Women called to the bar

Women called to the bar

Bartending is still widely considered a man's world, but a new breed of women bartenders is storming the all-boys club.

They are young, creative and unstoppable - pouring, shaking and stirring their way up to prominent positions at established cocktail bars in Singapore.

At least 10 established cocktail bars - making up about one-third of such bars here - have women behind the bar creating popular concoctions that give their male counterparts a run for their money.

Just a few years ago, there were only a few women in the business, such as Ms Kino Soh of bar Hopscotch and Ms Aubrey Sim of whisky bar B28.

Some of these women bartenders also compete internationally, including South Korean Bannie Kang from Nutmeg & Clove in Ann Siang Road and Hong Kong native Jackie Lo of rum bar Sugarhall in Amoy Street.

SundayLife! toasts six female bartenders who are making a splash and checks out their meanest drinks.

melk@sph.com.sg

JACKIE LO, 28, OF SUGARHALL

Where: 102 Amoy Street. Open Monday to Saturday, 6pm to midnight

A love of the sugarcane-based spirit, rum, led Hong Kong native Lo to leave her career and family in Shanghai for a chance to work at Sugarhall, a rum speciality bar in Singapore.

She says with a laugh: "I feel like rum represents females, while whisky represents males. So every time I'm recommending rum to a customer, it feels like I'm recommending a girlfriend."

Ms Lo has been bartending for five years, but she has been in the service industry since she was 18, working in various hospitality jobs such as being a waitress and a captain at a hotel lounge.

Her father is a chef at a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong, while her mother is a housewife. She has a younger brother, 27, who works as a bar manager in Hong Kong.

Her first bar experience was at a club lounge in Hong Kong, before she moved to take up a stint at Langham Place Hotel Hong Kong as a bartender.

Between 2010 and 2013, she won several awards in bartending competitions, including taking first place at the annual Hong Kong Bartending Competition 2011 and Hong Kong De Kuyper Cup Cocktail Competition in 2012.

She was runner-up in the China finals of the Bacardi Legacy rum cocktail competition in 2013.

Ms Lo, whose husband is a bar owner based in Shanghai, has also worked at Madison Bar in the Chinese city. Seven months ago, she took a leap of faith and moved to Singapore when head barkeep Aki Eguchi asked her to join Sugarhall as a bartender.

She got to know Mr Eguchi from cocktail bar Jigger & Pony, which she used to visit whenever she came to Singapore. She says of her love of bartending: "I like to see people smile. Even if they're not happy, I would make them a drink and if it cheers them up, it will make me happy."

Her inspiration for drinks comes from everyday life, including watching "a lot of cooking shows, such as MasterChef, Junior MasterChef and Jamie Oliver's television shows".

She adds: "Even a trip to 7-Eleven can inspire me. I would see a mint chocolate drink in the chiller and go back to the bar and make a drink with chocolate liqueur and mint," she says.

Among the difficult requests she has received is to create "very salty and spicy drinks".

The cocktail? "I have a special drink for that. Gin, pineapple juice, Tabasco sauce and salt."

As for her own favourite cocktail, Ms Lo's choice is a favourite among many bartenders: the classic Negroni, made with gin, vermouth and bitters.

"I love Campari, just anything with Campari," she says.

Signature drinks

From May 7, bargoers can try two new rum cocktails from Ms Lo.

The Sky Lantern uses Chalong Bay rum infused with Earl Grey tea, Becherovka herbal liqueur infused with passionfruit, orange and beet, honey and lime juice.

Plum & Suckers is a mix of rum that has been infused with pineapple and Choya, orange bitters and nutmeg tincture.

Both cocktails are priced at $22++ each.

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