Crave - - FEAST - Words Iris Wong


It’s hard to miss COA, de­spite be­ing tucked away on quiet Shin Hing Street, thanks to its hand-drawn wall mu­ral of Mayahuel, the Aztec god­dess of fer­til­ity and also the god­dess of agave. Named after the ma­chete-like tool for har­vest­ing agave, COA is a sub­ter­ranean, Oax­aca-in­spired cock­tail bar in the cosy space for­merly oc­cu­pied by NEO Cock­tail Club. In place of NEO’S pin­ball ma­chines and colour­ful fur­ni­ture, ex­pect in­dus­trial-chic raw con­crete walls, Edi­son light bulbs, dark wooden ta­bles and, be­hind the bar, an im­pos­ing dis­play of agave-based spir­its stacked in the for­ma­tion of an Aztec pyra­mid.


Like many peo­ple, we once ap­pre­ci­ated te­quila as a party fuel, and one we’ve avoided since we started go­ing home early mut­ter­ing, “Sorry, I’m work­ing to­mor­row”. But COA helms­man and bar vet­eran

Jay Khan is here to ed­u­cate us. Flip open the bar’s menu – aka the Agave Bi­ble – to find a dizzy­ing list of te­quila, raicilla, so­tol and mez­cal made from dif­fer­ent agave va­ri­eties, in­clud­ing some that have been re­dis­tilled with turkey or chicken breast. Ask for the bar­tender’s rec­om­men­da­tions if you want to try the spir­its straight, or opt for the cock­tails. Up first, and our favourite of the night, is tepache ($80), nat­u­rally fer­mented with pineap­ple and wild yeast, with a touch of cin­na­mon. Fresh, fruity, slightly fizzy and lightly al­co­holic, the tepache slips down eas­ily. Next up is hor­chata de pis­ta­cho ($90), a con­coc­tion of Ocho Blanco, house-made pis­ta­chio orgeat, lemon, egg white and sweet po­tato dust. It’s creamy and nutty, like a liq­uid dessert. We couldn’t leave with­out a sip of the Del Maguey Pechuga ($298/glass), made by sus­pend­ing a whole chicken breast (pechuga) in the still for 24 hours in a third dis­til­la­tion of the mez­cal. Served in a lit­tle gourd cup, it has a savoury, fruity nose, and is smooth and smoky on the palate with a sub­tle chicken flavour. Or per­haps that was just our imag­i­na­tion. We fin­ish with Mez­cal Paloma ($100), a cit­rusy and smoky li­ba­tion of Mon­telo­bos mez­cal, Te­quila Cabeza, grape­fruit soda, lime and salt.


COA gets a pat on the back for its ded­i­ca­tion and hon­est ap­proach to agave spir­its. The cock­tails are a de­light, and nav­i­gat­ing the menu and sam­pling hard-to-find spir­its gave us some in­sight into a new world. Hong Kong may not be em­brac­ing mez­cal and te­quila just yet, but if they do be­come the city’s next gin, COA may very well be re­spon­si­ble.

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