The world of craft cocktails has exploded in recent years, with bartenders around the globe pushing the boundaries of what's possible with a shaker and a few carefully chosen ingredients. In Singapore, ATLAS bar perfectly embodies this spirit of creativity and innovation with a side of elegance and splendor.
Nestled in the historic Parkview Square building, ATLAS is known for its stunning Art-Deco interiors, extensive gin collection, and of course, its award-winning cocktail program. At the helm of this program is head bartender Lidiyanah “Yana” K, an acclaimed mixologist whose creations have attracted a legion of fans around the region.
In celebration of this year's Singapore Cocktail Festival, we chatted with Yana to learn more about her background, what its like being the head bartender at one of the most renowned bars in Asia, and her views on all things bartending and cocktails.
Tell me a bit about your background. How did you get into the bartending industry?
My interest in bartending started in 2014 to 2015. I had just quit my job in advertising to pursue a degree in communications and I was working at a café as a barista. I was introduced to a few bartenders from 28 HongKong Street, and after my first visit, I was completely hooked. That was my first cocktail bar experience and I was very intrigued by the showmanship of the bartenders and the creativity behind the drinks.
I’ve always loved working in hospitality and I have a need to constantly be creative, so I thought bartending would be the right fit for me. I didn’t really get a chance to work in bars, as most places wanted people with experience.
I gave up on the idea until I got a call to join ATLAS as a barista, and I knew that was my chance to learn about cocktails! With a lot of determination and hard work, and maybe some persuasion, 6 months into the barista role, I moved to the bar team as a junior bartender and that was the start of this amazing journey in bartending!
What is it like being the head bartender at one of the most celebrated bars in Asia?
It is still very surreal to me being in this role now. As I look back on my journey, I never would have thought I would be the head bartender. It is truly an amazing feeling. Being in this role has taught me a lot and I am constantly evolving as a manager, bartender, and person.
It is really such an honor to be part of this team, and as the head bartender, I am able to express my creativity through cocktails and get to be an ambassador of this amazing venue. I get to do what I love and it is amazing to get to mold the next generation of amazing bartenders.
What do you love most about being a bartender?
There are so many parts of being a bartender that I love. Firstly, I get to express my art through my cocktails. Secondly, I get to meet people from all around the world and expand my knowledge on spirits [and] bartending, [and] learn new techniques and valuable information on how others run their bar. Lastly, I love putting on a show. Bartending is my stage to perform and to provide wonderful experiences for my guests.
What is the toughest aspect about being a bartender in Singapore?
I think the toughest aspect, not just in Singapore but anywhere in the world, is being ahead of the curve. Bartending is such a competitive market and bringing something new to the table constantly can be challenging. We are constantly finding ways to bring innovative and new experiences for our guests to stay relevant and to push the boundaries of what we can do.
What is your favourite cocktail to order and why?
My favorite cocktail is the Sloe Gin Fizz. It’s one of those cocktails that is hard to get wrong and it’s delicious! Everyone has their own interpretation on how to make it, and every experience is a different one for me.
Do you have a specific cocktail you enjoy creating the most? Why?
I love creating a martini. In essence, it is one of the simplest cocktails to make: bitters, vermouth, and gin. But taking a martini to the next level, while maintaining its simplicity and elegance, is no easy feat.
What are your favourite cocktail bars in Singapore? Any that are hidden gems?
My favorites have to be 28 HongKong Street, Sago House, and Nighthawk. One hidden gem I’ve grown to love is Republic at the Ritz [Carlton]. [The] Food is amazing, drinks are tasty, and the people make the experience a whole lot better!
What does the Singapore Cocktail Festival mean to you and what do you think of its impact on the cocktail scene here?
SGCF is a great platform to celebrate the cocktail culture in Singapore. It can help raise the profile of local and international bartenders and bars. It has helped create opportunities for collaboration and knowledge-sharing within the industry. The festival has helped position Singapore as the leading cocktail destination in [Southeast Asia] and has brought more light to the growing cocktail scene here.
Where do you see yourself career-wise in the next 3 years?
Career-wise, I still have so much more to grow and learn. Who knows, I could open my bar in a couple of years………