's future-forward ethos.
Helming the bar is Lorenzo Antinori, the charismatic Four Seasons beverage ambassador for Asia-Pacific, and protegé Summer Lo, who were largely responsible for placing Caprice Bar, located just a few floors above, at #10 on this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars. Supported by head bartender Yvonne Chan, formerly of The Old Man and Quinary, and Proof & Company's Tom Egerton, the duo are opening with a cocktail menu titled 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow'—a fitting aphorism for the shifting political, economic, and environmental landscape we find ourselves in.
Accordingly, the menu is based on six staple ingredients—honey, cacao, vanilla, coffee, rice, and apple—that may be endangered in the future due to environmental degradation. Local and regional partners provide the raw ingredients for the drinks, from mono-floral lychee and longan honey from local bee farm HK Raw Honey, to ethically-sourced, single-origin cocoa from Malaysia's Chocolate Concierge. Each ingredient spawns two cocktails: an 'origin' cocktail that captures the traditional form of the ingredient, and an 'evolution' cocktail that explores the ways in which our relationship with said ingredient will evolve as it becomes more scarce.
The bar is also home to the 'Field Guide to the World’s Innovative Spirits', a collection of bottles chosen from around the world for their propensity for innovating and breaking the traditional boundaries of spirits classification. Split into the categories of Modernist Spirits, Collaborative Creations, Philanthropic and Socially Conscious, Sense of the Land, and Clash of the Worlds, each of the 54 spirits (half of which are available in Hong Kong for the first time) proudly wear their provenance, production methods and story on their sleeves.
Among the collection is the Argo Gin, a proprietary spirit made for the bar by South Australian company Never Never Distilling Co., and designed specifically for inclusion in the eponymous Argo Martini. It rubs shoulders with the likes of Monker’s Garkel Gin from Bristol-based Circumstance Distillery, which has the distinct accolade of being the world's first AI-created gin.
With an eye towards an uncertain, ever-changing future, Argo is a blueprint for the evolution of mixology into a craft that will likely be dominated by scarcity. Yet, with its focus on bringing together the world's like-minded makers and drinkers of cocktails and spirits, the bar also promises to be a sturdy ship in stormy waters. As Zeus intones in the 1963 cinematic adaptation of Jason and the Argonauts: "For the moment, let them enjoy a calm sea, a fresh breeze and each other. Let us continue the game another day."