Born into a family of actors, the Italian barman shares how his journey has taken him from studying law to helming a bar at the cutting edge of mixology

If new cocktail bar Argo at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong is the great ship from the Greek epic Argonautica that carries a band of heroes forward in their search for the Golden Fleece, then Lorenzo Antinori is their leader Jason, standing at the prow of the Argo itself. 

In his dual roles as beverage manager at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and beverage ambassador more widely at Four Seasons hotels and resorts across the Asia-Pacific region, Antinori has finessed a story-driven approach at the hotel group's numerous bar outlets across Asia. In a vindication of his efforts, two cocktail bars in Four Seasons' Hong Kong and Seoul locations, Caprice Bar and Charles H., placed at #10 and #13 respectively in this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars

But it wasn't always apparent that Antinori had sea legs, so to say. Growing up in a family of actors, artists and painters, it's clear from where the Rome native picked up his signature brand of thespian mannerisms—although his aspirations initially lay in the field of law, which he studied at the University Roma Tre in the Italian capital. Quickly realising that depositions and drafting contracts weren't in his blood, Antinori picked up a part-time bartending job in Rome, where he found his calling in the rhythms of entertaining and gathering people. "The bar scene was where I belonged," he recalls.

See also: Argo At Four Seasons Hong Kong Is One Of 2021's Most Ambitious Bar Openings

Antinori would soon find himself tending bar at hotels, drawn in by their "magic aura", first at Rome's Hotel de Russie, then at iconic bars like Dandelyan and The Savoy's American Bar in London. In 2017, he travelled halfway across the world to Seoul to head up Charles H. at Four Seasons, a bar redolent with Old World glamour that is devoted to Charles H. Baker Jr., early 20th-century raconteur and author of seminal cocktail book, The Gentleman's Companion

"Being in Korea, the biggest lesson was that no matter where you were, no matter what your background, you need to adapt yourself to the landscape where you work. Coming from London, it was important for me to understand the palate of the guest and what they like, what they don't like, and not necessarily just throw my ideas, but mould them into the landscape," says Antinori.

Just two years later, Antinori moved to Hong Kong, where he was tasked with elevating Caprice Bar—which until then had served as a wine lounge for the adjoining three-Michelin-starred Caprice—into a cocktail-led bar worthy of its own legacy. With an ever-changing Saisons menu that deftly married French spirits and liqueurs with local fruits and botanicals, combined with head-turning cocktails like the signature truffle negroni that involved black truffles shaved tableside, Antinori's efforts paid off when Caprice Bar debuted #34 in the 2020 edition of Asia's 50 Best Bars.

Related: 5 Never-Before-Seen Spirits To Try At Argo

While Charles H. and Caprice were rooted in the lore of cocktail history, Argo is undeniably a leap into the future. Very much in line with the current reckoning with traditional markers of status like race, gender and social class, Argo's focus on modern spirits that defy classification essentially wipes the slate clean, opening up the field to the building of new ideas and constructs. Its launch menu, titled "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow", seeks not to offer escapism from the rapidly shifting state of the status quo, but embraces it, asking guests to confront the six staple ingredients of the present day that are likely to disappear should climate change be allowed to proceed unchecked. 

"Innovation these days is really about how we look at things from a different angle and from a different point of view," explains Antinori. "Argo is a bar that isn't related to a story or a time and place—it's just in the now."

See also: Inside Argo: The VIP Preview Of Hong Kong's Newest Cocktail Bar

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