Launched in 2009, Diageo Reserve World Class has become the most renowned and respected mixology competition with over 15,000 bartenders taking part yearly, transforming the drinking experiences and cocktail cultures around the world.
A celebration of the world’s best bartenders and the world’s best drinks, Diageo Reserve World Class provides unparalleled guidance through partnerships with the most inspirational and highly recognised industry gurus, editors, lifestyle influences and partners at the top of their fields.
At the heart of the programme is a focus on educating and inspiring bartenders to create exceptional cocktails, service and drinking experiences; raising the standard of bartending. Diageo Reserve World Class bartenders are synonymous with sophistication, impeccable service and pushing the boundaries of contemporary and experiential cocktail culture.
Women are making headlines the world over and more ladies are winning bartending and barista championships than ever before making people sit up and pay attention not only for being women, but because they are excelling in the field. Helming the rising trend of female bartenders and mixologists is none other than young Yinying.
She was named the champion after grueling rounds of competitions in Malaysia and Singapore, impressing the panel of judges with her unique creations.
We caught up with her recently to check in on how the world of bartending has been treating her following her win. At the same time, also found out some interesting quirks about this otherwise normally soft-spoken girl.
Here’s what went down:
Congratulations on winning the Diageo Reserve World Class 2014. Are you still reeling from it, has it sunk in yet?
To be honest, when I won, it was quite sudden. I really didn’t expect to win at all, especially when I was competing against others who have had so many years of experience. It’s sudden but also good at the same time.
Pray tell, how did they judge you?
They judge based on all kinda of aspects – skills, presentation, taste, how well you know your products, and even simple things like hygiene or if your glass has stains. Because this is more like a bartending contests so as a bartender, these are all the things that we need to take note of.
Do you remember the first time you experienced the cocktail culture? Tell us about your earliest memory.
It started when I was doing my training and I got to learn about cocktails. It seemed fun to me! It’s kinda like cooking but without the fire – with ice and spirits.
What’s the process like when you concoct something that’s of your own creation? How many rounds of taste tests do you usually put one concoction through?
It’s really hard to say. Sometimes, after 2 rounds then it’s done, but sometimes it’s more than that like 4, 5, or 6 times. Usually, I let other people do taste tests such as my colleagues or sometimes, when a guest asks for something special then I’ll make something special for them. It’s good to know their opinion as well, from a guest’s point of view.
What are some of the unconventional ingredients that you’ve used in cocktails? And why did you decide to experiment with those?
There was one challenge for the Diageo Reserve World Class 2014 finals global where we were asked to use local (Malaysian) flavours and I actually brought some ciku to do it. Surprisingly, it turned out sweet and it had a good response from the judges as well as a few people who tasted it. Non competition wise, I’d say perhaps products that are usually used in the kitchen such as like sauces such as Maggi sauce and osyter cause. Those turned out well too in the sense they’re new flavours that are unusual and savoury.
Have you ever come across some misconceptions about being a bartender, especially a female one?
That you must make good cocktails! Just because you make good cocktails, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good bartender.
Thanks for the chat, Yinying! Also, special thanks to our friends from Diageo Reserve for organising the interview 😉
Note: Hailing from the heartland town in Puchong, Yinying graduated from Taylor’s University College in Hospitality Management and had her first bartending stint during an internship in a resort in Port Dickson. She’s currently working as a mixologist in Marini’s on 57.