Diageo Reserve - Cocktail and Conversations

Updated: 08 Jun 2014 | By:

Reporting back from Singapore for the South East Asia World Class Finals, Flavia Galeotti chats with the four Malaysian finalists to learn a little more about them and what makes them tick.

Yinying Leow
Can be found at: Marini’s @ 57
Bartending for: Just over a year

What is your signature drink?
I enjoy making an Old Fashioned. Most of the times the guests would comment that it’s nice, but I do get some nasty comments also. Overall I really enjoy making new drinks.

One of your weirdest stories from bartending?
I have a customer who comes regularly. He likes to drink, and he enjoys drinking cocktails, and he can stay from the beginning until closing. He has weird drink requests too, adding this and that…everything! He makes my shifts interesting with his funny requests.

What is one of the stranger recipes you’ve tried?
One of my ex-colleagues did a bacon infused whiskey. For me it’s a little bit weird because there’s the meat inside the drink, so I can’t accept it!

Where do you find the inspiration for your drinks?
In everything I see. Maybe I’ll walk into the kitchen and see something, and then it just hits me! Or I walk to the supermarket and I see something new, so I buy it and I try it. I like to experiment with fruits and herbs. Mostly local fruits, because I like to use local ingredients in my drinks.

What are your expectations for the competition?
Mostly gaining experience. It’s not about winning, it’s about the rush in the competition – making drinks and pushing yourself.

Thoughts from the end of the competition?
I think that being in this competition is more than competing. It’s more about knowing the people in the industry. It was really an honour I get to meet all the judges. I am really happy to see them in person! Besides, I got to know bartenders from around Asia, and some of the bartenders in Singapore who are really nice to us and helping us through. Not to forget the spirit of the Malaysian bartenders, Shirmy, Danny and Jeffri who also helped each other throughout the competition. I think it’s more about putting us together.

Shirmy Chan
Can be found at: Omakase + Appreciate
Bartending for: One year.

What is your signature drink?
In Omakase we change our menu regularly, so I don’t have a signature drink yet. But I think my only one was the one I created for the Mediterranean Challenge for the Malaysian World Class Competition last year. It had basil, cucumber, Solerno liquor, gin, lemon, sugar, and olive. It’s refreshing and savoury, which a few customers ask for.

One of your weirdest stories from bartending?
Some customers leave their drinks to the bartender’s decision, and they ask the bartenders for the flavours they want – like 100 Plus, or teh tarik, and sometimes even curry/tom yam taste. We try to achieve that flavour with our ingredients.

What is one of the stranger recipes you’ve tried?
Teh tarik was one of the strange ones, we achieved it by using rum, milk or condensed milk, with black tea.

Where do you find the inspiration for your drinks?
Through cuisine or the food I’ve eaten before. Or the places I’ve been to before. One inspiration I’m going to use is Nyonya cuisine for the Market Challenge, using a lot of hot spices and herbs with Chinese ingredients. I don’t know if it will work or not, but we’ll see!

What are your expectations for the competition?
I hope to win one challenge, at least! I have some creative ideas I’d like to present to the judges.

Thoughts from the end of the competition?
As Malaysia has no well grown cocktail or drinking culture, the opportunity to be involved in the SEA World Class in Singapore to share experiences among bartenders from different markets has opened up my vision that a bartender has possibility to go further. And of course, I appreciated and am glad that I had a chance to meet industry masters like Hidetsugu Ueno, Marian Beke, Dennis Tamse, Jeff Bell. The knowledge shared from them is very helpful for improving my skills.



Jeffri
Can be found at: Tate
Bartending for: Six or seven years, around there.

What is your signature drink?
At the moment I don’t have a signature recipe, but I do have a signature style: I like to combine gastronomy (food cuisine techniques) into my drinks. I take a more culinary approach to my drinks rather than the traditional bar method, and I play a lot with fruits, herbs, and spices, basically whatever’s edible I’ll try my best!

One of your weirdest stories from bartending?
I had a regular customer come in once, but on one particular night he was weirdly drunk. A couple of girls came in and he tried to court them, so he bought a bottle of Dom Pérignon Rosé and then said “Oh, I didn’t open that”. None of the bartenders argued with him because he was carrying a gun. We haven’t seen him since.

What is one of the stranger recipes you’ve tried?
I’ve tried pairing coffee with smoky items, but that’s not too weird. I’ve made drinks with beef bacon, a beetroot infusion with gin, and I have my own lemongrass gin that I’m selling at one of my outlets and that was a success.

Where do you find the inspiration for your drinks?
Cookbooks, shows with Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver – I find the way put ingredients together really creative, so I watch their shows to get more insight on how to pair flavours together.

What are your expectations for the competition?
I would like to win, but the bigger picture is the exposure I’m going to get, and bringing back this exposure to my job in Malaysia. It would really help me revamp menus and come up with new ideas for my other restaurants. That’s the most valuable knowledge I can gain here.

Thoughts from the end of the competition?
The competition has been a great experience, meeting so many industry experts and passionate individuals that share the same passion and motivation to produce their best. I’ve not just obtained an experience of a lifetime but more than that. I now have more new ideas and knowledge to sharpen my craft. I will be back for the 2015 heat.



Danny Azarya
Can be found at: Souled Out
Bartending for: Three years.

What is your signature drink?
The only signature drink I’ve made was from the Malaysian World Class competition last year called the Smoky Yellow Mellow. It came from my imagination. I used whiskey, and did all the preparation in just one shot. I never expected a good result actually, but I can say it’s my signature cocktail. It’s more to Oriental and Asian tastes where I used capsicum and rosemary infused in a pizza oven to get a reduction. Then I put some thyme leaves, a few drops of apple pie syrup, done in a confit style with a banana leaf.

One of your weirdest stories from bartending?
As bartenders we get requests for drinks that aren’t on the menu, so we had one customer who said to me “I was thinking to have a weird mojito”. I said to him “we have all these mojitos using fresh fruits, but as I’ve worked here I’ve never made a banana mojito”, and she said yeah! So I got the banana, the syrup, and I topped it with Prosecco instead of soda, and served it to her. She said it wasn’t too bad, and before she left she said we should put the mojito on the menu, and left me a tip. She had five or six glasses.

What is one of the stranger recipes you’ve tried?
I made margarita using Patron. They have the Patron XO coffee, so instead of using Kahlua I tried flavoured coffee infused with basil. It’s part of our menu now.

Where do you find the inspiration for your drinks?
I see whatever people do, I talk with them, whatever they share with me is inspiration. Everything I see, everything that I hear, everything I observe is all inspiration.

What are your expectations for the competition?
This is the first time I have joined something this big. Everyone wants to win, right? But for me, if I cannot win, the purpose for my coming here is to observe all these people and whoever is the winner at the end of the day I will observe them and try to implement their techniques so for the next Master Class challenge I can be as good as them.

Thoughts from the end of the competition?
For me personally, it was a good eye opener to explore more about beverages and bartending in this line. Whatever I experienced in SEA World Class will be always my learning curve to aim high, and I hope to compete again for the next coming Diageo Master World Class.

Tags: World Class