All Mixed Up: Arlene Wong, The Green Door Bar Manager and Coffee Expert
July 13, 2023
Our continent loves a good drink. To cool off from our temperate weather and hot food, you can find us huddled in an airconned bar, sipping on something cool, sexy, and clean. To celebrate our boozing culture, All Mixed Up explores the stories behind Asia’s famed mixologists, bartenders, and cupbearers that make our tipples and what makes them tick.
Leading a storm in Hong Kong’s bar scene, Arlene Wong is a force perfecting the bar experience for evening lovers in need of classic cocktails and tipples spiked with caffeine and coffee.
Formerly working with AWA AWA, The Pontiac, Fine Print, and The Butchers Club, Arlene traded her former career in photography to behind the bar, championing great cocktail experiences. In her role as brand ambassador, Arlene preaches caffeinated alcoholic glory with Mr. Black spirits, harking back to her days as a barista.
Opening her latest dream bar, The Green Door, in SoHo this spring, Arlene has elevated her position in the city’s nightlife scene, offering guests an experience previously not had before. We quizzed her on her journey thus far, and her recent story and emotions with SoHo's hottest opening.
Beyond a traditional career in Hong Kong, what excited you to join the industry and mix cocktails for a living?
The term "traditional" only applies when your surroundings tell you so. In Hong Kong, working an office job is stable and guaranteed, but from what I've learned [through] experience, you achieve a more satisfying sense of accomplishment and happiness than working a job that's not suitable for you.
What philosophies do you have creating great drinks?
Stick to classics. History repeats itself. You are probably not the first to explore flavours and ingredients, but understand which classic cocktails work best. It allows you to create a drink that is balanced and delicious.
As brand ambassador of Mr. Black Coffee Liqueur, what is your mission to fusing alcohol with caffeinated liquor and drinks?
One of my favourite lines from Mr. Black - "Bridging the gap from day and night." We don't believe drinking alcohol in the morning is wrong, nor drinking coffee after midnight is.
I would love to see coffee cocktails shine outside of Irish coffees or espresso martinis, and for bartenders to use coffee as a flavour profile, rather than [for] its label of carrying caffeine.
With your work at Westside Hospitality leading the group’s bars, what is important when it comes to creating a bar programme that matches the great food on offer in the group?
I joined recently, so I wouldn't take credits of the bar menu yet. However, having worked with the group since its opening, as General Manager of 11 Westside, I understand our company ethos well.
Keeping on brand is important to us. When we design a menu, we often remind ourselves, is that what we want to portray for this venue? You will find most of our menus are designed towards the story we want to build and tell, rather than a versatile menu that pleases every guest.
We believe each menu is unique enough to leave an impression and great experience. Therefore, the food is part of the experience and story we are trying to tell.
Tell us your involvement with recently opened The Green Door Bar. What are your hopes for SoHo’s coolest new bar?
I'm super excited to finally open up the bar of my dreams! Alongside with my co-founder Dabi, we wanted to open a bar that reminded us of New York. We both lived there briefly, and we hope that when a guest steps into Green Door, they will feel at home.
Building a menu back to the roots of classic cocktails, I want to re-introduce many classics forgotten in Hong Kong, especially when so many cocktail bars in Hong Kong are trying to create something new and exciting.
I sometimes missed going to a bar that simply serves a good classic, and comfortable enough to sit and catch up with friends. Hence, The Green door should be a place of familiarity, great hospitality, and top-notch cocktails.
Why is Hong Kong a great place for bartenders and mixologists to come and work?
Having some of the top bars in the world all located in Hong Kong should put us on the map for bartenders who are looking for new challenges every day and fine-tuning their skills.
I strongly suggest that with our fast-paced lifestyle in Hong Kong, this will not only develop [mixing] personalities, but allow you to explore your own limits too.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous All Mixed Up profiles here.
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