Now in its fifth year, Art Basel‘s Hong Kong installment has already impacted Asian artists’ exposure globally, all while bolstering the sale of Western works in new markets. As Art Basel Hong Kong now triggers simultaneous showcases, activations and installations, the art community now respectfully refers to it all as Hong Kong Art Week. It’s one of the most alluring destinations in the worldwide arts calendar and draws serious collectors and strong works. Set in the midst of it all, at Hong Kong’s Potato Head bar, Portuguese-born, HK-based artist João Vasco Paiva has partnered with Absolut, a frequent artistic collaborator. The pop-up Absolut Art Bar, known as “Room Service” envelops guests in a nature-laden oasis blended with urban structures. And despite the gravity of its source inspiration, it’s a fun excursion for anyone in town.
Paiva looked to the opening sequence of Terrence Malick’s war epic “The Thin Red Line,” for the gravity behind his presentation: a scene of isolation on a deserted island. Through projection screens composed of glass and fabric, as well as sculptures, Paiva builds an immersive environment. His projections feature scenes of abandoned architectural structures around Hong Kong—many of which have been reclaimed by nature. Fans cast a breeze through the space, mimicking wind. There’s an element of the serene. Musical programming, from electronic DJ sets to acoustic performances, amplify the visual statements. But, as expected from a bar, there’s an underlying excitement, supported by the cocktails Paiva developed with Potato Head’s resident mastermind drink maker Kamil Foltano. Three cocktails, highlighted below, aim to transport consumers to the mind space of castaways (and are named after some, both real and fictional). Absolut stands as the base component but from Havana Club and Lillet to szechuan peppers and peat bitters, these aren’t your typical vodka drinks.
Named after the real-life mutinous sailor Fletcher Christian, from the late 1700s, this cocktail plays on the age old vodka and champagne relationship. Lemongrass syrup and Yellow Chartreuse take it into an unexpected direction.
35 ml Absolut Elyx
25 ml lemon juice
15 ml lemongrass syrup
10 basil leaves
2.5 ml Yellow Chartreuse
Top up champagne
Combine first four ingredients together, shake with ice and strain into chilled flute glass. Top up with champagne garnish with basil spring.
Taken from “A Thin Red Line,” the character Sargent Witt spends time, alone, in contemplation of humankind’s relationship with nature—while surrounded by stunning vegetation and pristine waters. For the cocktail, Lillet Blanc lends its signature notes to the vodka, while maple syrup provides unexpected (and natural) bliss.
30 ml Absolut Blue
15 ml Lillet Blanc
75 ml tonic water
5 ml sugar syrup, to taste if need to be.
Build in a wine glass, garnish with a slice of lemon, grapefruit and orange,.
Our favorite of the three, the Paddy Button might be hard to make for residents of the States—Havana 7 isn’t available here yet. That said, the way the Cuban rum punctuates the vodka feels delightful and szechuan-infused maple syrup delivers a sweetness and a bite. For those who don’t know, Paddy Button was the rum-drinking cook who survived the shipwreck in “The Blue Lagoon.”
35ml Absolut Elyx
15ml Havana 7
5ml szechuan pepper infused maple syrup
3 dashes smoke and peat bitters
Rim serving glass with hibiscus salt. Stir over ice and strain into a short whisky glass over a large ice cube.
Room Service will be open Tuesday to Sunday during Hong Kong Art Week, from 17 March through 2 April, at Potato Head, 100 Third St, Sai Ying Pun, Hong Kong.
Images by Roberto Chamorro, courtesy of Absolut