Behind the Bar Snap Shot

Bar Legend Salvatore Calabrese’s New Hong Kong Bar at Maison Eight

It should come as no surprise that when one of London’s top bartenders opened his first place in Asia it would feature a mix of English- and Asian-inspired ingredients. Salvatore Calabrese is best known for his work over the past three-plus decades in London at Dukes hotel and Salvatore’s Bar at Playboy Club. He reportedly made his first cocktail at age 12 and had a staff of almost 30 reporting to him at 21 years old in his native Amalfi Coast.

The menu at Salvatore at Maison Eight is divided between classics (generally with a twist) and Asian-inspired drinks. An elaborate graph on the lengthy menu maps out the zigzagging flavor intersections of the basic spirits, juices and ingredients like fennel seeds, Szechuan pepper and ginger root. One of the drinks that incorporates many Asian ingredients is the Zen Cha, made with lemongrass-infused Absolut Elyx vodka, pineapple juice, sencha green tea, Thai basil and Chinese bitters.

Salvatore Calabrese and his Zen Cha cocktail.

His twists on classics include the Hai Tai, named after the Mai Tai (arguably created at Trader Vic’s in New York City or Don the Beachcomber in Huntington Beach, Calif.) and made with Havana Club 7-year-old rum, orange curaçao, absinthe, lime juice, orgeat syrup and Angostura bitters. There’s also a carbonated Corpse Reviver with Beefeater 24 gin, curaçao, vermouth, absinthe, lemon juice and a touch of white wine.

The Oriental Joy section of the menu is intended to “reflect the taste, sense and color of the Asian continent, choosing ingredients that I believe work well together and bring a true sense of the Orient to the drink.” It features the Bunny Bubbles, inspired by his time at the Playboy Club, made with Bénédictine, Champagne, and raspberry and pomegranate juice. Another, called the Queen’s Backyard, is served in an Art Deco coupe Calabrese designed with U.K. company Urban Bar to be a perfect canvas for the drink and is a mix of all the ingredients found in a typical English garden, including rhubarb, strawberry, elderflower and apple.

The Bunny Bubbles, left, and Grace cocktails.

The drink lineup also includes a handful of Calabrese’s signature drinks from London, such as the Grace, a long cocktail made with Grey Goose La Poire vodka, pear juice, lemon juice, honey syrup, lemongrass and mint. Another of his tweaks to a classic is his Negroni Svegliato, an “awakened” Negroni, made with Mancino-rosso-vermouth-infused coffee, Boodles gin and Campari.

The menu also features a dozen unusual apéritifs, such as Mancino secco dry white vermouth, and Tempus Fugit Gran Classico, made with bitter herbs. There are also more than a baker’s dozen of digestifs, including Chȃteau du Breuil 8-year-old calvados and La Maison Fontaine green and white absinthe, and two dozen scotches with a focus on single malts.