Today is World Bartender Day and what better way to celebrate it than getting to know our favourite bartender, Mark Tay! He’s the man behind all the amazing cocktails at DOOR XXV, and for those who’ve been by the bar, you would have seen him work his magic and probably even had exciting and insightful conversations with him (we’re still trying to find a topic that Mark doesn’t know)
Hi Mark! Could you introduce yourself and share with us your journey as a bartender and in this industry?
I’m Mark, Head of Hospitality for DOOR XXV. I started my career in hospitality about 30 years ago in a fine dining restaurant as a part-time gig. In a very short time, it became very evident that I had a very pronounced ability to balance flavours, which is really important in creating new cocktails and in pairing food with beverage. On top of it all, I really enjoyed my work and (funnily) I actually had a regular clientele… that was the point when I started to reconsider my career options. To be really honest, it really wasn’t too difficult a decision to make for me to drop out of my law path and begin on my journey in hospitality.
That journey ultimately took me to the top of my industry when I helmed the culinary program of an international chain hotel as the Director of Food & Beverage. That same journey has also taken me to countless countries around the globe, worked with some really big (and often misunderstood) names in the industry, served some of the largest icons in the world (if you know who, then you know who), and accumulated an entire bag of the fondest memories to last me the rest of my life.
Then came my epiphany moment (that’s a story for another time)… I realised that I could contribute more to the industry behind a bar or stove, than from behind a corporate desk. That’s when I started BarSmiths Hospitality, a beverage-centric consultancy with a deep focus towards education, operation, and strategic growth.
Where do you take inspiration from for your concoction and what’s the process like?
My Peranakan heritage, DNA of classic cocktails (Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour etc), seasonal foodstuff I came across at the market, something I ate, a particular oh-my-that-glass-is-beautiful glassware… inspiration can pretty much come from ANYTHING & EVERYWHERE!
An idea usually pops and I start to imagine how I’d like it to finally taste like. The taste profile then leads to my choice of ingredients and how each layer is going to be put together in the drink. Then comes the taste test and the choice of garnish, before we finally decide on the glassware. Presto!
What’s your most memorable experience behind the bar – be it interesting customers or bizarre requests?
Honestly, there have been WAY TOO MANY! I’ve had people ask me for Whisky on-the-rocks without ice, a Virgin Frozen Margharita, what flavour Peach Cooler I have available, I even had a guest ask me to marry her!
If you can only have one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
ALCOHOL – ANY ALCOHOL!!!
Lol… Whisky for sure
How is it like managing a bar in a shared workspace like SPECTRUM?
While we aim to provide a social environment for the SPECTRUM community to unwind, and we do have several members who come by for a drink or two, getting people into the space can be challenging. As speakeasy, we’re a bit of a hidden gem, and that’s why we organise social events – such as our recent F.R.I.E.N.D.S event, to help members experience DOOR XXV as a space for them to kick back and enjoy (along with a drink).
Additionally, due to the various tiers of security to access SPECTRUM, it is challenging for non-SPECTRUM members to visit regularly.
So yes, it’s been enlightening but challenging.
Thanks, Mark, for sharing with us!
If you would like to try some of Mark’s delicious concoction, check out our cocktails, or if you would like to chat with Mark (maybe even find out who are some big names he has met), you can always drop by DOOR XXV.