Bartending has traditionally been a male-dominated industry. Have you had to adapt?
In terms of what I need to be able to perform professionally, being a woman in bartending doesn’t make me feel different – I enjoy talking with guests to understand their preferences in flavours and spirits, and even their mood, so that I can create a cocktail that really impresses them. I’m not a very ladylike person, so I’m still me, but I’m more outgoing compared to before I became a bartender.
What do you think of Hong Kong’s cocktail scene?
I think it’s getting much better because now people are going to bars for good cocktails, rather than just wine, as they did previously. Also, having different channels like websites and social media makes it easier for customers to find where the best bartenders and bars are, so we as an industry have to stay competitive.
Which are your favourite cocktail bars in Hong Kong?
Well Flint is great, obviously! I like the Lobster Bar [at the Island Shangri-La], it’s probably my favourite. I also like Aqua and Post 97, and The Woods is pretty cool, too.
Which spirits and liquors do you like working with?
I love working with rum, it’s my favourite spirit. I like the natural sweetness of it, and it’s also got a lot of character. Also, the wide range of rum that’s available means I can use it to enhance the complexity of a cocktail. Dark rums give a good caramalised flavour; Bacardi Oakheart spiced rum has hints of orange, clove, and cinnamon; and barrel-aged rum is very smooth and complex. Other spirits, like vodka, can easily be lost in a cocktail, but because of its strong character, you can always tell when you’re drinking a rum cocktail.
What’s your process when you create new cocktails? Do you do a lot of experimenting?
When I experiment with cocktails, I usually pick one main ingredient, like fig, then choose other ingredients that complement it and play with proportions until I find something that works. I’ll usually test it on my colleagues to get their opinions as well. I like to use a lot of homemade ingredients, so you’ll usually find those in my cocktails.
Where do you find inspiration?
Sometimes, it comes from a song. At other times, I can be inspired by a movie. I’ve even created cocktails I enjoy from ingredients I would normally avoid! For example, I hate coriander, but I used coriander and ginger in a cocktail once, and I ended up loving it. In Other Words [her signature cocktail, pictured] was inspired by [jazz standard] Fly Me to the Moon. I wanted to create something romantic. So I started with fig, then chose honey because the two ingredients marry well, and then added different ingredients until I found the combination of Bacardi Superior, Martini Rosso, lemon juice, and egg white for the foam.
Bartenders see a lot from behind the bar. Do you have any crazy stories to tell?
I’ve seen so many guests come in that seem totally normal at first then a few drinks in, they end up saying or doing some crazy things. I once had a guest come in and after a few cocktails, he actually proposed to me, saying he wanted me to go back to his country with him! I asked him if he wanted some water instead.
You’re participating in the Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition this year. Why is this important for you?
The competition is a great opportunity for me to challenge myself, and for me to create my very own cocktail which could be appreciated globally. It’s also great exposure for my cocktails as I get to go out and promote them, which allows me to broaden my horizons and meet customers from different walks of life. The competition itself is great because it really encourages local bartenders to get creative with their cocktails and encourages them to think beyond the bar they work in.