We chat with Tron Young, Founder of Bar Awards about his favourite bars and the difference with cocktail culture across 4 cities.
Singapore’s cocktail scene is stirring with plenty of newcomers and exciting concoctions from industry stalwarts. As a reflection of the growing cocktail scene in Singapore, the inaugural Singapore Cocktail Festival featured over 45 participating bars across Asia across a 5,000 sq m Festival Village, where guests can taste over 50 different kinds of experimental cocktails.
The Bar Awards started in 2014 by Tron Young out of his passion for the hospitality industry. What’s the best thing about this industry? For Tron, it’s open to everyone from all social standings and success can happen to anyone with hard work and passion. Since its inception, The Bar Awards has been an industry standard for recognition of both establishments and individuals in the bar scene.
We have a chat with Tron about what makes a good cocktail and how is it like in the Asia cocktail scene.
The Bar Awards is held in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Which is your favourite city for its cocktail scene and why?
Asking me to pick my favourite city is like asking me to pick my favourite child. There is a special place in my heart for each city. Singapore was where we first started; Hong Kong was our first international venture; Kuala Lumpur is one of the most exciting cities for cocktails right now, and Bangkok is my hometown. They are all great cities, and it’s really hard to pick a favourite.
What are the major difference between all four cities in terms of the cocktail scene? Do you have any favourite bar in each city?
The differences are huge! What I enjoy most about Singapore is the level of passion within the bar and beverage scene. Every bar has such passionate staff who are ready to share their love for the industry. Jigger & Pony, for example, is always fun but also exudes hospitality and warmth.
In Hong Kong, I really enjoy the diversity in concepts. There are amazing bars with such creative flair; Sohofama promotes local Hong Kong ingredients and culture, and Stockton, which should always be your last stop, is a cocktail haven.
In Kuala Lumpur, adventurous people like Karl Too and Shawn Chong at Omakase & Appreciate or Angel Ng at PS150 are always pushing the cocktail boundaries – I can guarantee an amazing cocktail experience at both bars.
Lastly, the cocktail bars in Bangkok are just out of this world. You can find cheeky and rebellious bars like Teens of Thailand or Backstage Cocktail Bar and you can also find refined bars like Rabbit Hole or the OG of cocktail bars Hyde & Seek.
We’d like to know what your favourite bar is in Singapore. How do you feel the landscape has changed over the past few years?
28 Hong Kong Street was our Best Cocktail Bar for Singapore 2016, and it is pretty social. It’s also a stone’s throw from your Singapore space, and I definitely recommend checking that out. Jigger & Pony is really high on my list. I love that bar to bits! It is always so much fun, even if you go alone.
The bar and cocktail landscape has definitely changed a lot over the years. Back then, it was hard to find Angostura bitters but today in Singapore, the range of bitters are endless, and some bars are even making their own! The change is actually incredible.
What makes a good cocktail?
Many different aspects goes into making a good cocktail. Of course, the flavour is number one, but just like cuisine, it also must appeal to the eye. The price must also be right – no one likes to pay SG$30 for a drink with two sips.
What do you hope Singaporeans will learn about cocktails?
For Singaporeans, it’s all about learning about cocktails and always keep trying – new things, new flavours and new combinations. If the opportunity comes up where you can try a new spirit or a new drink, do it. The Cosmopolitans, your Lychees Martinis, your Old Fashions will always be there for you.
One of my favourite resource for cocktail knowledge is a small industry magazine that just started distribution in South East Asia and Hong Kong called DRiNK Magazine. They started in China and have now ventured over to this side of the world because cocktails and bars are just so darn amazing here.
They have also just relaunched their website, which is really good for the latest news and trends in the bar industry, Drinkmagazine Asia
Finally, what’s the craziest concoction that you’ve tried?
There have been so many combinations of flavours in my life – I don’t think I can recall a single crazy concoction; Alcohol free beer is still pretty weird for me. Tobacco-infused whisky is another.
There is actually a mezcal called Pechuga (which translates to breast in Mexican), and this mezcal is distilled with a chicken breast. When they are distilling the agave spirit, they “hang” a chicken breast inside the distiller. Once the process is finished that entire breast has dissipated and incorporated in the spirit. The end product is actually pretty good but you got to really love mezcal to appreciate this.
The Bar Awards is happening across Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur this year. Nominations for Singapore open 1st May, with the winner announced 18 June 2017.