Speed pour Q&A – Meet the Asia’s 50 Best Bars Academy Chairs

Mark Sansom - 10/03/2021

Following the programme announcement for Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021, sponsored by Perrier, which will include a virtual ceremony on 6th May, the reveal of the 51-100 list on 29th April and the inaugural Breaking The Ice sessions, 50 Best announces its full line-up of Academy Chairs for Asia. Join us for a swift drink at the bar (preferably agave-based) with the experts who compile the voting panels for the continent’s leading guide

Vivian Pei, Senior Academy Chair
Academy Chair for: Southeast Asia, China and Korea

The longest-standing Academy Chair for 50 Best in Asia, Pei is an ardent supporter of the Singapore cocktail scene and the Asian continent overall. She is a cook who regularly hosts pop-ups and supper clubs in the Lion City, as well as writing about food and drink for international publications. She has judged cocktail competitions and plays a key role in supporting women in the industry through her work organising Speed Rack in Asia and Australia. In response to the pandemic, she co-founded the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association to champion the local craft cocktail industry and create a Covid-19 relief fund. The group is also working on recovery tools, mental health support, building career opportunities and providing educational resources for its members.

Speed pour Q&A

Favourite cocktail:  Mezcal Negroni or Tommy's Margarita
Desert island spirit:  A good tequila blanco
Last supper:  My dad's dumplings
Album that soundtracks my life:  If I only get one then the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack – it covers a lot of ground
Vacation once all this is over: I will finally get myself over to Mexico!
Last book I read:  Haruki Murakami's Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Go-to drink at my home bar:  Champagne or Negronis most likely, but my home bar is well stocked so almost anything is fair game
Trait that defines a ‘good’ bar:  Hospitality. How did they make you feel? Do you remember and tell others about your experience? If ‘yes’, then it succeeded in being a good bar

Holly Graham
Academy Chair for: Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan

Graham is the Managing Editor (International) of Drink Magazine, Asia’s leading bar industry title. She is known for championing Asia’s bars, personalities and achievements and is an advocate for sustainability and women in the industry. She is also the founder of the Asia Women In Booze community and was responsible for bringing Speed Rack – the all-women charity speed bartending competition – to Asia in 2019. Graham’s previous role as Food and Drink Editor of Time Out Hong Kong saw her publish restaurant and bar guide books. She dabbles behind the stick and can often be found slinging drinks somewhere in the world.

Speed pour Q&A

Favourite cocktail:  That's like asking a parent to choose their favourite child! Currently on a big Hanky Panky kick – the fact that it's created by a woman and features amaro definitely helps. I also love a very oniony Gibson and French 75  
Desert island spirit:  Agave. All day every day. So many varietals and so much heart and passion goes into creating it, it would keep me company and come in useful for island Margs              
Last supper:  Anything with noodles because noodz are life    
Album that soundtracks my lifeThis Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem. Dance Yrself Clean is an absolute banger and used to be the closing song at Employees Only Hong Kong – a place where the bar industry made many fond memories
Vacation once all this is over:  Probably Japan as it's my soul country and happy place
Last book I read:   Do comics count? I stare at words all day so much as I love books, the last thing I 'read' was Godzilla In Hell. I'm a childhood Godzilla fan and this comic is out of print, so was stoked to be able to track down my own copy
Go-to drink at my home bar:  Martinis. Easily customisable and for not-so-discerning guests, it's a drink they probably wouldn't order at a bar out of fear they may not like it, so I'm always happy to help change that
Trait that defines a ‘good’ bar:  The best bars tend to nail every aspect and leave you in awe, but what it really boils down to hospitality. If you nail everything else but miss the mark on hospitality, your bar just won't succeed

Priyanka Blah
Academy Chair for: India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives

Blah is the founder of The Dram Attic, a spirits and cocktail platform highlighting key bars and talent across the globe. She has spent the last decade discovering the world of cocktails through extensive travel, chronicling the evolution of the drinks industry from both sides of the bar, paying particular attention to guest experience and creativity. She has worked in several aspects of the F&B business, from operations to creative as well as global sales of craft spirits.

Speed pour Q&A

Favourite cocktail:  An ice-cold dry Martini  
Desert island spirit:  Mezcal – why not…
Last supper:  Sashimi
Album that soundtracks my life:  Daft Punk, Discovery
Vacation once all this is over:  Mexico
Last book I read:   The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa
Go-to drink at my home bar:  Manhattan
Trait that defines a ‘good’ bar:  Apart from good drinks, inclusivity and warmth

Nicholas Coldicott
Academy Chair for: Japan

Based in Tokyo since 1998, Coldicott is the author of Tokyo Cocktails and co-founder of artisanal sake exporters KuroKura. He has been a drinks columnist for The Japan Times and CNN, an editor of Whisky Magazine Japan and Eat magazine, a judge for the World Whisky Awards, and a writer of guide books for Wallpaper* and Time Out

Speed pour Q&A

Favourite cocktail:  Sidecar
Desert island spirit:  If someone else is buying: a 1960s Bowmore. If I’m buying: a nice, cheap, swiggable rum
Last supper:  Baked beans on toast with cheese. You never forget your first love
Album that soundtracks my lifeRhythm and Blues at the Flamingo by Georgie Fame. Probably the coolest record ever made
Vacation once all this is over:  Singapore, to catch up on all the cocktails and eat some $3 curries
Last book I read:  The Painted Word by Tom Wolfe
Go-to drink at my home bar:  Bellinis, fancy but easy
Trait that defines a ‘good’ bar:  Hospitality and scented hot towels

The virtual ceremony for Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 will take place on 6th May, streamed on The World's 50 Best Bars Facebook and 50 Best Bars TV YouTube channel