There’s nobody whose opinion you should trust about booze more than your local bartender. And if they’re of the Four Seasons, award-winning camp? Even better.
Fresh from their triumphant accolades at the recent Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards held in Bangkok, the bartenders from Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts across Asia share a little something about themselves, the award-winning bars and local recommendations.
It has been a fantastic year for the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Asia. Not only have they established the brand as a destination hotel for some of the best bar experiences in the world, they have showed their true mettle by scooping a slew of awards and industry’s recognition at the recently concluded Asia’s 50 Best Bars.
Bringing the best in hospitality to the bar table, each of these hotel bars are bringing more than just a great cocktail but a creative narrative that is interlaced with novelty, sustainability and expressive elements. Each sip is a result of laborious experiments, and years of practice — each one of them charged with passion and lots of soul for their craft.
From Keith Motsi from Charles H in Seoul and Philip Bischoff from BKK Social Club in Bangkok, to Hong Kong’s own Lorenzo Antinori at ARGO, which came third in Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 edition, we ask the Four Seasons’ bartenders from across Asia for an insider’s scoop into the local bar scene in their respective cities.
An Interview With Four Seasons Bartenders Across Asia:
Originally from Rome, Lorenzo runs ARGO at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and is the current Beverage Ambassador for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Asia Pacific. At ARGO, it is more that just an experience but a sensorial journey that is paired with immaculate design elements. The bar itself is a statement, with plenty to offer.
Q: What’s unique about ARGO?
A: We are excited to share our program, which celebrates innovation in the world of spirits-making through our selection of cocktails. While the beverage program has a lot of depth, we always aim to create a fun and upbeat atmosphere with great soundtracks as well as a friendly and personal hospitality.
Q: What drinks to order from ARGO?
A: For first timers, try the ARGO Martini. Quintessentially ARGO, this martini marries our excitement for curiosity and collaboration, It’s an experimentation of dilution and aromatic waters, featuring seasonally-rotating hydrofoils to add unexpected notes of freshness, brightness, savouriness and surprise. For cheap drunks, take a shot of tequila!
For heavyweights, a Single Origin Negroni followed by a Skynet Old Fashion should do the trick. The Single Origin Negroni comprises en entire cocoa bean — husk, pod, and nibs — forming the building blocks for the bold, bitter flavour profile in this Negroni. Malaysia’s Chocolate Concierge provides the exceptional beans behind this drink, with each lot being traceable to the date and location of harvest. The Skynet Old Fashioned on the other hand celebrates the nuances of vanilla. As natural vanilla becomes harder to cultivate, we turn to vanillin to replicate its flavour. This drink’s key spirit wasn’t aged in a barrel but born from molecular mapping that recreated the same vanillin-centric warmth of wood sugars — a classic cocktail refashioned with a future-driven whiskey.
Q: Local recommendations in Hong Kong?
A: I personally always enjoy Mizunara The Library when I want to have some quiet time and great cocktails. For a more upbeat evening, I frequent The Diplomat, COA and Honky Tonks.
Julian Benjamin Brigget
Born and raised in Malaysia, Julian recalls his affinity for hospitality thanks to his mother who was a hotelier. From pursuing hotel management to joining the Four Seasons fraternity, Julian is currently the Assistant Bar Manager at Bar Trigona that is located on the 6th floor of Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur; also the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia. The bar overlooks Petronas Twin Towers and its vicinity, with fantastic view of the sunset — take it from us, the golden hour here is magical.
Q: What’s unique about Bar Trigona?
A: As you enter the bar, you’ll be greeted by a warm smile and be instantly transported into the heart of luxury and glamour. We always do a full introduction of our menu to every guest who walks into our bar. At the same time, we will highlight the ingredients we are proudly using including the Trigona honey, our homemade kombuchas, and innovative syrup concoctions. At the recent Asia’s 50 Best Bar, we also won the Siete Misterios Best Cocktail Menu Award for outstanding innovation, storytelling and sustainability in our cocktail menu — that is something we continue to celebrate everyday too.
Q: What drinks to order from Bar Trigona?
A: For first timers, go for something light, refreshing and citrusy like an aperitivo-style cocktail. For heavyweights, we would suggest our stronger drinks including Serenity and our classic, the Trigona Old Fashioned. For cheap drunks, shots maybe?
Q: Local recommendations in Kuala Lumpur?
A: For Bar Trigona’s friends and family, we’d always recommend them to visit Junglebird, Three X Co, Coley, Reka, BAC, PS150, Concubine and Frank’s Bar. If you’re looking for a bar with a fantastic view, I’d suggest Marini’s on 57 or Wet Deck at W Hotel Kuala Lumpur.
Known as Gab among his peers, Gabriel Carlos began his journey when he had a brush with bartending as part of his school curriculum in college. Today, he lends his effervescent personality as Beverage Manager of One-Ninety Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Singapore.
Q: What’s unique about One-Ninety Bar?
A: One-Ninety Bar is an escape from the hustle and bustle of Singapore, with a welcoming, lush outdoor garden and an elegant yet sophisticated indoor bar — both perfect for socials. The cocktail selection is a journey into the world of botanicals highlighting flavours like pandan, osmanthus, roselle, and more. Besides an exciting repertoire of creative botanical cocktails, our bar bites are also similarly inspired.
Q: What drinks to order from One-Ninety Bar?
A: For first timers, it’s definitely the Theatrum Botanicum that is a take of a gin fizz with additional layers of herbs elegantly paired with Archipelago Botanical Gin. The flavour and presentation of the drink is entirely inspired by the garden ambience of the hotel. For heavyweights, the Espresso Negroni will be the perfect choice especially for those who are into spirit-forward drinks. The gin is cold-infused with coffee beans for 24 hours to extract the aroma, giving an additive ‘oomph’ and hint of smokiness.
Q: Local recommendations in Singapore?
A: Native Bar is a place I visit for inspiration. The cocktails there are extremely creative, highlighting the local ingredients and flavours through and through. Additionally, they just opened their restaurant which is as highly creative and flavourful as their cocktails.
Keith is from Zimbabwe and currently holds the position of Head Bartender at Charles H, based in Seoul, South Korea. At the recent Asia’s 50 Best Bars event, Keith also snatched the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2022 — one of the greatest honour in the industry. As one of the first hotel speakeasies in the city, Charles H. Is all about transporting you on an adventure as its namesake was an advocate of great storytelling filled with an adventurous spirit. At the same time, Keith and his team always strive to provide the best Korean hospitality to their guests.
Q: What’s unique about Charles H.?
A: From the arrival experience all the way through the service and decor, everything is about a sense of escapism here. Once you arrived, you never want to leave. We want to transport you to a foreign place while being grounded by the Korean traditional artwork and its cultural nuances through the atmosphere and elegant drinks. The best and most hospitable team also makes the Charles H. experience thoroughly unique as well.
Q: What drinks to order from Charles H.?
A: If it’s your first time, I would start with something crisp like one of our best-sellers, The Tahitian Unicorn. It sets the tone in terms of fun and playfulness, but is packed with a whole lot of intricate flavour profiles. For heavyweights, I believe all the drinks can be heavy hitters if consumed in big amounts. But I’d go for something like the Manhattan Flight or British Flight — these are booze-forward drinks that give you three experiences in one. For cheap drunks, it’s probably Soju (because you’re in Korea!) or the Far Eastern Gimlet for a great tasty, boozy but flavour-forward drink.
Q: Local recommendations in Seoul?
A: Seoul has so many great bars at the moment and the city is buzzing — it’s hard to list all of them. The ones that are definitely worth a visit when you’re in Korea include Bar Cham and Bar Pomme; they are our nearby neighbours known for its locally-driven menu and charming vibes. There are also mainstays like ALICE, and Le Chamber, one of the pioneers in the bar scene here. If you like people watching, go to Pussyfoot Salon. There’s also Tokki Bar, a very locally-focused bar that is best to visit at 4.00AM to really embrace its vibes.
The list goes on but do check out the newer bars including ZEST, Pine & Co, ANTI-DOTE as well as our very own OUL, a new contemporary Korean Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Seoul that is totally electric in here.
Hailing from Kerala in South India, that’s also known as God’s own country, Sarath describes the beauty of his hometown with coconut tree lined beaches and lush backwaters. And not forgetting Kerala is also a foodie’s paradise. He is currently the Bar Manager at Copitas, located on the 21st floor of Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru. Sarath depicts the bar as a chic black-and-gold cocktail destination with a commanding tree-top lined vista on one side and a stunning sunset view on the other — best of both worlds.
Q: What’s unique about Copitas?
A: Copitas is effortlessly chic by every means. One can expect signature mixology, fine foods, stunning sunsets and even incredible view from its outdoor perch. It’s stylish, and yet has a cool vibe to it. The cocktails have some very unique ingredients typical to the local area — expect betel leaf, coffee from nearby Coorg or nannari root in our concoctions.
Q: What drinks to order from Copitas?
A: For first timers, I think Copa G&T No 1 with berries would be perfect — or just leave it to our bartenders for recommendations of the day. Heavyweights can try the Clay Pot Aged Negroni. And for the cheap drunks, Ibiza that is made with tequila, betel leaf, saffron honey and lemon would be the best bet. If all else fails, there’s always a shot of tequila!
Q: Local recommendations in Bangalore?
A: Toast & Tonic is a great bar that serves quality food and outstanding gin-based cocktails.
Born and raised in Berlin, Germany, Philip has lived in various cities in Germany as well as Switzerland and Singapore before moving to Thailand in 2019. He discovered mixology at a very young age and began developing his skills at catering events, then honed his craft behind the bar at nightclubs. As the Beverage Manager of the newly-opened Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok at Chao Phraya River, one of his most notable achievements include propelling BKK Social Club into Bangkok’s vibrant drinking scene — snatching the Best Bar in Bangkok title as a debutante.
Q: What’s unique about BKK Social Club?
A: BKK Social Club is located at the heart of the hotel. We see ourselves as a big living room, where we welcome our friends and everyone is having a great time. It is a glamorous cocktail bar, reminiscent of the legendary and vibrant metropole of Buenos Aires — celebrating the lively and energetic lifestyle of Bangkok. It’s the place to be for Bangkok’s who’s who as well as international guests to get together in style.
The bar welcomes guests into a stunning atmosphere with an imposing back bar displaying an extensive spirit collection. It showcases the craftsmanship of bartenders through handcrafted and bespoke cocktails, along with fine champagnes and delightful spirits. The bar food menu features South American delights and classic Thai-inspired dishes served in sharing plates.
Q: What drinks to order from BKK Social Club?
A: For first timers, I would recommend La Pampa, a blend of our exclusive Argentinian Apostoles Gin, house-made Eucalyptus Honey and some citrus. It is simply cooling, complex, silky yet very aromatic to start the evening Gin Sour style — a delightful twist on the Bee’s Knees cocktail. Another signature is Evita, a tribute to the most iconic Argentinian first lady and the world famous musical. This elegant bittersweet twist between a Negroni and Sour is a mix of Plantation Pineapple Rum for some tropical accents, Campari and Aperol, perfumed with notes of cinnamon, bay leaf and citrus.
For the heavyweights, we have the Hand of God, which is a mix of Ocho Reposado Tequila and Campari, complemented by our Cacao Malbec Cordial. Take a chance as well on the Bananazo, our House Old Fashioned with a generous measurement of Michter’s US 1 Bourbon, house-made salted banana syrup and some chocolate bitters. It is served with a delicious banana pancake topped with Oscietra caviar — how’s that for being glamorous and bold?
Q: Local recommendations in Bangkok?
A: Plenty! Vespers, Messengerservice Bar, Tropic City, Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar, OPIUM Bar, Asia Today, Teens of Thailand, The Loft, Lennon’s and more.
With hospitality running in his family, Singapore-born Sufian’s first encounter with bartending began with a drink at a friend’s bar called Nektar. A couple of drinks later, he decided to quit his job as a Fireman and Safety officer to work with his friend at the bar. Ten years later, he is here doing what he love as the Head Bartender at Sundara, Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. He takes on a culinary-approach to cocktail-making, with the ethos of “minimum waste, maximum flavour” — looking at how ingredients are sourced, packaged, stored and used from ground zero. He prides on taking a leading role in Bali’s beverage scene, sharing sustainable bartending guidelines with peers from other hotels, bars and restaurants.
Q: What’s unique about Sundara?
A: At Sundara, we truly embody the spirit of sustainability to the core. I hand-pick botanicals, herbs and fruits from the resort gardens, work with like-minded partners and also introduce new SOPs for the bar team at Sundara to reduce wastage — even minimising ice cubes for shaken-style cocktails. I have also created a dozen “Zero Waste” cocktails for the menu including Made’s Margarita, which uses every part of the local Kintamani orange.
We recently released a new beverage menu that ties in closely with Sundara’s new high-end BBQ dinner experience. Everyone is loving the smoky cocktails, craft beers and the concept of everything not he menu being smoked — even the salads, desserts, and a lot of our drinks. We also launched Telu last year, a dedicated venue for zero-waste bar workshops and arak infusions (Balinese rice wine) at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay. It’s an open-air design and featured 100% repurposed and up-cycled materials, with an Arak Cellar where my next infusion matures in antique clay pots and up-cycled glass bottles. Guests will also be able to learn about the traditional uses and medicinal properties of arak and forage with me in the garden to pick spices and herbs before getting behind the stove.
Q: What drinks to order from Sundara?
A: For first timers, order the Lemon Kuna comprising vanilla arak, makrut, calamansi, herbal bitters and candied lime for a zesty yet refreshing taste. We also have a good selection for heavyweights including the Kelapa Negroni, which is a cheeky rendition of the classic Titan; Maluku Fashioned, a pre-dinner aromatic boozy sipper of bourbon, Moluccas spices (nutmeg, mace, cloves), forest honey and angostura bitters; and Cascara Manhattan, a complex drink that combines rye, cascara vermouth, maraschino cherry and angostura bitters. For cheap drunks, I recommend to try our Signature Arak & Tonic selection.
Q: Local recommendations in Bali?
A: 40 Thieves in Seminyak is one of my go-to bars — the bartender there was a guest bartender at Sundara last year too. If you’re planning to escape, head to Munduk. It is a beautiful destination known for its waterfall and hiking. There’s also Dili Asahan, an island in West Nusa Tenggara famous for snorkelling and relaxing.
Find out more on Four Seasons’ official website.