What an absolutely fabulous award this is for Lal Mon “Puia”, the talented Myanmar Mixologist and Bar Manager of Gekko restaurant, and well deserved it is too. Outgoing Wine and Spirits Ambassador Jen Queen must be very proud that she can hand her title to him, keeping it in the family so to speak. It’s a great win for the 57 Below team, and a real demonstration of the importance they place on the capacity building and development of their staff.
Puia trained as a bartender for four years at Hakkasan in Abu Dhabi, before returning to Yangon to take up the role as Bar Manager at Gekko. He has been there for three and a half years and although he was already a talented mixologist before he met Jen, she encouraged him to hone his skills and supported his development. His cocktail offering at Gekko is tight, and he draws on Yangon’s rich cultural heritage, creating cocktails using the very best local & seasonal ingredients. A great example of this is his “Move Like Jagger-y” made with Bourbon, Creme de Cassis, Plum Jaggery, Lime, Pineapple & Angostura.
2018 saw Puia mixing cocktails behind the bar at the Polygon stage at this years Wonderfruit music festival in Pattaya, Thailand, for the second year running. He also had the awesome opportunity to take a pop-up guest bartending shift at Nutmeg and Clove (one of the top bars in Singapore) he even found the time to showcase a range of Japanese cocktails at the Tuesday Solution pop up night at Atlas bar in Yangon. He also battled head to head with Union bar’s own Khaing Htun and managed to take the first prize in the Myanmar league of Wild Turkeys “Behind the Barrel” competition with his winning “Wild Tiki” cocktail, made with Wild Turkey Bourbon, Campari, Lime, Lemongrass, Kaffir Lime & Ginger Syrup, & Fresh Pineapple.
Puia isn’t just a talented mixologist though, he also has a passion for sharing that talent and nurturing the next generation of Myanmar bartenders. In order to pass on his knowledge, he took a part-time role with the Myanmar bartender school were he taught a syllabus on local ingredients and how to create cocktails that highlight the very best local, seasonal ingredients.
There’s more to Puia’s bar at Gekko than just cocktails, he has developed a decent wine list, and has an extensive selection of Sake and Shochu, and one of the biggest collections of Japanese Whiskies you’ll find in Yangon, including the wonderful award-winning Yamazaki 12-year-old. But the draw of Puia’s latest cocktail creations keep people coming back time and again. His latest effort just launched is the “40 weight”, a smooth blend of Ballantine’s whisky, Sawbwa espresso, cardamom & hazelnut. Though perhaps he’ll create a special cocktail to celebrate his award? Congratulations Puia, and Cheers!