Mixologist column: Community, not competition

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Jen Queen at Juniper & Ivy Restaurant. (Facebook)

In the last month, I’ve been approached by several people reminding me that I have competition in Yangon. The majority of these folks, possibly in jest or maybe in all seriousness, have been aiming to let me know that another bartender has opened a serious cocktail program, and that we’re not the only ones making great drinks in the city (side note: we were never the only ones).

I think it was expected that I would respond in a negative way. Maybe trash talk the new bar’s efforts, or perhaps I would squirm and show some sort of fear. However, truth be told, I couldn’t be more happy for the success of other bartenders, especially the particular barman they are referencing, Mr Francesco Moretti, who has just rebooted the offering at The Penthouse (it is fantastic and you should get there as fast as you can!).

Months before Francesco arrived in the city, we were connected by a mutual friend in the hospitality community of Singapore. She thought we would be comrades, as we share similar interests, and hoped we would be a great support for one another living and working in a new city. She was correct! I think he is fantastic, and I can’t wait to collaborate with him in the future to bring to life amazing things for Yangon
drinkers to enjoy.

You see, I have countless stories, just like that one, of bartenders in many different countries weaving together connections that help us to feel comfortable in new places, help us to grow and learn together, to challenge one another and push the level of experience we provide, and most importantly help us all to be an international community of bartenders, a big happy family, in the face of competition. It is my aim to open that community to the bartenders of Yangon. To bring in bar minds from around the world to influence and inspire them, and to connect them with guides to the cities they visit as guests that will often times become a forever friend.

So, I write this open letter to all of the drinkers, bartenders, and business owners in Yangon, as a call to action, to remove the word competition and replace it with community. It takes more than one house to make a neighborhood, and more than one neighborhood to build a community. We wish the greatest success to The Penthouse, and to every other bar that is striving to provide a fantastic experience in this beautiful city. We are happy to share ideas, a helping hand, and anything else needed to help advance us all toward greatness.

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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