Mixologist column: What a difference a year makes

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Gekko bar manager Lal Mon Puia and Jen Queen (credit: Tun Lynn).

For me, May 1 marks my first year in Yangon: one year working with the team at 57Below, one year overseeing the bar programs at Union, Gekko, and Parami, one year growing and learning with our team. One fabulous year, and in this time I have seen our ‘Gentlemen’ make tremendous growth. They have learned so many techniques and classic recipes, in addition to a new found appreciation for the beautiful seasonal bounty that grows around them. I was interested to see what would come of asking them to create a cocktail that showcases their skills, and individual styles. As a celebration/assessment we tasked each of the bartenders at Union & Gekko (stay tuned, both Parami houses will be next) with
creating two recipes utilizing local ingredients that inspire them. We agreed that they would taste each one as a team, discuss how to adjust the recipe, and decide what to use for garnish, glassware, name, etc. This time I would remain “hands off” and allow Gekko’s bar manager Puia and Union’s assistant bar manager Khaing Tun to take the lead, mentoring their teams.

On the day of the tasting, I was blown away by the cocktails these fellas put up. Gone are the days of overly sweet, often blue, syrupy concoctions. I was instead indulging in complex, well thought-out, and balanced drinks that I could imagine sipping in any great bar. Among the offerings were a pandan-infused mix with a touch of house-made amaro (with local spices and bitter roots found in Myanmar), a savory, celery gin and salted egg white sour, a Tiki-style cocktail with Japanese flair served in a ceramic bamboo mug, and several other stunners. I was none short of impressed! So impressed that I’ve decided to include them in this season’s menu to be launched at each house in the first week of May. Get yourselves to Union and Gekko this month to enjoy these drinks, and delight in the difference a year can make.

MYANMORE Awards Winer and Spirits Ambassador of the Year 2018 Jen Queen is the bar manager for restaurant and bar group 57-BELOW, and mixes the cocktails at Union Bar and Grill. She is an expert in her field and the only Master Mescalier in Yangon and quite possibly the only one in Southeast Asia.

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