When searching for a must-try cocktail, we think there’s no better person to ask for a recommendation than a bartender. We speak to some of the world’s top mixologists, who are here for the Singapore Cocktail Festival, to share about the one drink that has made a lasting impression on them.
“The best cocktail I’ve ever had was the Negroni Sbagliato at Bar Basso in Milan. It’s the legendary spot where the drink was invented. The concoction of vermouth, prosecco and Campari, served in a giant glass over a huge ice cube, is delicious. The overall atmosphere, design and people made the experience even more memorable.”
About Alex Kratena
Kratena is the former head bartender of Artesian, number one for the fourth consecutive year at the World’s 50 Best Bars. He left his post in 2015 to join P(our), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve the global drinks industry through sharing new ideas, knowledge and inspiration. Alex has been featured in Creators list 2016 as one of the 40 most influential individuals shaping the future of the global bar industry.
Head bartender and owner, Bar Benfiddich
“I was born in Chichibu in Japan, a place known for its whisky. I made and distilled absinthe there and would make my very own Sazerac with my homemade concoction. Honestly those were the best cocktails I've ever had. I would usually have it in winter and sip it right by a bonfire.”
About Hiroyasu Kayama
Kayama helms one of the top bars in Japan, ranked 21 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars. His typical tools in creating his signature drinks include a mortar and pestle and his ingredients span nature’s best botanicals to a 20-litre tank of pressurised gas.
His dream is to open an absinthe distillery but for now, he makes do with a counter-top still and jars of home-grown wormwood, angelica, anise and fennel. He also makes his own quasi Campari, coloured the old-fashioned way—with the blood of crushed bugs.
Director, Woo Taipei
"It would have to be an espresso martini made by the legendary Dick Bradsell. I had it when I celebrated my birthday at El Camion in London’s Soho. This near-perfect cocktail was created with simple ingredients, but everything about it was creative and great-tasting. It was also made by the master himself, so that’s an experience I will never forget.”
About Mark Huang
Huang, director of Woo-Taipei and On The Table started out bartending at watering holes Mod, Mod Sequel and Marquee in Taiwan. He received top honours at the Diageo World Class Taiwan in 2009 and 2011, and was the champion of the Diageo World Class Global 2011. The charming bartender contributes to GQ’s mixology column and has been invited to guest bartend across Asia, in cities like Shanghai, Bali and Seoul.
Owner and Head Bartender, Alice
“This is a tough question. I would say the best cocktail I had was the earl grey martini, made by Antonio Lai at Quinary in Hong Kong. I had this drink five years ago and it really impressed me. The earl grey martini had a base of citrus vodka, Cointreau, some citrus juice, and was served with earl grey caviar and earl grey foam. The texture was beautiful; there are no words to describe its flavour and elegant presentation.”
About Terry Kim
Kim was the former bartender at The Griffin Bar at the JW Marriott Dongdaemun Square Seoul and the JJ Mahoney's at the Grand Hyatt Seoul before creating his own establishment. The dapper bartender-owner is also winner of the Best Bartender title by the Korea Bartenders' Guild in 2015 and 2016. Additionally, he won second place for the Diageo World Class Reserve 2012 in South Korea.
Head Bartender, Q&A
“One of the best cocktails I've ever had was not served in a bar, but during the final round of the La Maison Cointreau Asia competition in Phuket. There was a punch-making challenge and the contestants were told to make something on the spot.
We were all in the middle of nowhere, and there was only a bunch of fruits, various ingredients and rum to play with. A bartender from Australia (I think his name was Josh) came up with this top-notch rum punch with watermelon, passionfruit and vanilla. I really can't remember the name of his drink, but it was absolutely delicious.”
About Attapon De-Silva
De-Silva is a self-taught mixologist who started bartending at 19. He started out at Sripoom Espresso Bar before making a name for himself at Seven Spoons and Sugar Ray. He calls himself a dream maker and is renowned for his mixology skills in Bangkok. De-Silva is also a consultant mixologist for some of the city’s best bars.
Head Bartender, ABV
"The best drink I've ever had was the very first decent daiquiri made by my friend. I had it three years ago and it was just made with white rum, simple syrup and lime juice. It was so good that every time I drink a daiquiri (which, by the way, has become my go-to drink ever since), the memory of that very first daiquiri still lingers."
About Lester Ligon
Ligon is the winner of the 2016 Whisky Live Manila Cocktail Competition. Renowned for his extravagant creations including the original Eastern-style, bespoke cocktails he serves at ABV, he was recognised as a finalist in the 2016 Diageo World Class South East Asian Challenge.
Photos courtesy of Singapore Cocktail Festival