Photo: Diageo Reserve World Class
Describe your approach to making cocktails in one word and tell us why that defines your style.
Describing this in one word is difficult but I’d like to say "unconventional". I am open to any ideas and I tend to test them all out before making my decisions based on taste, intrigue and feasibility. My style is greatly influenced by the bar I work in – 28 Hong Kong Street, where every drink looks visually simple and easy to recreate. However, a lot of hard work goes into the preparation phase where syrups and other ingredients needed to make the drinks are prepared out of sight.
Where do you find inspiration for creating new drinks?
Inspiration for me is found at every corner. Be it conversations with others, stories I’ve read, random food cravings or even the songs I listen to. These events plant seeds from which my ideas grow and materialise.
What made your creation stand out at this edition of Diageo Reserve World Class Singapore?
All the other competitors made brilliant drinks. Fortunately for me, I feel that what gave my concoction the slight edge over the rest was that it was made in the way I was trained – simple yet complex. The drink was designed to be simple for those who aren't used to more complex drinks and yet, if the consumer were to dig deeper, they would be able to appreciate the rest of the subtle flavours in it. I bank my creations heavily on the theme of each competition and try to deliver them accordingly. I do extensive research on each theme to find anything I could possibly use for brainstorming ideas. For example, culture, food, demography and geography.
Peter Chua of 28 Hong Kong Street won with his Calypso's Mercy, made with dashes of absinthe and Japanese flavours.
How does a competition like this help you career-wise and on a personal level?
Diageo Reserve World Class is a reputable competition and program where world class bartenders from all over the globe vie for the top prize of being crowned Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year. It is a good platform for both up-and-coming bartenders and veterans to compete and learn during the process. Career-wise, it is an exceptional platform for me to gain exposure in the industry on a global level, and it’s an excellent learning journey. On a personal level, it gives me the opportunity to meet with new professionals in the field and learn from other competitors – because each bartender has strengths in different areas of the craft.
"The most beautiful thing about the Negroni is that a switch in any one of the ingredients to a spirit of a different distillery brings about a kaleidoscope of flavours."
What is your advice to anyone who wants to get serious about making good cocktails?
Start from the bottom and build a strong foundation by learning all the basics. When that has been accomplished, experiment, talk to other bartenders, read books, blogs and news on bartending, watch tutorials, attend seminars, drink, have fun and never stop learning.
What is your favourite cocktail?
Depending on my mood, I crave different libations. The Negroni is a simple combination of Tanqueray No. Ten gin, vermouth and Gran Classico bitter yet the flavours encapsulated in it are so complex and beautifully weaved in. The most beautiful thing about the Negroni is that a switch in any one of the ingredients to a spirit of a different distillery brings about a kaleidoscope of flavours.
What do you think of buzzwords like "mixology", "bespoke", "boutique" and "speakeasy" when it comes to describing cocktails and cocktail bars?
Although some bars and bartenders cringe at the thought of being labelled with some of these terms, I feel that they are a necessity for the general public to create some form of order in the chaos of this wonderful scene. These words give consumers and bartenders alike a way to categorise these bars and cocktails. I personally feel that such terms can create a little bit of unnecessary fuss when it comes to labelling us bartenders. At the end of the day, we are all barmen who strive to create wonderful drinks whilst entertaining our guests.
The holiday season is coming up, what are your recommendations for people looking to make some festive cocktails?
Research ingredients commonly associated with the festive season and be creative when applying them to drink making. For example instead of using cinnamon in baking cookies, you could make a cinnamon-based syrup to be used in your drink. Seeking inspiration from food commonly associated with the festive season is also an excellent idea.
28 Hong Kong Street | Address: 28 Hong Kong Street| Tel: 65332001 | Opening hours: Mon-Sat 5.30pm-late
A beer enthusiast first and a writer second, Kurt Ganapathy has tried more than 1,000 brews from 80 countries. Some of his most memorable exploits include tackling the one-time world's strongest beer – BrewDog's 41 per cent abv Sink The Bismarck! – and getting his name on the wall of an Irish pub in Melbourne for drinking 100 pints of Guinness (not in one sitting, of course).