If one were asked to name the best cocktail bars in Hong Kong, The Woods would inevitably come up; and if you have ever sipped one of their Four Pepper Margaritas or Beet Negronis, the lady behind the concept bar, Victoria Chow’s passion for sprits and experimental alcoholic concoctions unavoidably shines through. We recently got to catch up with her to talk how she got started in the business, whether you could tell what someone’s going to order from their outfit, and naturally, favourite cocktails!
I have been to a tasting session you hosted at your newly launched spot the Woods Annex and it’s very easy to tell how passionate you are about liquors, their origins and stories. Were you always this passionate about cocktails and liquor?
I’ve always been fascinated by cocktails and the art of bartending – and even more so by the ‘behind the scenes’ of how things are made.
Wines were my first love from a young age when my dad would bring me to Napa Valley while we were living in California. My interests grew to include craft beers in college when I lived near a craft brewery. When I came back to Hong Kong and while I was working at an events agency, I continued to study wines through the WSET program, but quickly become engrossed by the spirits portion of the syllabus and noticed a lack of artisanal cocktail bars in town — hence driving me to build my own to fill the niche! Over the four years of running The Woods, I have had the privilege of trying so many world class spirits, meet their producers, as well as visit the production place of a few, which has only further fueled my passion and fascination in the topic!
I know before starting The Woods, you had a background in event production and branding… Did that help with your process of starting The Woods?
The key skills behind producing events – resourcefulness, customer service, and working under pressure – all helped with running the bar! My experience in doing freelance branding work in the past allowed me to do my own graphic designs and brand identity, keeping the marketing and messaging components of my business close to home. We also have an events and catering arm to The Woods now and that’s where my past experience really comes in handy! As an entrepreneur and small business owner, every extra skillset counts.
How would you describe your personal style?
Quite minimalist, with an extra dose of comfort! I like asymmetry, sleek silhouettes and neutral colours that are easy to style in different ways.
Strange question but… could you tell what a someone likes to drink by the way they dress? Or their personality? Any incidents to support that if so?
That’s hard to say! I hate to stereotype, as my goal is always to encourage people to explore beyond their comfort zones when it comes to drinks. A man walking in with a suit and tie has just as high of a likelihood of ordering beer as he is of ordering an Old Fashioned or a Martini!
Earlier this year you launched canned cocktail concept KWOON. What inspired you to do that?
It was in part conceived to support our growing events and catering business under The Woods brand. We started getting requests to provide cocktails for events of upwards of a thousand people, and we know that timing, quality, and consistency would be extremely hard to maintain under that sort of time pressure without an enormous and well-trained bar team. Without the resources for that, we figured pre-batching and bottling cocktails would be the way to go, and were surprised there was not much done in that arena!
Is there anyone you look up to in the cocktail / liquor scene?
So many inspirational people out there! From bartenders, to producers, to brand ambassadors, to chefs even. If I had to fangirl for a moment, it would have to be for Ryan Chet of Superlyan / Dandelyan, and Grant Achatz of Alinea / Aviary.
What are you go-to cocktails/ liquor?
I am definitely partial to gins as a spirit category and my favourite cocktail is the Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon, honey), though what I end up drinking is always very mood dependent. To be honest, when in doubt, my go-to is a beer!
What are some of your top picks for drinks at The woods?
The Chamomile Bee’s Knees, Oak Whiskey Sour, and whatever crazy stuff we’re serving up at The Lodge long bar! (Previously known as our Prix Fixe bar – where we experiment with interesting presentations and techniques.)
What are some of your go to restaurants/ bars/ hangouts in hk?
If I’m not at The Woods or KWOON, you’ll likely find me at The Globe having a night cap over a pint of craft beer! My other tried and true favourites are Belon’s Upstairs wine bar, The Old Man, Aberdeen Street Social’s balcony for weekend brunches.
What’s next for you?
To continue on our mission to help everyone drink better and elevate the spirits industry through education and creative concepts! We are working on a digital presence focused on providing B2C booze-related content, and also on bringing KWOON to new markets around the world!
Any advice for someone thinking about starting their own business?
It’s a cynical one… haha. Don’t do it – unless it properly keeps you up at night and you just can’t shake the thought of it for at least 3 months!