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The Old Man and Sous Vide

The Old Man in Hong Kong uses tinctures, sous vide infusions, and a love of Ernest Hemingway to pour out whimsical cocktails with twisted flavors.        


Hong Kong’s cup runneth over when it comes to cool bars with a gastro bent. Bibo, a restaurant that celebrates fine art and fine dining, has an award-winning gin and tonic served in a light bulb, and the Spamarita at Jinjuu (specializing in Korean fare) is smokey from Spam-infused tequila.

Among this guard of surprising cocktail slingers is The Old Man, a bar inspired by Ernest Hemingway (named for his The Old Man and the Sea) with a stable of sous vide drinks that reference his literary work and personal history.

“Sous vide speeds up our infusions and improves the consistency between batches,” says founder and owner Agung Prabowo. “I would recommend it to all bars during their prep.”

Hardly a tourist trap, locals head to The Old Man for the luxe atmosphere and for cocktails that are complex in flavor yet easy to drink. The Papa Doble, a take on a dry Hemingway Daiquiri, is made with sous vide pineapple rum and sous vide jalapeno maraschino.  

“He contributed so much to cocktail culture back in the day,” Prabowo says of his muse.

The Old Man’s recently refreshed menu is filled with simpler Hemingway favorites like the daquiri, a whiskey sour, a gin fizz, and a boulevardier, but it also includes more complex concoctions with the flavors of a romanticized 1940s-era Havana. To Have and Have Not has “blackened oat rum, rectified Coca-Cola, coca leaves, and vanilla lather,” while the In Our Time has “clarified banana ghee and celery, salted tequila, and a spiced banana skin tincture.”

In step with the whimsical conceit of the bar’s menu, The Old Man’s decor is anything but “old.” Books and bottles line its shelves and a Cubist portrait of Hemingway hangs above the bar—Prabowo created the homage from material scraps left over from the bar’s construction.

“The décor was inspired by Cuban Art Deco, and we wanted to make something different in the market by presenting a bar that feels more like a stylish home than a cocktail bar,” Prabowo says.

To quote Hemingway: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” At least at The Old Man, they’ve gotten pretty darn close to mastering the cocktail.

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