Meet the Bartender: Jerrold Khoo
In our new bartender blog series, we interview bartenders from all over the world, asking them all sorts of fun, knowledgeable, fun & sometimes unlogic questions. Would you like to be the next bartender to be interviewed, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today we want you to meet Jerrold Khoo from Singapore. Jerrold is an award-winning bartender and former head bartender at, last year's, Asia's best bar: Jigger & Pony.
When did you first start bartending? Walk us through your career.
My career started in 2009, when I was just a struggling 19 year old Interior design student/ musician who needed money to feed myself and my passion.
In 2013, between my interior design dream and Jigger & Pony, I chose to join Jigger & Pony as an apprentice, with the goal of mastering Japanese Bartending. Then I realised...you can never master it.
I have been with the group since then, moving on to 2 new bars that we opened over the years before coming back full circle from an apprentice to manage Jigger & Pony. Along the way, I have won competitions, fallen down, find ways to save cost and boost sales, such as working by myself, using alternatives to citrus, applying sustainable methods. I also lost staff because of my incapabilities, and eventually climbed back up with a fantastic team.
You never know what you can achieve, until you are pushed to the edge of your limits.
What does bartending mean to you?
The people and the emotional connection leaves an impact. In general, Bartending is like Music for me, it is an avenue of creative release and a form of art. I got hooked to the art of hospitality behind the bar, and the elegance of the ritual of bartending.
What is your bartending superpower?
Superpower ?! Hmm, I think everyone as a bartender already is a superpower, – being able to multi-task, make cocktails and taking care of guests, entertaining them with our personalties and cocktails, the long hours. And for us at Jigger & Pony, the combination of Japanese Bartending and Western Hospitality, oh and also being able to pull the full shift with a hangover!
How do you approach cocktail creation?
My approach is to explore Concepts and Flavors that unfolds Experiences & Cultures. In design world, there is 'Design Narrative', which I reference to and apply as 'Cocktail Narrative', I usually do three ingredients and let these ingredients be inspired by a narrative.
Madame President - Monkey 47 Gin, Kaffir Vermouth, Orchid Bittermelon Liqueur
What is your favourite cocktail to make and why?
I love making Dry Martinis! It is a sensitive cocktail so every step I make has to be thought out and perfect. This ritual process is very satisfying.
What bartending tool can you not live without?
Coming from a bar called Jigger & Pony, I certainly can't live without that!
If you can advise three books to a starting bartender, what books would they be?
What does it take to be named the #1 best bar?
The people who makes up the team! The team keeps the engine running, hence it's extremely crucial to take care of both your team and the bar community. At Jigger & Pony, everyone works hard and party hard together, yet they also engage in their favourite sports regularly. I guess this balance helps to keep our energy high. On the operational side, what we focus on is consistency and the concept of 'Kaizen', which is about working hard to go further everyday.
You have unlimited access to ingredients (non-alcoholic), but you can only pick 3 ingredients to create any drink of your choice. What ingredients would you pick? And why?
I feel like this is a 'if I am stranded on an island' question - Earl Grey Lavender Tea, Bay Leaf, Pepper. It is my current 'flavour-phase' and it is really a thirst-quenching flavor in the current warm(er) season in Singapore.
Tokyo Hi - Nikka Coffey Gin, Umeshu, Gari, Shiso Peppermint
Any words of wisdom for bartenders out there in these difficult times?
Keep your heads up! I'm taking this downtime as a form of reset, we all need it to perform better on the long run. With the extra time at home, I also cleaned up my room, freshened up my guitar and started playing music again.
When I am at work – I am focused on the delivery service and improving them one step a day.
You can also take this time to find your own branding as a bartender and build on it. This is the best time to equip yourself! The downs in life will make you be more appreciative and shape the bartender and person you are.
You can follow Jerrold on Instagram @jerroldrebelfever
Want to learn more about the art of cocktail making, join one of our courses at the Bols Bartending Academy.
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