Diageo World Class Southeast Asia kicks off with a bang in Bali

Whoever said Singapore was not a country that bred creativity clearly wasn’t taking a good look at the bartending scene. Especially evident in the last few years, the cocktail scene in our little red dot has gone from strength to strength, taking top spot in the inaugural Asia’s 50 Best Bars and winning Diageo World Class Southeast Asia two years in a row.

This year at the finals in Bali, Singapore is being repped by Jigger & Pony, new bar Fresh and Fairmont Singapore’s Anti:Dote. The four bartenders are clearly at the top of their game, each taking a different approach to the competition.

Ultimately a great platform to share ideas, discover and create new cocktails, Diageo World Class Southeast Asia is a long competition, running over two days and comprising four challenges which each of the four contestants from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and guest country Taiwan will be graded and marked on.

At the end of the first day, Tom Hogan of Anti:Dote and Boo Jing Heng of Jigger & Pony emerged as Singapore’s top two finalist. We spoke to each bartender about their feelings in the competition so far.

Post image Related: A moment with … Steve Leong, Asian finalist for the Belvedere Challenge

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Tom Hogan, Anti:Dote

Relying on his background in art and musical theatre to calm his nerves, American Tom Hogan see’s competition like World Class as a platform to talk about drinks and to explore why these drinks are being talked about.

Having to create a cocktail that showcases a local flavour from Singapore, Hogan says he was honoured to be trusted with such a daunting task. His cocktail, which uses the common flavours of sugarcane and water chestnut was meant to showcase these tastes in a unique way.

Citing the speed round as probably the scariest part, Hogan says, “If I can make a connection from what’s happening on my side of the bar, to a judge or to the customer than that genuine aspect of myself will make me more comfortable. There’s always a level of anxiety that bartenders carry with them. That should always be there — because we should be wanting to make you the best cocktail, but we don’t know who you are. And that’s amplified in a competition like this.”

Anti:Dote, Level 1, 2 Stamford Rd, Singapore 189560, +65 6431 5315, www.fairmont.com
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Kino Soh, Fresh

The only woman in the Singapore contingent, Soh knew she’s in a unique to do something different, presenting her second cocktail for the challenge “A taste of home” dressed in the instantly-recognisable Singapore Girl flight attendant attire.

“Bartending is a very level playing field, no one is sexist, everyone is very welcoming,” she says of being one of the few women in the business. “But I knew this was something that none of the boys could do!”

This is Soh’s third time taking part in World Class but the first time she’s gotten so far. She’s quick to admit that this is a team effort, and is proud to be representing a new bar like Fresh where everyone has rallied together to help her prepare for the competition.

Fresh!, #02-01, 101 Jalan Sultan, Singapore 199002, +65 8828 7084, www.facebook.com/ohsofreshsg

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Boo Jing Heng, Jigger & Pony

Having competed last year, Boo is a natural storyteller with an undeniable personality the minute he steps behind the bar. His love of bartending stems from this very interaction which he believes is an even bigger part of the job than the cocktail.

Going into the competition, Boo found the local cocktail the most challenging, coming from a bar like Jigger & Pony that prides itself in its classic cocktails, it was the creation of something entirely new and home-related that was harder.

“The whole story I used of my mother making me red bean soup before my guest stint in Japan was true. So for me it’s really personal experiences that make for good inspiration.”

Jigger & Pony, 101 Amoy Street, Singapore 069921, +65 6223 9101, www.jiggerandpony.com

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Sin Kim Shin

Quiet and focused, Sin brings a different character to the bar with an interesting use of props and a quiet but confident demeanour. And while a good cocktail has to stand out, it’s also about keeping things simple and bringing the judges together into your performance. Something his twist on a classic cocktail called “Lucid Dream” clearly did.

Having competed last year, he found this year a more calming experience and believes it will make him a better bartender.

“In the F&B industry, everything is about the ‘wow’ experience and how people connect and recognise you for that. If you think something is funny and interesting you will drawn into it more.”

Jigger & Pony, 101 Amoy Street, Singapore 069921, +65 6223 9101, www.jiggerandpony.com