The Artesian Hong Kong Has Taken “Cocktail Art” to a Whole New Level

Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night" painted on a cocktail
Vincent Van Gogh's classic "Starry Night" is depicted using blue curacao in a drink with rum, Strega, Frangelico, chocolate bitters and lime. Photo courtesy of The Langham Hong Kong.

From over-the-top garnishes to unexpected interpretations of ice to the design of the drink menu itself, mixing drinks has become just as much an art as it is a science. (We can’t help but wonder what David Embury would think of banana dolphins.) But Rajendra “Rush” Limbu, bartender at The Artesian at The Langham Hong Kong, has upped the ante on the idea of cocktail art. Armed with tiny toothpicks, an absurd amount of artistic talent and an exacting eye for detail, Limbu is serving three new drinks that aren’t just inspired by masterworks of art history — they look like them, too.

Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" painted on a cocktail This mezcal-based creation was inspired by Dali's "The Persistence of Memory." Photo courtesy of The Langham Hong Kong.

Using toothpicks dipped in dye, Limbu paints and sketches his own renditions of Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Salvador Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory,” and Piet Mondrian’s “Tableau I” atop an egg white foam cresting each of the cocktails. Limbu scales the work down to the size of a cocktail coupe and sketches each miniscule work by hand himself — which explains why the drinks, priced at HK$158 or about $20 USD, require advance reservation and come with a 10% service charge.

Piet Mondrian's "Tableau I" painted on a cocktail Limbu transformed Piet Mondrian's "Tableau I" into a drink with saffron gin, elderflower liqueur and Chartreuse. Photo courtesy of The Langham Hong Kong.

As for what’s underneath the artwork? Dali’s cocktail homage combines mezcal with Grand Marnier, Domaine de Canton, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters and orange juice, with that iconic melting clock dripping over the side of the glass. “Starry Night” is composed of rum, Frangelico, Strega, Bittermens Xocolatl Bitters and fresh lime, with blue curacao forming the drink’s painted night sky. Beneath Mondrian’s abstract grid of primary colors is saffron gin, elderflower liqueur, Chartreuse, the Bitter Truth Lemon Bitters, fresh lemon and grenadine.

Of course, it's worth noting that The Artesian is no stranger to creativity: its sister bar in London took home last year's Spirited Award for Best International Cocktail Bar. The bar's Hong Kong outpost opened its doors in October 2014, with Limbu helming as bar manager. Limbu has lived in Hong Kong for nearly two decades, and has mixed drinks at Otto e Mezzo, Il Milione and Ping Pong.

The cocktails were developed and launched in conjunction with Art Basel Hong Kong, and will be available at the bar through April 30th. If you can’t hop on a flight to HK before then, though, perhaps these videos showcasing Limbu’s exacting craftsmanship can help:

Above, Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" is tediously recreated through a series of minuscule brushstrokes made with a toothpick. Below, "Starry Night" gets the Limbu artistic treatment. Mesmerizing, no?

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