A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky to attend a collaboration dinner with Chef Le Roi from Mu Ai Kachin at Rangoon Tea House. The two teams took us on a journey more special than I’ve experienced at either of their restaurants alone. Which says a lot, as Mu Ai is one of my favorite flavor experiences of all time (thanks to @ladygoogoo, whom you should follow on Instagram if you want to find the best local eateries), and RTH often gets a visit from me twice weekly. I am familiar and comfortable with their food, and RTH is what I craved during my last visit back home. I was so excited to see them come together; what they did was really special. It took me to a different place, and inspired me. To be
honest, there were several courses that surprised me—the dessert of fermented rice over sweet, sticky rice was a new experience for my palate. Though it wasn’t the highlight of my dinner, I loved the dessert for showing me a different flavor that was challenging and distinct. I’ve been working in restaurants for 20 years, and Chef Le Roi managed to serve something completely new to me. For that I am in equal parts curious and thankful. It is exactly the reason that I continue to love what I do; finding interesting and delicious combinations to make your tipple the most enjoyable.

When people ask, “How do you come up with all these cocktails?” I always have a different answer.

Everything I eat, smell, see, or hear, may eventually become a drink. Sometimes my recipes tell stories that others will never know, sometimes they are in honor of a person, or music, or art. At times they come to be in a supporting roll for a chef’s menu or a themed event. The best ones are born in nerdy conversations with other bartenders whose minds combined with my own are capable of increased creativity. For that reason, I’ll continue encouraging our team to make friends with other teams, and I will always make time to join in support of those who have the heart to collaborate. I recognize that this is our art. Sharing ideas keeps pushing our creative boundaries, and in turn, empowers us to share with you the best of what inspires us. I am excited to see the community embracing collaboration, and I can’t wait to enjoy the amazing experiences yet to come!

MYANMORE Awards Winner 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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