May 12, 2020
Everyone is cooking right now, except for me. I’ve never had the patience—nor the skill—to put together anything more than a stir fry or a pot of popcorn. I will, however, take an absurd amount of time cutting a lemon twist for my martini. There is something emotionally nourishing and almost religious about ending the day with a proper drink. Or, that’s what I like to tell myself, anyway.
I’ve become acutely aware of what’s in my home bar and the combinations I can create in my Ikea-bought shaker. But more than 40 days into lockdown, I’ve exhausted my go-to drink recipes. So, I decided to catch up with a few of Asia’s most discerning bartenders to see how their lives have changed since the pandemic, and what they have been drinking while cooped up at home.
NOTE: The bar industry has been one of the most severely affected sectors throughout this pandemic. Despite the reopening of bars in Hong Kong, or the lifting of the alcohol-sales ban in Thailand, the damage done the past few months will take a long time to recover from. Here are a few ways you can help from home:
— Purchase an e-voucher to use later. In Hong Kong, you can easily buy vouchers through Save Hong Kong F&B, an alliance of more than 600 restaurants and bars fighting to save their businesses. Through their site, 100% of your payment goes directly to the establishment as opposed to a third-party provider.
— If you are based in Singapore and pick up your takeaway booze directly from the bar, consider using Wheels On The Bar, an online platform hoping to connect bars to a wider audience of stay-home customers and provide island-wide delivery that won’t take away from the bar’s profits.
“In all honesty, I am not a huge fan of drinking at home, so, if I am imbibing, it’ll be something quick, easy to make, and low ABV—like an Americano. Plus, low-to-no ABV drinks are pretty trendy in the industry right now.
However, I do own a rum bar, so naturally, I like a little rum every now and then and always have a bottle on hand. Since coconuts are readily available in Malaysia, I’ll mix the fruit’s water with rum for a very thirst-quenching drink. I prefer Diplomatico Planas for its lovely tropical notes, which marries well with the coconut water. Add a squeeze of lime for a bit of zing.
Since lockdown, my bar, JungleBird, has started to offer cocktail delivery service. We were able to offer a menu of our house favorites and later a bit of food, as well. The orders have been enough to keep me busy for a few hours a day, and have helped keep business afloat so that we can retain our staff—they are the most important part of any business and we didn’t want to have to lose any of them. The free time has also allowed me the time to reach out to all my friends and family back in the UK. Not to mention lots of time for Netflix and YouTube.”
25ml – Sweet vermouth (any brand)
25ml – Campari
Pour into a tall glass over lots of ice then top with soda and garnish with an orange slice.
Rum and Coconut
30ml – Diplomatico Planas
100ml – Fresh coconut water
Pour ingredients into a tall glass with lots of ice. Use a lime wedge to garnish.
Ronnaporn “Neung” Kanivichaporn
Backstage Cocktail Bar, #FindTheLockerRoom, #FindThePhotoBooth
“Lots of people have been drinking more wine since lockdown because it’s more than half a liter of alcohol and doesn’t require much effort. But if you can’t finish a bottle before it becomes oxidized, now definitely doesn’t feel like a good time to toss out any booze. Budgets have been tightened and, like in Thailand’s case, alcohol sales are sporadic.
So what I’ve been doing is taking what’s left in a bottle after a few days and using it to make a wine spritz. Not to mention the fact that it’s peak hot season in Thailand and a spritz is perfectly refreshing and tasty.”
White Wine Spritz
Leftover white wine
Pour equal parts of each ingredient into a glass with ice. Add any fruit for some extra flavor.
“Having been a traveling bartender for a few years now, I’ve purchased a few tasty spirits whenever I chanced upon them around the world. Even better, if the Gods of Intoxication smile upon me, I’ll be gifted a bottle as a parting gift after a guest shift. This accumulated collection of bottles has proven incredibly useful during this lockdown. Currently, I am polishing off a bottle of 2002 Pura Sangre Añejo Tequila Cactus Edition that was generously given to me by the brand’s owner Enrique Fonseca when I paid a visit to his ranch back in 2016. My go-to cocktail at home has been a simple Diplomático Old Fashioned made with Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva, brown sugar syrup and chocolate and lavender bitters. Old Fashioneds are great as you can pre-match them and keep them in the fridge for whenever you are parched.
Needless to say, this lockdown has affected my work life quite a bit. However, I’ve been keeping busy looking after my health, creating social-media content and hosting online cocktail masterclasses for Diplomático rum, who I work as Asia ambassador for, and thinking of new flavor combinations to play with when this thing blows over.”
Diplomático Old Fashioned
50ml – Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva Rum
2.5ml – Brown sugar syrup (1:1)
2 dashes – Chocolate bitters
1 dash – Lavender bitters
Stir all the ingredients together and pour over a glass with ice. Garnish with orange zest.
The Old Man
“I’ve used lockdown as a time to adjust and get working on myself. I’m pushing myself to start to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes, I have been able to catch up with old friends now that everyone is at home, and, like everyone else, I’ve been cooking! But, I do miss the social part of being in the bar—great conversations with friends and customers— even being very busy making drinks. Also, I miss taking shots with colleagues!
I imagine not everyone has a very well-stocked home bar for making cocktails, so I recommend making a lemon gimlet. You can use citrus to make a cordial, which is an ingredient that can suit many spirits. Plus, this cocktail is not as strong as a martini and is very refreshing. It’s already getting hot in Hong Kong!”
50ml – Vodka
20ml – Lemon cordial (see below)
2 drops – Orange bitters
Garnish with lemon peel
How to make lemon cordial
Take the peels of two lemons, weight it with equal grams of sugar.
Mix sugar and lemon peels well then leave in the refrigerator overnight.
Add the juice of one lemon. Mix well, and then strain.
Mitchell “Kai” Lum
Southeast Asia Brand Ambassador for Bacardi
“The cocktail I’m making at home is the Haole. It’s light, refreshing, and perfect as an aperitivo drink. The ingredients are not difficult to find, and most can easily be added to your online supermarket basket. It’s the BACARDI Legacy 2016 Thailand winning cocktail—and ‘Top 8’ in the world that year.
While this is a difficult time for every member of the bar industry, I think we as a community will come out of this even stronger. I believe we’ve seen and will continue seeing a spark of resilience and creativity that will pave the way for a new generation of drink programs, deliveries, and bars.”
45ml – Bacardi Carta Blanca light rum
10ml – Martini Bianco vermouth
15ml – Pineapple sugar syrup
20ml – Freshly squeezed lemon juice
90ml – Thomas Henry Ginger Ale
Shake the first four ingredients with ice and strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Top it off with ginger ale, stir and serve.