The Pontiac is unapologetically defying norms and redefining Hong Kong’s drinking culture. And we’re loving it.
By now, if you’ve had your finger on the pulse, you know The Pontiac – Hong Kong’s sweet spot that has consistently earned its place in Asia’s 50 Best Bars for the third consecutive year.
The Pontiac is notorious for its no-nonsense, dive bar vibe, often compared to the infamous Coyote Ugly, America’s favourite dive. Tipplers familiar with the bar scene in Asia have only the fondest memories and experiences to share from The Pontiac, whose explosive cocktail menu is top notch.
The cocktail programme at The Pontiac is highly innovative and super-sustainable. In a day and age where guests don’t mind spending an extra couple of bucks on carefully crafted F&B experiences, a bar that prioritises environmental sensitivity and consciousness, immediately makes it to the top of our list.
We caught up with the leading lady of The Pontiac, Beckaly, who is a firebrand in herself and is infamous for her sharp banter and give-a-fuck attitude. She has been the powerhouse driving the incredibly talented team at The Pontiac to greater heights and is inspired by each one of them as much as she inspires them every day.
Tell us a little bit about your journey that brought you to The Pontiac. Where did the magic begin?
How I found myself co-proprieting (sic.) The Pontiac is a combination of manifestation and timing. I worked my ass off in my career and through my hard work I was fortunate enough to gain recognition, travel abroad, learn, win and meet the cohorts that would shape my future. After my three years at the multi-accolade winner Clyde Common, owned by Nate Tilden and helmed by Jeffery Morgenthaler, I was confident to pursue my particular path. And as I have always said, “…if I could make the drinks I love to make with the product I believe in and dance on top of the bar, I would. That is the goal.”
Tell us a little bit about the bar itself…we’ve obviously heard so much about it – references to Coyote Ugly, American dive bars, etc. But how would you describe it?
The Pontiac is the most inclusive bar on earth. That’s right I said it…WHAT?! We have organically grown into this self-loving, educated, empowered, empathetic, juggernaut of a good time. Our guise is that of a “dive”; this space is weathered and has some serious hand-me-down DIY realness. We appreciate the association to Coyote Ugly for the homage to Hog and Heifers, a legendary bar we are actively giving a shout out to; though we are so much more. Cocktail and culture making sexy in the back booths. As my buddy James Estes so appropriately stated, “The primarily female fronted bar has been compared to Coyote Ugly, but in actuality, it’s more like Coyote Ugly, your favourite American dive bar, and Jerry Thomas all had a threesome and produced a sweet little lovechild.”
Who is the team at The Pontiac?
We have a Co-Force leading the brigade: The Martian aka Nikki Vera (abstract) and Big Fella aka Tracy Villegas (actual). This is the POWER COUPLE X ASTROPHYSICS. Tink, the lady with the moves. Her technique is the most elegant and pleasant to watch. Whether she is wearing boxing shorts or a bowtie, flawless. LZ aka Grandpa aka LZ-Fly is our newest team mate at the ripe age of 19. She ‘shows up’ and y’all know you can’t buy that kind of integrity. Our part-timing super-babe, Arlene. This versed go-getting monster is taking Hong Kong’s beverage industry by the collar bone and The Pontiac is her home. Karen keeps it legit one lullaby at a time manning the door and protecting our volume. We get loud and the neighbours hate: maintenance required.
How do you feel about the low numbers of female bartenders in the continent and what do you feel may be the main reason behind that?
I feel that if I hear another person say that we shouldn’t talk about the lack of female equality in the industry, rather we “lead by example”, when they have no females working at their bar I’m gonna start losing my hair. FUCK OFF. Without activation we will see no equality. Behind the bar or in front of it.
How do you believe more women can be encouraged to get behind bars in Asia?
Education and Opportunity (shout out to The Old Man and Teens of Thailand/Asia Today).
Who are you 3 favourite female bartenders in Asia?
Nat LuLu, Ana Souza, The Martian aka Nikki Vera
Something I’ve been curious about, how do you feel about bartending competitions? The room is always divided on what that does for the actual craft of mixology. What are your thoughts?
This is a great question. For a long time I told my team that I wouldn’t pressure them to compete. I live by and create the code that you do you and be a great bartender. But I have changed my tune. If I didn’t compete I wouldn’t be where I am today. Do I think a lot of comps are jerry rigged bullshit…yes. Do I still think it’s worth putting yourself out there to learn and grow…yes. The room is only divided if you let it be. I am here to help blur the division.
Industry heroes/mentors you’d like to tell us about? Someone you feel has been instrumental in shaping your career.
Currently my team are the most inspiring people I know. Steve Snchidaslkdfjjfsaoij or whatever his last is. He’s a peer, a brother, and stokes my fire hard. Jeffery Morgenthaler was a dick and constantly told me I was crazy but he taught me cocktail integrity. He’s the best. My business partners, who also tell me I’m crazy but love and believe in me from yesterday through tomorrow. Drag Queens, Lacy Hawkins, Emily Mistell, Charlotte Voisey, Charlene Dawes, Ivy and Tess Mix, Becky Lam, Amanda Wan, Brooke Arthur, Mary Bartlett…so on so forth.
If there was one big change you could make for the bartending community, what would it be?
Acceptance, not just for the bar but for humanity. The bar is our medium.
Tell us your favourite story from being on shift.
I lose my shit watching The Pontiac team run a crowd. So that everyday, all day. I suppose otherwise it was when we were hosting the first Agave Affair. All the big boys from the agave world were in town for Phil Bayly’s Agave Love Tour. We were throwing THE party for them created by Ana Souza and the team. Naturally, the pipes from the dishwasher broke and flooded the entire back bar and as I was duct taping them back into functional form (said tape borrowed/stolen) and Angus Fucking Winchester walks up. “Hey Beckaly, do you need some help?” As I raise my head from behind the dishwasher to see who is talking and trying not to knock over my multi purpose phone-flashlight… ANGUS…UGHHHHH. “No buddy, I got this.” We recovered and held court through the nights end. And those true legends paid no mind to the flaws for overcoming the challenges.
Finally, what do you drink to kick back on a day off?
White Burgundy | Fernet Branca | Agave
If Beck and the team aren’t giving you goals, we don’t know what will.
Follow The Pontiac on Instagram and make your way there the next time you’re in Hong Kong.
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