Words by Julia Chan
Participants demonstrate technical skills in line with Bartender 4.0 initiative for ABSS’ annual cocktail competition
Singapore is well-known locally and internationally for its vibrant nightlife scene. From its award-winning cocktail bars to glitzy nightclubs, the bar culture here is famed for being well developed and sophisticated, compared with the likes of the bar scene in Japan and Hong Kong.
In order to stay competitive and on top of the game, the bartending industry requires its professionals to consistently hone and master their adaptive, technical and technological skills to become a Bartender 4.0, an initiative of the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS) and the Employment & Employability Institute (e2i).
One platform that allows bartenders to showcase their Bartender 4.0 skills is the National Cocktail Competition (NCC), organised by ABSS. This competition is part of ABSS’ annual tradition where aspiring bartenders battle it out, demonstrating their best techniques, skills, flair and presentation under the various categories.
ABSS President Steven Chen explained, “The National Cocktail Competition is the platform which gives the next generation a chance to showcase their skills yearly on stage. With this competition platform, we send the champion to competitions at the Asia Pacific and also international levels.”.
“During the competition, both new and experienced bartenders can share their skills, knowledge and have a stage to perform their skills. Competitors can showcase to the public where they work and the products they use for cocktail creations and new flavours. This platform improves their confidence and lots of employers will be looking out for potential talents, including beverage suppliers which may want to hire them as a spirit ambassador or to showcase a product during a social event,” said Chen on the benefits of participating in the NCC.
The annual NCC used to be held at Clarke Quay. However, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, part of the 32nd NCC was conducted virtually. Instead of concocting their cocktails physically in front of NCC judges, participants were required to submit videos of themselves online.
Shortlisted finalists were then invited for a mini live presentation in front of the NCC judges for the latter to taste the cocktails and give a more represented judgement.
For the first time, this year’s competition was infused with a key skill under the Bartender 4.0 initiative to give the selected finalists a brief introduction and understanding of the initiative.
In collaboration with Association Bartenders China and Uniao de Bartenders e Cocktails de Macau, ABSS conducted an e-training via a series of training videos specially curated for the bartending industry, such as introduction to 白酒 (Baijiu) from China and the cocktails made with this spirit, together with its history, production and craftsmanship.
Some of the selected finalists were also given the challenge to create a new cocktail using 白酒 (bai jiu) in their concoction. These efforts to introduce this spirit, its background and uses are aligned under the technical aspects of the Bartender 4.0 initiative where bartenders are imparted with the knowledge of the cuisines and cultures of the world.
Despite the challenges of conducting the competition under a safe environment, the NCC 2020 concluded smoothly with the following winners.
The winners of the Classic Cocktail and Flair categories were presented their awards by e2i’s Deputy CEO Vicky Wong and ABSS President Steven Chen.
“Due to Covid-19, the bar scene is suffering a lot. I am impressed with the competitors for the passion they showed during the NCC. This is a huge encouragement as this spirit brings them to the next level. With this new generation, they are hungry for more skills, knowledge and also a stage to showcase their talent. I too am learning from them,” Chen said about the NCC.
“All this can only happen with support, passion for the profession and openly sharing. Let me leave you with a quote: ‘Cocktails bring people of all diversity together’,” he added.
Congratulations to the final winners who will get the opportunity to represent Singapore on a higher level in the Asia-Pacific Cocktail competition.
To learn more about the National Cocktail Competition and join the 2021 competition (typically held in July), follow the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS) Facebook page for updates.
About Bartender 4.0
To help the bartenders and mixologists create a comprehensive learning roadmap known as the Bartender 4.0 initiative, the Employment & Employability Institute (e2i) commissioned a survey in 2019 to gather inputs from over 100 bartending professionals and management.
The survey revealed that bartenders should be equipped with key skills such as customer interaction (adaptive), molecular mixology beverages and food and beverage pairing (technical) and the ability to utilise digital technologies and automation (technology). With a solid mastery of these skill sets, productivity would increase, resulting in more cocktail sales and eventually higher salaries for the bartending professionals.
According to e2i’s CEO, Mr Gilbert Tan, the objective of the Bartender 4.0 initiative is to help bartenders thrive and increase the vibrancy of Singapore’s bar scene. Due to more discerning and demanding consumers nowadays, bartenders should not only know how to craft cocktails, but must also take into consideration the entire customer experience journey and be well-versed in business aspects such as where to find the best suppliers and ingredients, and how to market their business.
To develop the Bartender 4.0 initiative, e2i partnered with the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS) which has been playing an active role in promoting bar and wine events in Singapore since 1987. In addition to event management, ABSS has been pivotal in uplifting the standards of conduct and competence in the bartending trade through courses, workshops and competitions.
In previous Bartender 4.0 events, ABSS had invited master mixologists from some of Asia’s best Bars like the Bar Benfiddich (Japan), Quinary Bar (Hong Kong) and Singapore’s very own native Bar to conduct workshops and share some of their good practices and experiences with our local bartenders and mixologists.
ABSS President Steven Chen shared, “For Bartender 4.0 Skills, with the great support from e2i, we were able to showcase the mixologist from Japan, Hong Kong and of course Singapore. This allowed us to have more insight into what makes a good cocktail and also how cocktails can be paired with food. When mixologists generously share their skills with the public and students, this creates a huge interest in bartending, which benefits the industry.”.
To promote Bartender 4.0 skills and grow the local bartending community, ABSS also conducts learning journeys such as Thirsty Tuesdays where local bartenders visit hand-picked bars to learn about Bartender 4.0 skills.