Contenders from the region impress at this year’s Asia Pacific and ASEAN Bartender of the Year competitions.
The Asia Pacific Bartender of the Year Cocktail Competition (APCC), presented by the Singapore Hotel Association and organised by the Association of Bartenders & Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS), is typically one of the more raucous events of the F&B calendar. No surprise when it’s the culmination of the week-long Elite Bartenders Course-JWC Asia 2018 (formerly known as the John Whyte course) and gathers some of the region’s best bartenders in one place.
Held on 29 August at Furama Riverfront Hotel, this year’s edition was even more exciting with the addition of the ASEAN Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHRA) ASEAN Bartenders Championship category.
The show got off the ground with the presentation of two Excellence awards for the Elite course. The Tiger Beer Best Student Award went to Nicola Giacomazzo of Italy while the Eagle Award (for best potential) went to Ray Mak of Hong Kong. Next, the four ASEAN Bartenders Championship of the Year finalists—Tan Hun Keat, Hilton KL; Mohd Hafiz Bin Abdul Hisham, SkyBar,Traders Hotel KL; Sylvester Foo, Renku Bar & Lounge, Marina Bay Sands Singapore; and Gip Phimalay Xengthip from Laos—took to the floor, preparing their cocktails from a sponsors’ product list. Singapore’s Foo took home the award with his Garden ‘Citea’ Sling, made with The Botanist Islay dry gin, Cointreau, Monin flower blossom syrup, Monin lemon rantcho syrup and Dilmah rose mint tea.
Working at Renku Bar & Lounge for a little over a year and with Cé La Vi Singapore previously, Foo was a last-minute participant in the contest. “I was attending the Elite Bartenders Course when I was told that a Singaporean contestant had pulled out of the ASEAN Bartender Competition,” he says. “I was asked if I was interested to take part. I was shocked that such an opportunity came to me. I had only seven hours to prepare a brand new recipe, the ingredients and bar equipment. I was really surprised to make it to the finals and eventually win.”
Sharing the inspiration behind his cocktail, Foo says, “Singapore is commonly referred to as a Garden City. The beauty of Gardens by the Bay, just a stone’s throw from Renku Lounge, inspired me to use ingredients like Dilmah’s rose & mint tea, and Monin’s flower blossom syrup. The Botanist Islay dry gin is a natural choice because of its 22 hand foraged botanicals and slow distillation which brings a lot of complexity and elegance to the cocktail.”
Next up, the four finalists of the APCC-cocktail segment—Warren Cabada of The Lounge, Conrad Macao; Chiu Yi-Ju from Taiwan; Jessie Ray Clasicas of Grand Hyatt Manila; and Fumiyoshi Yokoyama of Bar 4 Seasons, Japan—strutted their stuff. Warren Cabada and his Ginja Martini concoction, comprising Skyy vodka, Ginja D’Obidos sour cherry liqueur, Campari, Twinings peach tea and lemon juice, came up tops.
Finally, it was the APCC-flair-tending segment everyone was waiting for, appraising contestants on their showmanship and flavour of cocktail. Taiwanese defending champion Li Ting-Yan reprised his Marvel Comics superhero Deadpool persona. But this time, dropping a few canisters marred an otherwise entertaining performance. In turn, the Japanese and Hong Kong contestants gave it their all, but Shallum Recto from Fat Prince Singapore triumphed in the end, impressing the crowd with his nimbleness, precision, and lively performance in making his Remy’s Twine cocktail.
Says Recto of his win, “I feel like I won a million bucks. When I woke up the next day, I still couldn’t believe that I nailed it.” This is actually his second time taking part in the competition, having emerged 1st runner up in APCC 2016. ” I re-evaluated my performance and changed my strategy in preparing for this year’s competition. I carefully curated my competition music mix, improved my routine and practiced endlessly. It took me almost a year to finalise my theme and everything that goes well with it.”
On how he conceptualised his performance and cocktail, he says, “I live by one rule: you can either be super handsome or you can be a super funny person. So I chose wisely and became very funny and bubbly and just myself on stage. No pressure just like it’s my birthday and I’m doing a show for everyone. For the concoction I created, I played around with the flavours using the sponsor spirit I picked. I also related it to what best describes when tasting the drink: complex, fun, flavourful with a good finish! Just like me! Full of awe, wit and energy! Making sure everyone’s laughing their hearts out, giving just pure good vibes!”
To round off the night, the popular Tiger Beer speed beer-bottle opening competition took place to much fanfare. It was a tight match between the final two, Meynard Silfavan of the Philippines and Goh Mei Lian of Singapore, with the former cutting a close finish.
Congrats to all the bartenders who came up tops, and for those who didn’t, better luck next year!