Words by Julia Chan
In 2019, a survey of over 100 professionals revealed the key skills that bartenders should possess, in Industry 4.0, among which were customer interaction (adaptive), molecular mixology beverages and familiarity of cocktail components (technical).
Hence Bartender 4.0 was launched as an initiative by e2i to upgrade bartenders’ adaptive, technical and technological skills to be prepared for Industry 4.0.
Chosen as one of the training destinations for Bartender 4.0, Native hosted visiting bartenders from 1-Altitude in a customised Thirsty Tuesdays visit arranged by Mr David Chan, Honorary Secretary (General) of the Association of Bartenders and Sommeliers Singapore (ABSS), and NTUC’s Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).
What do bartenders learn on Thirsty Tuesday visits?
Native’s strengths in Bartender 4.0 skills were demonstrated to visiting bartenders during the Thirsty Tuesday visit. Mixologists not only introduced themselves and greeted customers by name, their personable aura and sincerity in sharing about their sustainable creations made customers feel appreciated and welcome as if they were visiting a friend’s home with a well-stocked bar.
During the visit, 1-Altitude bartenders were introduced to the concept of sustainability, not just in the ingredients used in Native’s uniquely customised drinks, along with the decor, staff uniform and tableware. The visit also covered the latest bar trends and happenings, such as recommendations for locally-produced gins, and the growing international recognition of mixology bars in Singapore.
Visiting bartender Mr Fuad Salim shared his observations over the last decade, “The bartending trade has evolved beyond just spirits and liqueurs to working with herbs and spices. Today, mixologists have immersed themselves into culinary aspects to the point where consumers can now indulge in food and cocktail pairing. This evolving creativity is definitely evident and outstandingly demonstrated at Native. I must say…kudos to the team on their accolades and inspiring creativities”.
Suggestions on how to raise productivity, funding support for training, and sourcing for local talents via e2i’s Place-and-Train scheme were also introduced to the visiting bartenders as options to help their bar survive and thrive during the Covid-19 pandemic.
How is sustainability a competitive advantage in the bar scene?
Native, consistently one of Singapore’s and the world’s best bars, is iconic for its obsession with sustainability. Its founder, Mr Vijay Mudaliar, and his team of mixologists passionately experiment with ingredients more commonly found in food, nature and chemical reactions.
It is Native’s dedication to creative sustainability, and a zest of evangelising to each and every customer, that has won the bar not only international accolades (Native is ranked No. 12 on the World’s 50 Best Bars 2020 list) but a stream of fans fascinated by this trailblazer’s boundary-pushing approach.
Vijay Mudaliar explained how his bartenders are trained in future skills. “We train them in technological aspects, such as using equipment to produce better quality ingredients and also saving time in the process, such as the centrifuge. We also teach them a lot about sustainability and reducing waste in our programs such as our compost system for example,” he shared.
A look at Native’s menu (which resembles a degustation menu) will probably confuse any first-time visitor.
Instead of the typical Bloody Mary, you’ll find elaborate concoctions such as Oysters from Ubin, which literally consists of oyster distillate from Ubin oysters. Mixed with miso cured eggs, kamput pepper, coriander shoots and calamansi, this cocktail is just one of many original recipes in Native’s unique cocktail menu, which once made headlines for an ant-infused drink.
Each cocktail is a standalone star in its own right. Cultural fanatics would enjoy the story behind the Peranakan: a cocktail consisting of jackfruit rum, laksa leaves, candlenut, gula melaka, and goat’s milk from Singapore’s very own Hay Dairies.
Coffee lovers are not neglected. Native’s coffee cocktail; resembling a glass of frothy beer, daringly combines local rum, coffee kombucha, wildflower honey and nutmeg for a double punch of alcohol and caffeine.
Ingredients are sourced via an Asia-centric zero-waste sustainable approach. Mixologists grow their own ingredients in a mini-garden, practise urban foraging, procure from Asia producers and upcycle whenever possible (its coasters are made from hand-cut dried lotus leaves).
Proud of their creations, mixologists serve their cocktails with gusto, chatting with customers about the sources and preparation of the ingredients. Mixologists even cook their own bar snacks such as Kimchi Crackers and Moonlight Fried Rice.
Mr Khairul Salim, a visiting bartender from 1-Altitude, loves the concept behind Native. “Once you step into Native, it is like a story book. Everything you touch, sip or drink has a story behind it and it all links together,” he said.
Native provided a good example on how bars can survive by reinventing their offerings during the Circuit Breaker. In Native’s case, it repackaged its drinks for delivery (using glass bottles and aluminium cans) and listed them on its website, relying on e-commerce for revenue.