The day after the Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards ceremony in Singapore, #50BestTalks headed to Como Dempsey for a thought-leadership discussion on Female Spirit – the series’ first all-female panel debating women in bars and Asian cocktail culture. See some highlights from an afternoon of fascinating chat.
As heads began to clear and that winning feeling sunk in for those bars on the list, four of Asia’s top female bartenders took to the stage for a panel discussion moderated by Vivian Pei, Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy Chair.
Sasha Wijidessa (Operation Dagger) and Bannie Kang (Anti:Dote) in their home city of Singapore were joined by Victoria Chow (The Woods and Kwoon, Hong Kong) and Pinsuda Pongprom (The Bamboo Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok) for a frank and honest reflection of their own experiences as women working their way to the top of the bar trade.
Their voices were joined by bartenders and customers from all across the continent, who set out an agenda for the future, discussing how Asia has become a true powerhouse on the global cocktail scene. See some of their key quotes below and check out the highlights video.
Sasha Wijidessa – Operation Dagger, Singapore
Wijidessa was halfway through a degree in pharmaceutical science when she swapped medical manuscripts for mixology menus. She says: “I enjoyed my study, but I fell in love with the atmosphere in bars. I felt really looked after by the community as a whole – they made it feel like home. If I get sexist comments from customers, I can’t control that; what I can control is how I react and whether I let it affect me.”
Bannie Kang – Anti:Dote, Singapore
Originally from South Korea, Kang found her love for the bar industry while working front of house in Singapore over a decade ago. She says: “The Singapore bar scene has grown so much in the past five years and it’s the same story in Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea… In terms of service, everyone should be treated the same. The only consideration should be someone’s personality; never gender.”
Victoria Chow – The Woods and Kwoon, Hong Kong, China
Chow owns one of the best bars in Hong Kong and Asia's first brand of artisanal canned cocktails. She asks her bartenders to focus on educating her customers, to give a well-rounded experience. She says: “Once you give a customer a backstory of spirits, suddenly they have a whole new appreciation of what we’re trying to do… We want to create a space where everyone feels comfortable – a positive environment for me, other women and all of our customers.”
Pinsuda Pongprom – The Bamboo Bar at Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, Thailand
Pongprom works in one of the finest hotel bars in the world. She tries to reflect the warmth of Thai culture in her drinks and hospitality, giving her guests an authentic brand of service. She says: “Togetherness is really important in Thailand and I try to bring that to every customer I serve. Working in a hotel bar is great, thanks to the resources it gives you… It shouldn’t be a surprise when a woman is head bartender or working behind a bar and I think we are really progressing.”
Watch the highlights video of the talks below – and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more content from #50BestTalks. Next stop, Singapore for The World's 50 Best Restaurants awards on Tuesday 25th June.
To stay up to date with the latest news from Asia’s 50 Best Bars and The World’s 50 Best Bars, follow us on Instagram, like us on Facebook, follow on Twitter and subscribe to the 50 Best YouTube channel.