Five minutes with Victoria Chow, founder of The Woods, KWOON and The Woods’ Annex

Victoria Chow takes drinking seriously. She’s built her career around mixing some of Hong Kong’s best cocktails at sultry Hollywood Road watering hole The Woods and making artisanal canned concoctions a thing at KWOON. Now she’s building a library of spirits with the intention of educating the city’s sippers on the finer points of premium liquors through drink-and-dialogue-driven sessions at intimate tasting room The Woods’ Annex. And all of this is executed with an impeccable eye for aesthetics, honed through a background in graphic design, advertising and photography. We catch up with Victoria to discuss her latest endeavour and the role that design plays in her work ahead of The Woods’ Annex opening and shopping day on Saturday 16 December.

What inspired you to establish The Woods’ Annex?

The cocktails at The Woods have always been relatively simple – with a focus on highlighting good quality spirits and fresh produce. Over the last three years, we have accrued a big collection of interesting spirits at The Woods – bottles that I bring back from my travels overseas, those gifted to us by friends and industry peers, and samples from suppliers. We used to display them proudly on the back bar, but they always went unnoticed as people know The Woods as a cocktail bar and rarely order unmixed drinks (spirits, wine and beer). The Woods’ Annex is a private bar focused on just that – unadulterated spirits, and a place for our bottles to finally take the limelight.

Why are you passionate about educating people on spirits?

I realised there is a gap in knowledge and understanding when it comes to spirits – not just in Asia, but around the world. So much passion, hard work and craftsmanship goes under-appreciated – and I’m a believer that we should always give credit where its due – and I wanted to help people become more well-versed and open-minded when it comes to even their every day imbibing. It is especially exciting for me to help people discover new categories they like that they have previously shunned or have never even heard of.

What role does design play in your enterprises?

Design has always played an important role for us. For The Woods, the priority was to create a comfortable environment that is elegant, and yet not too pretentious, in order to encourage conversation and relaxation. It also exudes our ethos, which emphasises natural elements and organic forms. I had a lot of fun designing our logo and brand collateral in order to make it simple but memorable.

For KWOON, our canned cocktail line, I realised I had a big task ahead trying to overcome the common perception of canned and pre-mixed drinks. Cans have always been associated with being cheap and casual, and are rarely seen as a premium packaging. I firmly believe that cans are the superior vessel for our drinks due to both practical and environmental reasons, so I put a lot of time into drawing and designing the cans for each individual flavour in order to elevate the canned cocktail into an art form and designer item. It was a very stressful process and took a long time before I felt the design truly spoke to the content inside the cans.

As for The Woods’ Annex, the stars are the bottles of spirits themselves, so we wanted to keep the design as simple as possible to let the drinks really speak for themselves. The simplicity also keeps the environment casual and non-intimidating – I don’t want people to feel like they need to try the most expensive bottles, or that they’re about to be lectured to like they are back at school. Instead they are there for a fun evening of drinks and casual banter that just so happens to be about booze.

What do you hope people will think after completing a spirits tasting at The Woods Annex?

I hope the next time people go out drinking after a tasting at The Woods’ Annex they’ll take a second look while going through a menu and notice what other spirits are on offer. If they choose to go for a cocktail, perhaps they’ll be more adventurous in trying a drink with a base that they weren’t previously familiar with, and also ask the bartenders what brand or type of a specific spirit is used in the drink – this holds the bar accountable for the quality of the products they use, and also gives the consumer a better understanding of what’s inside their drinks. And, of course, I hope some of the fun facts they learn about spirits come in handy as conversation starters (pick-up lines, even?!) with friends and colleagues the next time they are out.

The Woods’ Annex
64 Staunton St, Central
By appointment only