Saturday, 21.10.2017

Time to Pack Your Dopp Kit

With greater complexity and a spicy, quirky profile, mezcal, tequila’s ‘ugly sister’, is making waves in Asia’s top cocktail hotspots. Here’s what you need to know to get onboard this summer.

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First it was tequila’s turn. The tipple that turns up noses and finishes nights has enjoyed a renaissance, going from sleazy shots to sipping spirit. And now likely lads looking for their next libation are reaching for tequila’s ‘ugly sister’, mezcal, a blue-collar sibling that packs a spicy punch that lends itself to a raft of traditional tequila cocktails.

So, what is mezcal? Made only in Mexico, mezcal is a distilled spirit produced by roasting the heart of a Mexican agave plant, most commonly espadín agave, in a pit oven, grinding the plant’s fleshy center and extracting the juice, which is then fermented and distilled. It is this roasting process that contributes to the distinctive smoky, spicy notes of mezcal. So you know your stuff when you pull up your next bar stool, tequila is a similar spirit that’s only made in the Mexican state of Jalisco, and only from the blue weber agave, which produces a fruitier, more herbal flavour profile.

Mexcal’s move into the limelight has been slow and steady in Asia. Japan welcomed Asia’s largest mezcal bar, La Mezcaleria Jicara Bar and Grill, two years ago; the Mexican house of mixology offers more than 200 varieties of Mezcal from producers across Mexico. Hong Kong embraced this gritty spirit with the recently opening of On Lan Street’s Mezcalito, which serves more than 60 types of mezcal and tequila, both for sipping and in a list of innovative cocktails.

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“We're seeing more and more people in Asia showing an interest and wanting to sample this spirit,” says Leo Gutkowski, an F&B stalwart, self-confessed tequilaphile, and one of three founders of Mezcalito. “People are naturally curious creatures and when something comes along that they don't know much about they are inquisitive and want to know more. This is certainly the case at Mezcalito.” Gutkowski feels his new concept is just the tip of the spear. “Mezcal is huge in some parts of North America, in Europe and even in Japan. I think over the next 3-4 years mezcal will really blow up in Hong Kong too.”

With different flavour profiles, mexcal and tequila are also served differently at Mezcalito. While both spirits are often drunk neat in Mexico, tequila is most commonly consumed as a shot with lime in many parts of the world, while mezcal is served with a slice of orange sprinkled with rock salt, chili, and sal de gusano, or ‘worm salt’, essentially ground up moth larve that live in and on the agave plants (you’ll also find moth ‘worms’ in cheaper bottles of mezcal). These condiments help to prepare the palate for the smoky characteristics of the spirit.

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For cocktail lovers in Hong Kong, some mezcal-based concoctions available at Mezcalito include the Mint Floyd, a blend of mezcal, pomegranate, fresh lime, fresh mint and agave nectar; Mezcal Paloma, a refreshing mezcal and grapefruit cocktail, usually made with tequila; and the summer cooler, Grilled Pineapple & Mezcal Margarita, which brings the humble margarita to a new level with a mix of grilled pineapple and spicy mezcal.

If you’re looking to add a bottle of mezcal to your home can, there are a few choice drops we recommend. These include Mezcal Rufian; Ilegal Mezcal, which has taken North America by storm; Clase Azul; Bruxo; and El Tinieblo, all of which are available at Mezcalito.


Intoxicating Art

Indecisiveness is an attribute we often identify with the fairer sex; we’ve all done dressing room jury duty; we’ve all walked at a snail’s pace down Pottinger Lane thanks to a pair of 15-inch Louboutins; and most of us have spent the first part of a night on the couch channel surfing and waiting for our significant others to pick an outfit.


Winter Warmer with a Kick

Christmas can be an odd time in Hong Kong. If you’re not headed to the homeland (which ever one you recognize) or are not part of the Phuket-bound exodus, then you’re here, enjoying the city’s second quietest spell (the first comes a month or so later) and its flirtation with “winter”. It’s also great time to learn that the Fragrant Harbour wasn’t designed for the cold, so take advantage of the lull and make the most of the silly season by ordering one of these soul-soothing-but-oh-so-manly tipples tonight.


The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Sometimes buying a gift for a mate can be a tricky one. You want to express all those underlying emotions without hitting the absinthe together first.


Because Knowledge is Power

It doesn’t matter whether you’re reading a first edition, a tablet in the dark, or the Dilbert cartoon strip across your girlfriend’s lower back, reading is important. Reading inspires, revitalises, intrigues, and intoxicates the imagination, building character and enriching the soul in the process – and who knows, you might learn a thing or two along the way. So here are a few classic titles every gent should be reading (or re-reading) this year.


Is There Anybody Out There?


The brainiacs at NASA recently declared that they expect to find evidence of ‘alien life’ in the next 10 to 20 years. While we’re waiting for confirmation of extraterrestrial life, check out these alien flicks and decide for yourself which one predicts our future encounter with extraterrestrial beings.


Enter the Dragon’s Lair

There are a handful of men that we as a gender respect for the way they epitomise what it means to be a man.


Legacies of the 27 Club

Billy Joel once said that only the good die young, and ignoring the subtext of the lyrics and the controversy the song kicked up, the phrase is something of a truism – especially in the world of music, where the ‘27 Club’ is an unfortunate reminder of genius gone too soon.


Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.


Art Has a Dark Side

Many artists like being controversial.


Collins & Kent International and NecesCity bring you Arthouse Unplugged. The Beatles by Sir Peter Blake

Beginning with the release of their debut album Please Please Me in 1963, four lads from Liverpool had the world on a string. With their significant contributions to music, art, and pop culture in general, The Beatles have left an indelible mark on history. Their 1969 album, Abbey Road, continues to be one of the most critically-acclaimed and best performing albums in history, and is also one of the band’s most iconic. From the immediately recognisable cover to classic tunes like Come Together and Here Comes The Sun, Abbey Road is synonymous with The Beatles. This Friday, Abbey Road and The Beatles come to Hong Kong’s Hollywood Road, and with only a few places left, you’re down to your last chance to get into this special event.


Get Yourself Outdoors

Some things were not designed to be done inside; swinging the proverbial cat for one; impromptu MMA with close kin another. The superstitious won’t let you open an umbrella indoors; road flares don’t react well to confined spaces; astronomy loses much of its pizazz; and you can never get enough run up for an indoor slip-and-slide.


The Beatles by Sir Peter Blake - All You Need Is…Art

In the 1960s, an unlikely British foursome took the world by storm with their innovative, daring musical stylings. Fast forward five decades and The Beatles are still considered to be among the greatest bands ever to have graced the music world, and classics like I Want To Hold Your Hand, Yesterday, and Eight Days A Week are still referenced in pop culture. Kanye West can compare himself to the big guy as much as he wants, but it’s unlikely that Yeezus has the same kind of staying power.


Release Your Inner Picasso

So it’s 2014 and times, as Dylan so eloquently put it, they’re a changin’. Today you don’t have to be a rugged cowboy, all bottled up inside. It’s now okay to show your sensitive side, to let out your inner metrosexuality, to harness your creative powers, and to embrace your EQ. And if that makes you more attractive to the fairer sex; if that creates intangible bonds with your next lady friend, proving to be the honey needed to snare today’s modern woman, then so be it.


Win a Damien Hirst or Invest in George Condo

CKI, the fine art investment specialist, has added George Condo to its portfolio, and to celebrate, the company is giving away a HK$60,000 piece by its other Modern Master, Damien Hirst. That’s right, HK$60,000. And we’re not talking about a formaldehyde shark either. The prize is a butterfly from Hirst’s famous collection, The Souls, which will look much better in your living room than a carcass. To win, simply fill in your details and cross your toes.


Restaurant & Art Space

Duddell’s is a new kind of concept in Hong Kong, a restaurant-meets-art-space that seems to be nailing both. In October, for instance, the gallery side of the venue will host an exhibition curated by Ai Weiwei, while the food - which is the work of Chef Siu Hin-chi, previously of Michelin-starred T’ang Court, is moreish Cantonese fare. Nourishment for the soul as much as your digestive tract.


Win a 7-Piece Miro Set Worth a Packet

CKI, the fine art investment specialists are giving away a 7-piece Miro suite worth HK$34,000. One lucky NecesCity reader is going to win - why can't it be you? Imagine: you've just come back from a tough day crunching spreadsheets and you see those seven lithographs on the wall staring back at you. Might even require a new wall.


Pop Art Maestro's Exhibition Drawing to a Close

Warhol is a big name. Even your average football hooligan is probably au fait with some of his work, and this weekend is the last chance to see the artist's biggest ever exhibition in Asia. Plus it's nature's antidote to the Sevens. The show is being held in the Hong Kong Museum of Art and comprises over 450 pieces by the pop art maestro. Put it in the calendar today because, however much you like to be spontaneous, culture normally requires some lead time. If you don't prep, you'll probably spend the weekend travelling from SoHo to the SoFa.


Never Seen Before Picasso Show

Collins & Kent International (CKI) is hosting a VIP Picasso exhibition of rare 'Works on Paper' featuring several pieces never exhibited before. The show includes a gallery tour with CKI's Art Director for Asia Pacific, Michael Donnan, who'll explain how you can put together a valuable art collection for less than HK$300,000. If you don't think your lady will accept another set of car keys for your next birthday, surely she can't veto a Picasso?


Win Picasso Etchings & Buy Affordable Masters

Collins & Kent International, the fine art investment specialist, has arrived in HK and they're offering one in five NecesCity readers a Picasso etching. With CKI in town you can start collecting works by the Spanish maestro and other Masters for the most competitive prices in the world today. Take Picasso's "Apples, glass and knife" for instance. One of a series of 50, the signed, original lithograph can be yours for just HK$40,000 - significantly better value than the ubiquitous photos of old Hong Kong that decorate homes throughout the city.


Showcase: Eternal Realm of China’s First Emperor

The world renowned Terracotta Army has arrived in Hong Kong, albeit a small selection rather than the whole. In town until November 26, the archaeological gems are mesmerising, partly because the first Emperor (who commissioned them) was such a nutter. A case in point, many of the 700,000 people who built his tomb were locked into the mausoleum upon his death to spend eternity with his fake army. It can’t have been the end of project bonus they were expecting.


Print Your Memories onto Canvas

RobotPrintr is a Hong Kong company that prints your digital photos onto canvas and we’ve got a few to give away. You’ve probably come across similar businesses before but this one’s based in our city, plus we’re a fan of the wider concept. The fact is we take more photos than ever before but unless you enjoy slideshows or celebrating how great your life is on Facebook, there’s no way to share them. And think of poor old Kodak.


French Graffuturism Artist at The Space

Tonight The Space will unveil a solo exhibition by French artist Benoit Ollive, a talented 24-year-old who mixes contemporary graffiti with architecture into a genre called ‘Graffuturism’. We wonder how the French translate that term, a nation so proud they have an official government body to create new words to retain their language’s integrity. Although they still got stumped by the Big Mac didn't they. That’s just called ‘Le Big Mac’.


1931 Mongkok Gem Opens for Chinese Medicine

One of Hong Kong’s finest historical buildings, Mongkok’s Lui Seng Chun, has been given a HK$28M makeover and is now offering traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Built in 1931, the ground floor of the 4-storey tong-lau (or shophouse) was originally occupied by a Chinese bone-setting shop named ‘Lui Seng Chun’, while the upper floors were lived in by the Lui family who built it. It must have been great for the parents to threaten a trip downstairs if the children misbehaved. “To the bone-setter…”


HK's Biggest Art Event Returns

ART HK takes place from May 17 - 22 and is one of the must-see events of the year. What’s great about the show is that because there’s a mountain of work on display, you’ll enjoy it whatever your taste. To be precise, 266 galleries will represent 38 countries at the 2012 edition which is a bit like walking into Toys”R”Us as a toddler. You can’t conceive of so many toys in one room.


DJ's Music Going Online

John Peel, the iconic British DJ who held a show on BBC’s Radio 1 for nearly 40 years, amassed a record collection of world renown, and now a selection of it is going online. When Peel died in 2004 his musical treasure trove stood at 25,000 LPs and 40,000 singles. Blessedly, each week from now until October, 100 albums will be released on The Space in alphabetical order, starting with Mike Absalom. Bummer if you’re a Led Zeppelin fan.


Former Porn Venue to Host Cantonese Opera

Hong Kong’s seedier past is largely brushed over by its synthetic skyscrapers so we’re delighted to reveal the Yau Ma Tei theatre has re-opened for Cantonese Opera. What’s particularly special about the re-furb is that it was formerly a porn theatre, one of the funnier sides of adult entertainment. The thought of a very public theatre showing very private business, while the patrons get up to god knows what (sitting next to each other) is surreal comedy at its best. Can you imagine being one of the cleaners?


Classic Photos from Famous Archive

The Picture This Gallery has just unveiled a collection of photos from the Getty Images/Hulton Archive featuring celebrity, cultural landmarks and classic sporting moments. They're all instantly accessible, but perhaps even more importantly, they’re also the type of casual pieces you can have on your walls; in stark contrast to the luminous pink, pop-art Chinese faces grinning maniacally from nearly ever gallery on Hollywood Rd.


Photographer's Debut Solo Exhibit

Annie Leibovitz's debut solo show in Hong Kong will be held at the Sundaram Tagore Gallery on Hollywood Road. Taking place from May 10 - June 17, the exhibition will explore the theme of power in public and private spheres. Having said that, all we really want to know is how one of the most famous photographers of her generation, the last to shoot John Lennon (pun intended), could have got into such financial difficulty that she had to pawn away her image rights a couple of years ago?