While chefs are often celebrated in grand oeuvres and Netflix documentaries, bartenders, despite their careers being predicated on interacting with the public, don't often get their dues when it comes to pop culture. Through The Stirring Glass is Tatler Dining's new video series that aims to flip this script on its head, with a look at the life and careers of six Hong Kong bartenders, each of whom captures their experiences in three cocktails made for the camera. From childhood memories to getting their start in the industry, all the way up to the current day, watch as Hong Kong's best mixological minds recount their journeys so far through the bottom of a stirring glass.
Lok Gurung is not like other bartenders. As the man responsible for running one of Hong Kong's longstanding speakeasies, Stockton, as well as launching Roji—a promising successor to the much-loved Brickhouse—Gurung is a warm if unshakeable presence, far from the wired, life-of-the-party type you would expect to be running such high-volume bars.
That's not to say that he isn't qualified—far to the contrary, Gurung's style of mixology is both familiar yet novel, combining a breadth of experiences that are expressed in cocktails with seemingly contradictory ingredients.
A native of Nepal's biodiverse Chitwan district, Gurung grew up eating the regional cuisine that makes extensive use of indigenous spice mixtures handed down over generations. While he originally trained to enter the British army, the Gurkha descendant instead found himself gravitating towards the hospitality industry. With a few classes in hotel management under his belt, Gurung initially moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago to find a hotel job, although his desire to do something more physical landed him in a formative role as a bar-back at Castro's, a Cuban-inspired nightlife institution in Tsim Sha Tsui.
After a stint at a Creole-themed restaurant and running his own private rooftop bar and cocktail workshop called Green Lab, Gurung would go on to join Maximal Concepts. There, he worked his way up to the role of group mixologist, where he launched the drinks programmes for Mott 32 and Limewood, all the while managing the bar at Brickhouse. In 2013, Gurung represented Hong Kong in the prestigious Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition, placing as one of the top 10 finalists and marking a career highlight.
Through the years Gurung has remained a steady force at Stockton, and although the pandemic at one point threatened to permanently shutter the speakeasy, business has since rebounded with the return of nightlife to Hong Kong. A new chapter demands new cocktails, and Gurung is preparing to introduce a new drinks menu this month at Stockton, inspired by the life and works of divisive writer and countercultural icon, Hunter S. Thompson. "While creating the menu, I challenged myself to make drinks that will lift the spirits and bring happiness when people taste it," he says.
Watch Gurung as he distils his life and career into three milestone cocktails, and watch the rest of the video series here.