DRiNK Magazine has been bringing the best of Asia’s beverage industry together for the past few years, creating an incredible educational and entertainment program of pop-ups from the world’s best bars in Shanghai. They’ve given our local cocktail connoisseurs and aficionados the great chance of exploring the world of drinks, all in the comfort of our own town.
For the past 3 years, the magazine’s efforts culminate in the yearly DRiNK Magazine Bar Awards (DMBA), a huge event by Thirsty Work Productions which sees bartenders, owners and some of the biggest beverage brands come together for a night of celebrations and enjoyment of fine drinks and food.
It’s like the Oscars of the East Asian beverage industry, and I was super excited and humbled for being selected to participate.
Before the awards ceremony started, we had a chance to hop around an impressive line-up of world’s top bars pop-ups. While I didn’t try every single one of them to avoid falling off my 14cm tall heels, I did have my fair share of sampling and here below are my top 3 picks among the ones I’ve tried:
Forager’s Garden by Vijay Mudaliar of Native (Singapore)
Havana Club 3-year rum, blue butterfly pea flowers, calamansi and Fever Tree Indian tonic.
Goodfellas by Ago Perrone of Connaught Bar (London)
Cardamom leaf-infused Michter’s whiskey, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, balsamic vinegar, black cardamom syrup, Abbott’s bitters and Luxardo Sangue Morlacco
Dawn Patrol by Harrison Ginsber of The Dead Rabbit (New York)
Pineapple-infused London n. 1 Gin, chilli vodka, absinthe, lemon juice, lemongrass cane syrup, Thai basil tincture and Fever Tree Indian tonic.
Guests were then invited into the Jing’an Shanghri-La’s Ball Room to enjoy a four course meal and attend the award ceremony.
And here’s the full list of award winners!
Sustainability Award (New for 2018)
BACARDI No Straws Campaign – A massive effort in collaboration with Lonely Whale to remove 1 billion plastic straws from Planet Earth by 2020. “The Future Doesn’t Suck” is their motto. Great to see the big brands move in this direction and, if you, my lovely reader, have the ability of drinking without a straw, you too shall be joining the “no straws” movement and mention to your bartender to serve your drink straw-less.
Innovation Award (New for 2018)
Cityson – This contemporary baijiu brand is reinventing and rebranding the traditional Chinese spirit and taking it beyond the China borders to top bars around the world.
Campari – It’s not hard to believe this iconic Italian bitter is bartenders’ favorite brand to work with, especially when creating great aperitivo drinks.
Ethan Liu from Proof & Company – Ethan has been representing the world of craft spirits in Singapore and Asia, helping to shape and develop a taste for small batch production in the market.
Atelier by Taste Buds, Shanghai – Truly a stunning, beautifully designed venue where I’ve been enjoying many a few amazing cocktails. In fact, I was expecting them to win best bar of the year in China.
Shake, Shanghai – Such a great music program with their resident Shanghai Sheik jazz band and other incredible guest musicians. I love going back and getting boogie on the dance floor! Besides, they’ve got delicious food and top notch cocktails.
Le Verre à Vin, Shanghai – These guys have been whipping awards since their opening in 2015. The wine program is simple but solid with friendly prices. A place I should definitely go back to more often!
Jing-A Brewpub, Beijing – A long time fan of this Beijing brewery, I always have a couple of bottles of their Workers Pale Ale in my fridge, religiously bought via BottlesXO app. Well deserved!
Sober Company, Shanghai – Shingo Gokan won all the possible awards and more! Sober company is definitely a great addition to the Shanghai bar scene, with great service, food and drinks.
Restaurant Bar of the Year
Sober Company, Shanghai – See above!
High Volume Bar
Le Baron, Shanghai – While I’m not a frequenter of this type of clubs (can’t bother with the dress code!), Le Baron has been smashing it on Donghu Lu since day one, having the right mix of local and international DJs, millennial glamour and ’80s inspired lowbrow club flair.
EQUIS, Four Seasons Hotel Beijing – I haven’t been to this one, but great to see other Chinese cities representing quality in the beverage industry.
Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou – I haven’t been to this bar yet, but the team behind the South China, expat-run speakeasy is set to win pretty much everything with their energetic attitude. They opened back in March 2016, and after being spot-lighted by the DMBA, I won’t be surprised to see them on Asia’s 50 Best Bars list next year.
Sober Company, Shanghai – duh, see above!
金衆磊 Kin San, Constellation – The guy has pretty much brought cocktail culture to China when he opened the very first Constellation in 2000. Eighteen years later, I’ve lost the count of how many cocktail and wine bars he’s opened in Shanghai. Well deserved award for a real F&B entrepreneur.
杨大庆 Eddy Yang – The founder of The Tailor Group got a massive standing ovation for his award announcement, and it’s well deserved. If you’ve been in Shanghai long enough, you’ll have fond memories of Tailor bar. Since, he’s opened a few bars, including Above The Globe and Second Moment, and consulted countless other ventures.
Bar of the Year (Asia)
The Old Man, Hong Kong – The Old Man opened in August 2017 and just 9 months later debuted on Asia’s 50 Best Bars as #5 best bar. Last month they debuted at #10 best bar on the World’s 50 Best Bar list. It’s thanks to the talented Agung Prabowo and his partners Roman Ghale and James Tamang, who have created the perfect speakeasy experience in the highly competitive Hong Kong scene.
Bartender of the Year (Asia)
Agung Prabowo – see above!
International Bartender of the Year
Erik Lorincz – This award is explained by DRiNK as “a new title which celebrates a bartender based outside our region, but one who has made the biggest impact on the Asia scene in terms of education and inspiration.”
Bartender of the Year (China)
Jackie Lo 卢雪君 – Standing ovation for the announcement of Jackie Lo as Bartender of the Year in China. In a widely male dominated industry it’s refreshing to see the talent of our industry’s women finally celebrated. Jackie has travelled lengths to refine the art of rum-based mixology, and I’m so happy she’s the winner of this category. #GirlPower
Bar of the Year (China)
Hope & Sesame, Guangzhou – Well now then… let’s plan this Guangzhou trip!
Throughout the night I had a chance to meet and greet with some of the winners, here’s the mighty selfies I’ve collected!
With Jackie Lo, best bartender in China, and my friend Austin!
With the Atelier by Taste Buds crew, and my friend Josh, looking not at his best on the right.
Vijay Mudaliar next to me and Kye Seng Eng on the right, both from Native, one of the most sustainable bars in the world.
With Fergus Woodward of Peddlers Gin on the left and my friends Jethro and Yannick from Shanghaiist.
With the lovely Amethy Huang and Marcia Xiao of Hope & Sesame in Guangzhou.
Thanks again to the DRiNK Magazine and Thirsty Work Productions teams for this wonderfully inspirational evening, and congratulations to all the winners – keep rocking it!