Bartender for hire

SINGAPORE - Hired chefs and DJs at private parties are so yesterday: Hiring guest bartenders is the latest fad to add pizzazz to your shindig.

From as little as $120, you can book a bartender for four hours to mix custom cocktails to suit your fancy, behind a professionally set up bar. Or shell out a few thousand dollars to have a mixologist keep a wedding party of around 250 people in good spirits, with cocktails you personalise yourself.

These seasoned bar hands provide everything, from glassware to bar equipment to alcohol.

They can set up a bar to suit the theme of your party and let you decide the name, colour and taste of your customised cocktail.

Companies that provide mobile bar services and bartenders say they have been getting more business from Singaporeans throwing parties in the past year.

Ms Angela Sim, 36, of mobile bar business Drinkdings, says it sees between 10 and 20 bookings each month. Drinkdings, which also conducts cocktail-making workshops, has about 15 to 20 trained bartenders on call.

"It adds a touch of class to the event and makes it memorable. Serving just wine at parties is passe these days," she says.

Although mobile bar services have been available here as early as 2008, operators say the bartender- for-hire trend is being fuelled by the recent boom in bespoke cocktail culture.

Mixologist Din Hassan, 39, who manages the bar at bespoke cocktail outlet Bitters & Love, is available for private parties. His most recent job, a poolside party at a condominium with a tropical theme, saw him making a blue champagne cocktail for it.

He notes: "Most people like to have house parties, but want to drink cocktails. Now, when so many people are exposed to cocktail bars, no one really caters to this. So we go down to their house and make them their own cocktails."

He says clients have to book a week in advance, so he can prepare and hold a tasting of the cocktails. A party for 35 to 40 people can cost between $1,500 and $2,500, which includes the alcohol.

Bar consultant Anthony Zhong, who used to be head bartender of Jigger & Pony, mixes drinks at private events only on request from his regular patrons. The 30-year-old has been a guest mixologist at only two events - a wedding bash for 250 and a farewell party for around 40 people.

He declines to reveal how much he charges, but says: "It's not about the money. It's the small touches you do for people."

Mr Azzuhri Jasmi, 33, operations manager for Chamaeleon Mobile Bar & Rental, says the seven- year-old company was averaging 10 jobs a month last year, compared to just one to two a month when it started offering bar rental services in 2008. Its services include setting up bars and providing bartenders and servers for home parties and corporate events.

These days, Chamaeleon can service up to 15 events in a good month - a good mix of corporate functions and private house parties, mostly for expatriates.

He says: "When we started, we were bartending at catered events and saw a demand for personalised bar services. That's why we started the business, catering to private and house parties."

No two parties are the same, says Mr Azzuhri. The bartenders will improvise using ingredients found in the home to whip up special cocktails: fruit jam from the fridge, food served at the party such as fresh fruit and flowers from the home's garden.

RentABar, a company offering bartending services and bar packages to corporate and individual clients for events such as weddings, birthday bashes and office gatherings, has also seen an increase in booking for small parties.

It has two to three bookings a week for such events, up from just two to three events a month when the company started in 2009.

Then there are the flair bartenders, who not only create cocktails, but also entertain guests by flipping their bottles and tools while doing so.

Six-year-old company Barstylez, which sends flair bartenders to clients' parties, says business has gone up. From three times a month for small parties when it started, it gets around eight bookings a month now. A small event hiring a mixologist for three to four hours costs around $250 to $500.

Mr Shahmil Lin, 32, Barstylez's owner and founder, says: "Mixologists doing cocktails are picking up in Singapore. More people are learning about these services through marketing and reading about them in magazines. It's a trend that's picking up."

Ms Angelina Pradana, 25, who works in the events-planning business, hired mixologist Din last year to come up with cocktails for her sister's 22nd birthday celebrations. About 25 people attended the event held at a private venue in North Bridge Road.

Ms Pradana, who declines to say how much she paid to hire Din, booked him because of his "experience and ability to create cocktails to suit people's tastebuds".

He created a refreshing cocktail to suit the party's pink theme, which the birthday girl loved.

She says: "He made two or three jugs of the cocktail in half an hour. It was nice. If there's a chance to hire him again, and we have the budget, I will."

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