Classic Cocktail ChroniclesFeatures

Two bartenders reimagine a classic Hong Kong cocktail

Lorenzo Antinori of Charles H in Seoul and Tom Egerton of Potato Head Hong Kong take Charles H Baker’s Rosy Dawn cocktail and give it an update – part of DRINK’s search for forgotten Asian recipes, the Classic Cocktail Chronicles. By Holly Graham.

Tom Egerton and Lorenzo Antinori were connected via a mutual friend regarding Charles H Baker’s Rosy Dawn cocktail. Antinori was putting together his new (and first) cocktail list for his bar Charles H and reached out to Egerton, who had previously retraced Baker’s steps in Hong Kong.

Antinori’s menus always celebrate Baker and his first menu had a Hong Kong page. He says, “I was curious to hear Tom’s thoughts on the Rosy Dawn and I was surprised to find someone as interested as me in the topic. Storytelling is what brings a cocktail alive and that’s how we connect our guests to their drinks.”

The story behind the Rosy Dawn? It’s very special to Baker and in his book The Gentleman’s Companion Volume II: The Exotic Drinking Book, he says of the cocktail, “For sentimental reasons this probably outranks all other cocktails in our past and present life, for it was through its rosy-inspired courage we got ourselves a wife.” F.P Franklin – a guest at a dinner party Baker and his fiancee Pauline Paulson were at – was so saddened that she would not be able to attend their wedding that she threw an impromptu wedding there and then. Franklin gifted the newly wedded couple her own wedding ring, and Rosy Dawns and Krug 1923 were knocked back until the wee hours to celebrate the occasion.

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Just before sunrise, Franklin handed the couple a bunch of freesia and they tipsily made their way back to Hong Kong’s Kowloon side. “The first fingers of a rosy dawn searched up and over the stark mountains surrounding Hong Kong’s superb harbour,” as described by Baker. He writes the original recipe as one liqueur glass each of dry gin, orange curacao and cherry brandy, plus a teaspoon of lime juice, stirred in a champagne glass over ice.

Both Antinori and Egerton agree this recipe is undoubtedly outdated, and though Baker was a traveller, he was no bartender, so his palate can be forgiven. He did, however, enjoy drinking with friends and creating recipes, connecting people and places with food and drinks, similar to the way the Classic Cocktail Chronicles will hopefully connect bartenders to their country’s long lost cocktails.

Of the original Rosy Dawn, Egerton says: “The palate of the people was different and there wasn’t as much refined sugar in their diets back then, so sweet cocktails would’ve been more of a treat. That said, it’s one of the first mixed drinks recorded in Hong Kong, and could very well be Hong Kong’s classic cocktail.”

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Recipe (Click to view)
Rosy Dawn 2.0, by Tom Egerton

Recipe (Click to view)
Rosy Dawn 2.0, by Lorenzo Antinori

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