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Bartender Very Free During The CB, Right? Not This One

Today is World Cocktail Day! 

On this day, 214 years ago, the word "cocktail" appeared in print in the US publication "The Balance and Columbian Repository" and was defined jokingly as such: "Cock tail, then in a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters it is vulgarly called a bittered sling".

To celebrate, we speak to Peter Chua (whom you might have seen duetting with his dad and doing covers of hit songs by the Everly Brothers), the head bartender at Junior The Pocket Bar and Asia Brand Ambassador of Venezuelan rum brand Diplomático.

He debunks some myths about being very free during the Circuit Breaker, tells us why he's not very fond of the term "mixologist", and recounts making cocktails for some Crazy Rich Asians.

Most people will think that a bartender wouldn't have much to do now during this Circuit Breaker Period (CBP). Tell us why that isn't true, especially because you're also Diplomático rum's Asia Brand Ambassador.

My job as Asia Brand Ambassador means I’m in charge of 13-14 countries. But because of the whole COVID-19 situation, I can’t travel. Usually, I’m on the road in the region two to three times a month. So now, I’m doing a lot of Zoom and Google Hangouts to have meetings with clients who have purchased some of our bottles, and teach them how to make Old Fashioned’s. I'm also conducting online masterclasses for bars all around Asia.

Because of the Circuit Breaker, my job has changed so much! Now I have to create content to post online at least once a week, so it’s changed the way I view marketing as well. Now we’re doing more social media and guerrilla marketing, so we’ve become content creators! It’s pretty fun cuz I’ve always want to do things like that.

To celebrate World Cocktail Day, tell us a bit more about the cocktail and how it's changed through time.

In the 1800s, a cocktail was a very respectable drink. It had to be good, because back then, the process of distillation of spirits was not very good, so many of them were not of very good quality. So you needed to put things into it to make it more palatable. Later in the 90s, people began drinking apple-tinis and mudslides, and what-not. That gave cocktails a bad rep as something you wouldn’t drink if you were a real drinker.

It wasn’t until the early 2000s that there was a resurgence of people taking a strong interest in the world of cocktails, and cocktails gained respect again by being good, well-balanced drinks which were made with better, fresher produce and products. That’s around the time when the term "mixologist" was coined for bartenders who were taking this seriously as a career.

Suiting up as Asia Brand Ambassador of Diplomático rum.

What's the difference between a mixologist and a bartender?

In the early 2000s, the term “mixologist” was used for somebody who was studying the craft and becoming very knowledgeable about it. But nowadays, almost 15, 20 years since then, most bartenders who start off jump straight into craft bartending. It’s become such a part of our lives as bartenders now, almost as though there’s a resurgence of a renaissance age - to the point where, if you go to bar and they can’t make you a decent Negroni or an Old Fashioned, then you know this place is super dodgy, super cacat. If you go to a respectable restaurant or a proper bar, you expect a certain standard.

Nowadays, when you say “mixologist”, it sounds pretentious. I’ve heard people call themselves “drinks architect”, “cocktail designer” and, one of my personal favourites, “spirit whisperer”! A lot of these terms have been coined to basically give a bartender a more “elitist” point of view.

But most of us bartenders realise that bartending is what it is - it’s tending the bar; but also, it's a lot more than just the cocktails. The real product we’re selling is not so much the drinks - it’s actually the hospitality. How often have you gone to a bar with your friends, you get wasted and you go home. The next day, you can’t remember what you drank, but you remember you had a good time and where you had it!

A winning pour and a winning smile at the prestigious Diageo Reserve World Class international cocktail competition in 2014.Photo: Diageo

As a bartender, you've put Singapore on the world map so many times (like making it to the global finals of international cocktail competitions), and done what no Singaporean bartender has. Tell us a bit more about your awesome achievements.

I’ve been quite lucky. In 2014, I took part in the Diageo Reserve World Class cocktail competition and I was the first Singaporean to get that far, almost winning the competition. I also took part in the Bacardi Legacy in 2015 and the Diplomatico World Tournament in 2017. For all of them, I represented either Singapore alone or South-east Asia, and made it all the way to the finals. Because of that, I get a lot of gigs from Singapore Tourism Board, to represent the country and do some pretty cool stuff! Like when the whole “Crazy Rich Asians” thing was going on, I was the official bartender for the red carpet premiere in LA in October 2018. There are some real good perks to the job if you do it properly!

Photo: Unsplash/Adam Jaime

Cocktail recipes

To celebrate World Cocktail Day - or just to give yourself a treat when you've had a long WFH day - Peter shows us 4 easy-to-make cocktail recipes that require only a few ingredients. Check them out! Cheers!

Get cocktails and grub from Junior The Pocket Bar delivered during the CB

Celebrating a special occasion or just simply wanna celebrate making it through another harrowing WFH week? Check out "Junior At Home", launched by Junior The Pocket Bar on 9 Apr 2020 in reaction to the Circuit Breaker, so that we can enjoy Junior's bottled cocktails and DIY food kits in the comfort - and, more importanly, safety of our own homes.

To roder, simply drop the team a message via Instagram, or SMS, WhatsApp or call them at +65 8121 1462. All orders made before 6pm will see same-day delivery. After that, Grab couriers or self-collection can be arranged until 10pm. Free delivery is available for orders that are $130 and above.

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