Waku Ghin's Kazuhiro Chii.
SINGAPORE - It's fitting that Yokohama native Kazuhiro Chii took his first steps as a bartender at one of the city's most historical bars, the Ocean Bar Chrysler. His talent and natural inclination is evident in the awards he's earned since, in a career that spans 17 years. Early this year, he joined Waku Ghin as chief bartender, partnering another notable Japanese bartender, Akihiro Eguchi (himself a two-time Singapore champion for the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender Of The Year competition).
"It's great because we can improve our bartending knowledge and techniques alongside each other," said the 37-year-old Chii. "In addition, Aki always has very creative ideas. I find that I am often quite impressed by them and learn something new, particularly as I am quite an old-fashioned Japanese bartender."
One might think that the occasional squabble is to be expected, but Chii threw out any such prospect. When it comes to drinks, anyway.
"If we would squabble over something ... maybe over a girl?" he laughed.
How does the drink culture in Japan and Singapore differ?
Kazuhiro Chii: In Japan, many people tend to drink alone at the bar. They come to the bar to see the bartender and enjoy cocktails, especially classic cocktails … and often, conversation is not required. In contrast, the Singapore bar experience usually involves people enjoying drinks in the company of friends. And while the Japanese prefer classic cocktails, Singaporeans seem to prefer something new and inventive. In fact, I've encountered many guests who go, "surprise me". I never had such an experience in Japan.
Fill in the blanks: I drink champagne to celebrate the good life, tequila to forget the bad times, and single malt whisky when contemplating the magic of a brilliant cocktail.
A drink you've had that you wouldn't mind giving another chance?
Hands down, the worst drink to have would be a toss-up between warm beer and watery cocktails. I'm not sure I would give either another chance!
Most inspired food and cocktail pairing you've tried?
Dry martini with a truffle peach.
Favourite borrowed drink philosophy?
Ichigo ichie. One encounter, one opportunity. This phrase comes from the Japanese tea ceremony. In practice, it is very difficult, but it emphasises the idea that each tea meeting is unique.
Strangest thing you've seen added to a cocktail?
A cocktail which had actual Antarctic ice added to it.
What about the cutest thing?
A small yellow rubber duckie for pink bubble martini.
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