Agung Prabowo: he owns Asia’s best bar, and has some advice on being a better bartender

Agung Prabowo was in Sydney during Bar Week to host MONIN’s Bartending As An Art series.

During Sydney Bar Week just past, there was a very special masterclass held by one of the world’s best bartenders, Agung Prabowo.

Prabowo was in town for Bar Week thanks to MONIN, hosting their “Bartending as an Art” masterclass. Prabowo hosted a 2-hour session and shared his success, inspirational story and his love of modern bartending and discussed global cocktail culture.

Prabowo, recently ranked #1 on the 2019 list of the Asia’s Top 50 Bars for his famous Hong Kong bar, The Old Man, a concept which he has set up in Singapore as well. Prabowo is also the owner of Hong Kong bar, The Sea.

Here, Prabowo shares his thoughts on what makes a good bartender great, the hallmarks of a top bar, and the trends coming down the pipeline in 2020.

What is it in your mind that makes a good bartender become a great bartender?
Agung Prabowo: I think the answer is very simple. It’s about the humility. You can’t serve drinks to the guests or excel at hospitality without it.

A great bartender also possesses a positive attitude, enjoyment in their job and will have the enthusiasm to always give it their best. It’s important that bartenders never sit still and constantly strive to learn new skills. A great bartender will possess confidence, attitude, and personality, but always have respect for customers, fellow staff and their venue.

Agung Prabowo during his MONIN Bartending As An Art masterclass.

What is it that makes a bar truly great?
To make a great bar is not simply the product or drinks or even the place but rather it’s the people and overall how the entire experience comes together. This is how we run The Old Man bar. The concept and design, the cocktails and the service must be top-notch, all working in unison.

This makes the concept of The Old Man distinctive. From the doors, servers and the bar crew – the entire team is always engaged with the every guest making their experience unique.

In the bar industry, the team hospitality must be authentic and come straight from the heart. It needs to be genuine and without ‘faking it’ as guests will see always through that.

I always say to my team: always respect your job and always enjoy it wherever and whenever you’re in the bar. When we enjoy the work, the guests notice straight away and of course the whole experience will be better for it.

I’m consistently reminding all my team to live by the phrase: “we just don’t only mix, we create great, memorable experiences!”

What do you think about the role that lists like the World’s 50 Best Bars and awards ceremonies play in the industry?
Frankly speaking, as an independent bar like us, this platform of recognitions is very, very important. To be on the list is our dream and we are very fortunate and lucky to be included  on the list because of the love and support from our guests and industry people from around the world.

What do you think will be the big trends in bartending over the next year?
For sure, many trends from 2019 will continue, however in 2020 they’ll continue to be new twists and introduction of new flavour as many of our patrons are evolving their taste preferences. The experimental cocktail will continue to be strong in 2020, with both new and local flavours introduced to it. I see Culinary Cocktails emerging, with the use of culinary gadgets and  intense preparation behind the cocktail. 

The sustainable bar will continue to be important in 2020, with likely a greater focus on this in the back end of the year. Asian Flavours is another big one and any “unusual” and foraged ingredients apply in our cocktails. The rise of the Rebellion Bartender when creating cocktails will also appear. Many bartenders are tired of creating only sweet and sour types of cocktails – there will be no more “playing in the safe zone”. I see bartenders pushing out the limits and creating a crazy cocktail with crazy ingredients, but then presenting drinks in a simple way, with no more fancy garnishes.

What advice do you have for bartenders?
Never stop learning and believe in yourself.

Every day we have the opportunity to learn something from others, whether this be in work place or someplace else, I treated my work (bartending) as my hobby and I treat my hobby as my job which leaves me very satisfied.   

For more information on MONIN, contact your Stuart Alexander representative.

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