Saturday, 3 May 2014

Interview with Mixologist Angel Ng., the "Miss" at Hit and Mrs., Bangsar, Malaysia

the BIG group
Angel Ng, Mixologist at Hit and Mrs.

Angel Ng, the "Miss" at Hit and Mrs. shares with The Yum List some of her stories from behind the scenes and thoughts on the bar scene in Kuala Lumpur.


What do you do and how did you get into the industry? 
I have been managing the bar at Hit and Mrs for the past six months. I started out as a wine server in Singapore during the early 2000s before moving on to bars at various outlets till the mid-2000s. This was during my college years. I never expected coming back to the bar and beverage industry. However, after a series of wonderful events which led me to meeting Joshua Ivanovic the passion I lost in the corporate rat race was reignited. He trained me in the fundamentals and methods of classic cocktails. Since 2012, I have been bartending professionally. 

Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
What is most interesting are the guests. I noticed that if one doesn't like your drink, they usually will say it's nice. Some will go further to say it is not really my type of cocktail. To find guests who will actually critique the cocktail is a rarity which I appreciate. How can one improve if everyone says "it's nice". This usually happens with my Asian guests. For European or American guests, they are very direct with you. I guess it is part of the culture which makes it very interesting to observe. Now, I just discreetly look at their lips and eyes as they sip the cocktail. 

What's the best/ worst part of your job? 
One of the best parts of my job is the returning guests while the worst is cleaning sick off the carpet during busy service.

What's your personal favourite cocktail? 
At the moment my favourite cocktail is the Earl Grey Gimlet at Ril's. Sweet, sour, fragrant and refreshing! Ask the bar manager, James Barker, to make you one. My favourite cocktail or liquor changes on a tri-annual basis. Usually my comfort drink is RGC, Rickey Gimlet or Collins, if nothing on the menu fancies me. 

Tell us a story about one of the cocktails you prepare...
Jasmine Lee is pretty close to my heart. I prepared it for one of the Diageo WorldClass challenges. It features single-malt Oban. Whiskey was my kryptonite when I first started drinking. There was no way for me to enjoy it without feeling nauseous. At the first bar I worked in, I noticed many guests asking for green tea to mix into their whiskey—specifically Chivas with Jasmine Green Tea. Recognising my curiosity, the bar manager at the time poured me a glass to taste. It was refreshing yet strong and for the first time, I wasn't put off by whiskey. Bartenders and whiskey-enthusiasts frown upon the idea of having green tea in whiskey saying that it ruins the integrity of the drink. In spite of such elitist comments, I purposely crafted a cocktail with whiskey and jasmine green tea just to challenge detractors and prove that any ingredient can be perfect together. It is all about the right measurements and combinations. At Hit and Mrs., there is a tall version of the Jasmine Lee which consists of blended whisky, honey, lemon juice, young ginger, mint and jasmine green tea. 

What's one of the scariest things you've seen behind the scenes?
Nutty and at times scary are bar fights. I used to part-time along these rows of bars in Singapore during the mid-2000s that are popular with sailors and college students. Fights would erupt at times and last for about two minutes before the bouncers kick you out or the cops will arrive. There was this one particular fight between drunken sailors and 'ah bengs' which spilled out onto to the public pathway. Suddenly, locals started running out of different pubs to join in the fight. It was nuts! Passerbys were pushed to the ground, customers were trying to save their drinks from spilling, the boss of the neighbouring pub was shouting tipsily in incoherent Singlish at them. Absolute havoc. The staff must always be alert and immediately know how to protect their customers from being injured even if we are fearful for our own safety. 

The perfect day off would be... 
Drinking sangria in the park.

A life in the day of a bartender is... 
A life as a bartender is like having an open house. Getting ready to set up your guest lounge to be as comfortable as possible and invite them to wind down with an inebriating beverage after a hard day’s work.

What do you do for fun?
Fun can be so widely perceived. Fun can be spontaneous. Fun can be about going against your fears and trying new things. This year, I faced my fear of open waters by trying surfing and learnt how to use a hand gun in the event of the apocalypse. Jokes aside, my idea of fun hasn't changed since I was 4 years old. A trip to a carnival or theme park—I'm a sucker for it. 

Where's your secret spot for good food?
In the middle of Petaling Street (opposite Hotel Chinatown Inn), there are three grandmothers specialising in curry noddles, assam laksa and minced pork kon loh mee. As it is just by the side of the pathway, most people will miss it unless they recognise the amazing aroma of traditional Sout East Asian Chinese noodle dishes. It was the only thing I ate when I was living on Petaling Street during my first two months in Malaysia. Just beautiful. 

How do you select your ingredients and why? 
My style of cocktails and selection of ingredients varies from each bar I work in. For example, when I was working at Ocho Spanish Tapas Bar (Singapore), I focused on Latin ingredients and its history. At Circus (K.L.) with Joshua Ivanonic, I got into classic and contemporary cocktails using liquors like Fernet Branca and ingredients like rosemary and thyme. At Frangipani Langkawi Resort which is serious about eco and healthy living, I created a range of (funnily enough) healthy cocktails and even mocktails for diabetic guests. Now with Hit and Mrs., my creations are heavily-influenced by South-east Asian ingredients. I believe in going with the flow of the bar theme to create the best experience for guests. 

What's your view on the KL bar scene?
From three years ago when I first arrived in KL till now, it has improved tremendously. Cocktail bars are popping up at a good rate. I'm pretty excited for the years to come and how KL’s bar scene will grow.  

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months? 
At Hit and Mrs., the ground floor is the restaurant which serves modern cuisine with passion. Coming soon, there will be a wine pairing event. Just keep an open mind when you arrive. Aside from that, our Happy Town promotion is launchig at the bar. We have Nikka Japanese Whiskey Twin Bottle promotion at RM600, Spiced Sangria and Tequila Watermelon carafe punch for RM60 each and 5 bottles of beer for RM72! Come and let this Miss at Mrs craft you a drink! 



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