7 min read

10 Questions with Antonio Lai, Mixologist & Owner of Quinary, ORI-GIN, VEA & More

10 Questions with Antonio Lai, Mixologist & Owner of Quinary, ORI-GIN, VEA & More

At 19, Antonio Lai was a waiter. Today, he owns six of Hong Kong’s prestigious bars. What’s his secret?

We chat to Award-Winning Antonio Lai about how creativity, flexibility, financial empowerment and passion have enabled his journey. From humble beginnings as a 19-year-old waiter, to a world-renowned mixologist, Antonio took the Hong Kong drinking scene and gave it a shake and stir like no other. We sit down with Antonio to chat about everything from the creative mixology process, overcoming challenges and hopes for the future.

1. Tell us about yourself. What do you do? What are you most passionate about?

I’m a mixologist and the co-founder of Tastings Group, a restaurant and bar group with 6 award-winning venues - VEA, The Envoy, ORI-GIN, Quinary, Room 309 and Draftland. I was born and raised in Hong Kong and started working in the F&B industry when I was 19, as a waiter at a restaurant in town. I got interested in the bar industry from my very first job. To be honest, I just thought it was cool to juggle bottles behind the bar. From that moment I knew I wanted to be a bartender!

2. At 19 you were working as a waiter. Today, you own six of Hong Kong’s most prestigious bars. What three things contributed to your success?
  1. Staying willing to learn
  2. Never giving up
  3. Treating every job as your own business
3. How do you keep your creativity and appetite for exploration as a mixologist?

I study industry news, stay inspired by other bartenders, and find great fascination in the process of creation. I love searching for the one unique taste in each cocktail. Customers are also a huge motivator. It’s a joy to see the smile on their face after the first sip. Mixology to me is not just creating a drink but a multi-sensory experience.

4. Can you tell us something most people don’t know about you?

Not many people know how weak my alcohol tolerance is.

5. What are your three favourite things about Hong Kong?
  1. Yum cha.
  2. Mahjong.
  3. The variety of bars in Central. You can experience so much in one night!

Antonio Lai 2

6. Tell us about an obstacle that you were faced with in your life or career. How did you overcome it?

2020 was really hard on the F&B industry. I’ve made it a priority to maintain strong communication with my team and tried to control food cost according to the circumstances. We intentionally assign different work shifts so all staff can keep their job and sustain the bar operation. I think the most important thing is to keep a close relationship with the team. That way, we’re overcoming a difficult time together.

7. How do you see your career and lifestyle evolving? What are you most looking forward to?

Life is exciting because it’s all unexpected. I am seeing myself grow as the world is. Now, I am most looking forward to the day we can all hold a drink and cheers to a brighter day.

8. What piece of advice would you give to people pursuing what they love?

My advice is to do everything with your heart. Don’t be afraid to fall, it’s all about trial and error.

Antonio Lai 2

9. What financial tips would you give them? How did financial planning support your journey?

Save up, no matter how small the amount is. Make it a habit. Everything needs time and we all have to start somewhere. The more savings you have, the more you’re supported in the future. My advice is to set goals and keep your financial agenda close!

10. Complete the following sentences:

Growing up, I believed money was… something that can make people happy. Whilst that’s true, enjoying what you do can bring even greater joy.

Now, I view money as… time, and time as money. If you want to save time, you need to pay more. If you spend your time learning skills, you can exchange that for money.

To me, financial empowerment means… to have a better living standard, being able to chase an even bigger dream.

My favourite Mox feature is… the “Goals” and “CashBack”. Goals allow me to keep track of financial targets on one easy interface. And CashBack lets me earn real cash every time I spend. Who doesn’t love this function? Come on!

Mox Masterclass: CNY Cocktail Making with Antonio Lai (Virtual)

Mox Masterclass- Cocktai; Making

Ready to give it a shake and stir yourself? Be a pioneer. Mix like a mastermind.

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Remarks: The views expressed by individuals featured in this interview are the personal views of such individuals and do not necessarily reflect, and, should not be taken as the views of Mox Bank Limited.

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14 Jan 2021
7 min read