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The Bar Awards 2018: Top 10 bars in KL, and full schedule of events

The Bar Awards 2018: Top 10 bars in KL, and full schedule of events

The Bar Awards’ Top 10 lists of best bars and bartenders in Kuala Lumpur has been revealed, with the eventual winners to be revealed in an awards ceremony on Nov 25, the finale to a week-long programme of events (full schedule below).

Last year’s winner for Bar Of The Year, Coley Cocktail Bar, makes the list once more, alongside former winners JungleBird (2017’s Best New Bar) and Taps Beer Bar (2017’s Best Beer Bar), perennial favourites The Vault, 61 Monarchy, Hyde and PS150, as well as new entries into the KL bartending scene like Bar Trigona, Joloko and Pacific Standard Bar.

Bar Trigona of Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur leads the way in terms of total number of entries in the Top 10, with nine in total, followed by Coley with eight and JungleBird with seven.

Also, this year, for the first time ever, the awards have been extended to the Penang cocktail scene. Penang will get its own city-specific categories – Bartender of the Year and Bar of the Year, which will be voted on by a panel of Penang based judges.

Unlike other ceremonies in Malaysia, which tend to be popularity contests voted by the public, The Bar Awards are judged by a panel of professionals from the Malaysian F&B industry including bartenders, bar owners, restaurateurs, distributors, and members of the media.

Here are the Top 10 nominees in each category:

Bartender of the Year (Kuala Lumpur)

  • Alvin Nirmal George ‘Loco’ (Coley)
  • Angel Ng Ji (PS150, Thirsty Trio Trader)
  • Arsenio ‘Ash’ Mariano Jnr. (The Vault)
  • Ashish Sharma (Bar Trigona, Four Seasons KL)
  • David Hans (Three x Co)
  • Jason Julian (Soma)
  • Joshua Ivanovic (JungleBird)
  • Karl Too (Omakase + Appreciate)
  • Kho Chee Kheong (Coley, Pahit)
  • Shawn Chong (Omakase + Appreciate)

Bar of the Year (Kuala Lumpur)

  • 61 Monarchy
  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Coley Cocktail Bar
  • Hyde
  • Joloko
  • JungleBird
  • Pacific Standard Bar (Alila Bangsar)
  • PS150
  • Taps Beer Bar
  • The Vault

The Rising Star

  • Abel Sukau (Skullduggery)
  • Al Imran Ahmed (JungleBird)
  • Caden Chua Hui Chan (Coley)
  • Calzeno Clitus (W Kuala Lumpur)
  • Joe Ngui (Bar Trigona, Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Jordan Lim Jen Xian (Pahit)
  • Mahbub ‘Rusho’ Hasan (Beta)
  • Mitchell Raymond (Kenshin)
  • Sam Yap (Three x Co)
  • Yeo Zhen Yue (Hyde)

Best Restaurant Bar

  • Beta
  • Birch
  • Chocha Foodstore
  • Fuego
  • Joloko
  • Lavo
  • Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
  • Nadodi
  • Pincho’s Tapas Bar
  • The Locker & Loft

Best Beer Bar

  • Ales & Lagers
  • Bottle Haus
  • Brussels Beer Café
  • Delirium Café
  • Paus
  • Sid’s Pubs (All location)
  • Taps Beer Bar
  • The Beer Factory (All locations)
  • The Great Beer Bar
  • Uncle Don’s (All locations)

Best Wine Bar

  • Brasserie Fritz
  • Cellar 18
  • Chocha Foodstore
  • Dewakan
  • Joloko
  • Lavo
  • Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
  • Private Room
  • Sitka Studio
  • Vintry

Best Hotel Bar

  • Arthur’s Bar (Shangri-La Hotel)
  • Astor Bar (St Regis KL)
  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Chambers Bar (Hilton KL)
  • Mai Bar (Aloft KL Sentral)
  • Man Tao Bar (Hotel Stripes KL)
  • MO Bar (Mandarin Oriental KL)
  • Pacific Standard Bar (Alila Bangsar)
  • Sky Bar (Traders Hotel KL)
  • Vertigo (Banyan Tree KL)

Best Specialist Concept

  • 61 Monarchy (Whisky)
  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons KL) (Trigona Honey)
  • iPong (Themed)
  • Joloko (Mezcal)
  • JungleBird (Rum)
  • Los Flowerpacker (Vermouth)
  • Pahit (Gin)
  • The Deceased (Themed)
  • The Rum Bar (Rum)
  • The Whisky Bar (Whisky)

Best Hospitality Ambassador

  • Alvin Nirmal George “Loco” (Coley)
  • Ananda Ruben (Pacific Standard Bar, Alila Bangsar)
  • Andrew Tan (61 Monarchy, Hyde)
  • Angel Ng Ji (PS150, Thirsty Trio Trader)
  • Ashish Sharma (Bar Trigona, Four Seasons KL)
  • David Hans (Three x Co)
  • James Estes (Huckleberry Group, Jack Rose, Tequila Ocho)
  • Joshua Ivanovic (JungleBird)
  • Kho Chee Kheong (Coley, Pahit)
  • Shawn Chong (Omakase + Appreciate)

Best Hospitality Team

  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Coley Cocktail Bar
  • Joloko
  • JungleBird
  • Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
  • Pacific Standard Bar (Alila Bangsar)
  • Pisco Bar
  • PS150
  • The Vault
  • Three x Co

Most Creative Cocktail Program

  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Bar Zhen
  • Coley Cocktail Bar
  • JungleBird
  • Kenshin
  • Omakase + Appreciate
  • Pacific Standard Bar (Alila Bangsar)
  • PS150
  • The Deceased (Themed)
  • Three x Co

Best New Bar

  • Bar Shake
  • Bar Trigona (Four Seasons Hotel KL)
  • Bar Zhen
  • Beta
  • Joloko
  • Kenshin
  • Knowhere
  • Pacific Standard Bar (Alila Bangsar)
  • The Iron Fairies
  • Three x Co

Besides the above awards, there is also a special category called The Bar Awards Luminaries, presented to individuals or groups that have contributed to the growth and development of the Malaysian bar community. Winners will only be announced during the awards ceremony on Nov 25.

This year’s Bar Awards KL will also feature a week-long programme of bartending masterclasses and guests shifts by award-winning regional bars, among other activities. The following is the full programme of this year’s Malaysia edition of The Bar Awards. All events are open to public, unless stated otherwise.

Wednesday, Nov 21

  • Quinary Masterclass feat. Antonio Lai (The Cabinet, 3pm)
  • The Bar Awards Opening Party (Coley Cocktail Bar, 6pm) – The traditional opening party for the Bar Awards will feature bartenders from award winning bars in Bangkok (Rabbit Hole, Vesper, Maggie Choo’s and The Iron Fairies), Singapore (Jigger & Pony, Manhattan), Manila (ABV) and Hong Kong (Quinary), as well as the brand ambassadors for Diplomatico rum (Sai Charan) and Perrier (Francesco Moretti).

Thursday, Nov 22

  • Angostura Masterclass feat. Daniyel Jones (Coley, 2pm)
  • Masterclass: Opening A New Bar – Secrets to Success feat. Indra Kantono (owner of Jigger & Pony) (Skullduggery, 3pm)
  • Diplomatico Rum Pop Up by Sai Charan (Bar Trigona, 8pm)
  • Mixology Madness (Skullduggery, 8pm) – Featuring bartenders from Arrack & Spice (Jakarta), ABV (Manila), Jigger & Pony (Singapore) and Vesper (Bangkok).
  • Angostura Pop Up feat. Daniyel Jones (Omakase + Appreciate, 9pm)
  • Fico Group (Maggie Choo’s & The Iron Fairies Bangkok) Pop Up (Three X Co, 9pm)
  • The Bar Awards On Tour – Penang (Golden Shower by Chin Chin, 8pm) –  Featuring Francesco Moretti (Perrier Brand Ambassador), and guests shifts by Manhattan (Singapore), Quinary (Hong Kong), Rabbit Hole (Bangkok), all 2018 Bars of the Year in their respective countries.

Friday, Nov 23

  • Rum Masterclass (JungleBird, 2pm) – Come learn about rum with Diplomatico rum brand ambassador Sai Charan.
  • ABV Pop Up (Birch, 8pm)
  • Arrack & Spice Pop Up (Jack Rose, 8pm)
  • Jigger & Pony Pop Up (Pahit, 8pm)
  • Fico Group (Maggie Choo’s & The Iron Fairies Bangkok) and Iron Balls gin Pop Up (Coley, 8pm)
  • Fine & Rare Rum Launch feat. Sai Charan (JungleBird, 8pm)
  • Quinary Pop Up (Bar Trigona, 8pm)
  • Francesco Moretti (Perrier Brand Ambassador) Pop Up (The Pawn Room, 8pm)
  • The Secret Mermaid (Singapore) Pop Up (The Cabinet, 8pm)
  • Vesper Pop Up (Joloko, 8pm)
  • Angostura Pop Up feat. Daniyel Jones (Three X Co, 9pm)

Saturday, Nov 24

  • Mumm Sabrage & Food Pairing Session (ticketed event) (Mr Chew’s Chino Latino Bar & Restaurant, 7pm)
  • Fico Group (Maggie Choo’s & The Iron Fairies Bangkok) and Iron Balls gin Pop Up (The Locker & Loft, 8pm)
  • Adam Westbrook Pop Up (Pahit, 8pm)
  • Francesco Moretti Pop Up (The Rum Bar, 8pm)
  • The Secret Mermaid (Singapore) Pop Up (JungleBird, 8pm)
  • Tropic City (Bangkok) Pop Up (Skewer Bar, 9pm)
  • Quinary Pop Up (PS150, 9pm)
  • The Bar Awards Nightcap (exclusive F&B industry only) (Omakase + Appreciate, 1am)

Sunday, Nov 25

  • Go Local with Giffard (RSVP only: info@thebarawards.com, 12pm)
  • Amaro Di Angostura VERSUS Cocktail Competition Finals (The Iron Fairies, 12pm)
  • The Bar Awards Party (exclusive invite for F&B industry only) (APW @ Bangsar, 6pm)
  • The Bar Awards After Party (JungleBird, 10pm)

Wednesday, Nov 28

  • Perrier Wrap Up Party, feat. TBA founder Tron Young and Mattman Joseph (Coppersmith @ Troika, 8pm)

For more information, visit the Bar Awards Facebook page or download the full calender here.

Why is Japanese bartending so revered around the world?

Why is Japanese bartending so revered around the world?

Some people get excited over concerts by popular singers. Me? I get excited when legendary bartenders come to town. And when it comes to legendary bartenders, a name that is high on my list is Hidetsugu Ueno, one of the best-known Japanese bartenders in the world.

Ueno is the owner of Bar High Five in Tokyo, and is famous for his expert techniques, which include his signature ice diamond carving and also his famed White Lady classic cocktail.

The 43-year-old bartender was recently in town for a guest shift at Coley Cocktail Bar, as part of the #FindTheLockerRoom bartender collective, along with Colin Chia of Singapore’s Nutmeg & Clove and Nick Wu of Taipei’s East End.

During an interview the day after the guest shift, I took the opportunity to ask Ueno about the Japanese style of bartending, and why it is so renowned worldwide.

What is unique about the Japanese style of bartending?

I’m not sure about unique. It may be unique for the rest of the world, but in Japan, it’s just old-school bartending that has been done for many years. We don’t think it’s unique in any way, because we’ve been doing it for years and years and years, and it’s just what we have to do every day.

Then why is Japanese bartending so famous?

Because we do it in a very different way. Japan is an isolated country that was not influenced by the outside world for many years, so we developed our own style.

Japanese bartenders also don’t travel out of the country because they don’t speak any other languages.

Also, the Japanese bartending style is more master-and-apprentice type of work. Usually you would work for someone and they would become your mentor or master.

What is the first thing you tell young bartenders who start working for you?

Before learning, I tell them it is more important to learn how to make conversation with customers. I don’t have a menu in my bar, so guests have to tell the bartender what they like, and ask questions.

It’s like playing catch ball – the customer asks a question, and I have to throw it back in the right place.

But the younger generation of bartenders now just throw the ball anywhere they want and say whatever they want to say, and don’t answer the question. I always tell them, answer the question first, and then you talk about what you want to talk about.

If we don’t play catch properly, the customer will think that this bartender doesn’t understand what I want. So the conversation is very important.

Ueno says one of the first things a bartender should learn is how to make good conversation with customers. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

Ueno says one of the first things a bartender should learn is how to make good conversation with customers. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

So a bartender’s job is more than just making drinks?

For me, making drinks is just part of our skill. Of course, our drinks have to be good. But I never hear people talking about the drinks first. They always talk about the atmosphere, the bartenders, and then they talk about the drink. The drink never comes first. Atmosphere, conversation skills … all these come first.

Me, I prefer a bar with so-so drinks but nice bartenders, rather than a great drink but not so nice bartenders!

I don’t want to go to a place where they are not nice to me, even if the drinks are great!

I don’t drink alcohol, or rather, I don’t drink cocktails. I usually just drink whisky, which I can get anywhere. So why should I drink it at a place where you are not nice to me?

So, it’s very important to be a nice person before being a good bartender.

Why do you think you are so famous all over the world now?

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I used to live in the United States as an exchange student, where I learnt to speak English, and I was lucky enough to work for someone I could trust, Mr Hisashi Kishi from Star Bar (in Tokyo).

Then I opened my bar, and people started asking me to go and judge competitions, because they usually need someone from Asia. But most bartenders in Japan don’t speak English and don’t care about what happens outside of Japan. So I was very lucky. If I didn’t learn to speak English, I wouldn’t be here!

Japanese barteners tend to have a very good foundation of classic cocktails like the Martini. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

Japanese bartenders tend to have a very good foundation of classic cocktails like the Martini. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang

Bar High Five has consistently been named one of the world’s best bars. How do you feel about that?

All those awards, I don’t really care about them. I’m not working for awards. I’m working for the customers.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that these awards exist, because it is good motivation for the bartending industry in other countries.

But in Japan, we have a mature cocktail culture, and we don’t need all these awards. It brings business, yes, but usually tourists who just want to check out one of the world’s 50 best bars.

I don’t like the kind of customer who just comes to my bar because he wants to post about it on social media, and doesn’t really enjoy my bar. For me, 90 minutes is the minimum time you need to spend in my bar to have the full experience.

Ninety minutes? Why so specific?

If you want to want to enjoy the whole experience, the drinks on the side, making conversation, then you need 90 minutes at least. It doesn’t matter how many drinks you order – you could have one drink and spend 90 minutes there, I don’t care. But if it’s just one drink and 15 minutes, then you only see part of our hospitality.

Bars in Japan are usually very quiet, enjoyable, calming and relaxing. In my bar, you are not allowed to stand, and I don’t take a party that is bigger than four. My bar is very small, and usually big groups don’t really appreciate the drinks, talking to each other and getting too loud.

So making sure the customer has a good experience is more important than making money?

End of the day, money is important, of course, because we still need to make a living. But we also need the courage to NOT serve cocktails to customers. For instance, if someone has too much to drink, I will stop serving him.

You are well known for a cocktail called the White Lady (made with gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and egg white). How did that come about?

For Japanese bartenders, it’s very important to have one of the very popular classic cocktails as a signature. We have bartenders who are called Mr Martini, Mr Gimlet, Mr Sidecar … I was lucky enough to get the White Lady as my signature cocktail.

Of course, I can make many different drinks, if you don’t like gin, I won’t make you the White Lady! I never push my signature cocktail.

You also travel a lot overseas. Do you learn anything from your travels?

I don’t learn anything from overseas, because I’m not interested in what’s happening overseas. I go overseas to share my knowledge and about what’s happening in Japan. If I try to learn something overseas, they wouldn’t be interested in me anymore! I’m following the typical Japanese traditional bartending style, that’s why they ask me to come. If I’m doing other things, they won’t want me!

Michael Cheang is still star-struck from meeting Ueno-san. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.

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