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.
When in doubt as to where to head for a good time, The Diplomat is often the first name on the lips of those in the know. It's not hard to see why: with Seattle native John Nugent tending the ornate (if at times intimate) bar at this Prohibition-inspired gastropub, The Diplomat often descends into a raucous yet good-natured rabble where the Gibsons and famed house quarter-pounder burgers are brought out in a steady procession late into the night.
Having bartended in Seattle, Boston, and Europe, Nugent was lured to Hong Kong by The Pontiac's Beckaly Franks in 2017, where he soon took over the reins of the beverage programme at the popular Lan Kwai Fong hotspot, Lily & Bloom. In February 2021, he opened The Diplomat as part of the Leading Nation group, where, in the space of 15 months, the bar's winning formula of straightforward classics, addictive pub grub, and all-American hospitality placed it at #20 on Asia's 50 Best Bars, netting Nugent the London Essence Best New Opening award in the process.
Not one to dawdle, Nugent quickly moved to launch Kyle & Bain, a discreet martini bar hidden above pan-European restaurant Margo that pays homage to the history of ice-making in Hong Kong. Prior to its opening, we caught up with the barman on his own history, and the three cocktails that best represent his journey so far.