SINGAPORE, 2 March 2021 – After safely navigating a challenging 2020, Proof & Company is preparing for a return to growth in 2021 by welcoming a new CEO and bolstering its leadership team.

On 1 April, and following a 12-month search led by co-founders Paul Gabie and Spencer Forhart with support from the company’s board of directors, Gabie will hand CEO responsibilities to Paul Broadbent. Gabie and Forhart will remain as a Directors, providing oversight and support to the new CEO and leadership team. Broadbent currently serves as Proof & Company’s General Manager, Australia & New Zealand. This CEO transition is the first in Proof & Company’s nine-year history and comes at a time when the outlook for independent spirits in Asia Pacific is brighter than ever.

Since joining Proof & Company in 2018, Broadbent has led a chapter of transformational growth in the company’s Australia and New Zealand markets. Over this three-year period, Proof & Company’s business in the Australasia region has grown six-fold, driven by expanded presence in national retail, excellent performance in the on-trade channel, and the acquisition and growth of leading independent brands to the company’s Australasia portfolio, including Diplomático Rum, Never Never Distilling Co. and Sullivans Cove Whisky.

Prior to joining Proof & Company, Broadbent spent 14 years with Bacardi-Martini Australia where he undertook a variety of roles across global travel retail, national on trade, national accounts and the brand ambassador program. Over his career, Broadbent has held senior roles in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne and will now relocate to Singapore to take on the CEO role with Proof & Company.

“Being part of such a progressive and dynamic drinks company over the past three years has been truly exhilarating.  We have a fantastic brand portfolio anchored by great partners. When you couple this with talented and passionate people across our teams, the future is bright,” says Broadbent, “Taking over from a successful founder is always a significant task and I want to thank Paul for handing over the business in such a strong position.”

In April, Gabie will shift his day-to-day focus to the global expansion of ecoSPIRITS, a technology spinout from Proof & Company that has developed the world’s first closed loop distribution technology for premium spirits. ecoSPIRITS works with local partners worldwide, including Proof & Company, to reduce the delivered cost and carbon footprint of spirits.

“Serving as CEO of Proof & Company has been the highlight of my career. Over the past five years, we have entered the Australia and China markets, grown by more than 500%, and developed a team of spirits professionals that is amongst the most committed and able in the business,” notes Gabie. “Proof & Company has a strong leadership team, talented market teams across the region, and some of the best brand partners we could ask for. Having worked together closely now for three years, I have every confidence that Paul Broadbent is the right leader for our next chapter.”

As part of this transition, Elaine Hardiman will take on an expanded Group CFO role, working closely alongside Broadbent in leading Proof & Company. Since joining Proof & Company in early 2018 from Ralph Lauren Asia Pacific, Hardiman has successfully steered the group through both the challenges of rapid growth and the COVID-19 pandemic. In her expanded role, she will take on broader oversight of the group’s financial and administrative functions across the entire region.

“During my time with Proof & Company, we have been on a transformative journey, not just one of rapid growth but also in upgrading our processes and systems,” notes Hardiman. “I am excited to be partnering with Paul Broadbent to help lead the next chapter of our development across the region. Paul and I are confident that our skill sets complement each other well as we take on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

To further strengthen Proof & Company’s Australasia business, Damian Kaehler will succeed Broadbent as Proof & Company’s General Manager, Australia and New Zealand in April. Kaehler joins from SouthTrade International, where he was Sales Director of Australia’s fastest growing spirits supplier. The move reunites Broadbent and Kaehler, who previously worked together from 2009 through 2018. More details regarding Kaehler’s appointment at Proof & Company will be released in early April.


Dear Spirits & Hospitality Community,

Back in May, we shared our first open letter, titled Let’s Come Back Stronger, Together. In the months since, our markets across Asia Pacific have seen the worst of the COVID-19 crisis subside, yet had to persevere through serial local lockdowns, alcohol sales curfews, and social distancing restrictions at every turn. In short, a rollercoaster of hope and despair. Yet, here we are on the 31st of December – still standing, certainly wiser, and unexpectedly optimistic about the future.

The 28 HongKong Street team in November 2020. Still together, still strong. Photo Credit: ensofphotography for 28 HongKong Street

So, what has 2020 taught us?

Hospitality is resilient. We – as individuals, as teams, as communities and as an industry – are stronger than we thought. We can adapt more quickly than we believed possible. We can do more to help each other through challenge than we have done in the past. This resilience has been on display all year and across the globe. It can give us comfort for the road ahead.

People are still drinking. If anything, this once-in-a-hundred-year moment has confirmed the value we all place on a good drink, either at home or in a favourite bar or restaurant. Globally, spirits sales have been surprisingly resilient, even if the impact of the crisis has been unevenly distributed. When the pandemic finally subsides, this industry is coming back stronger.

How we serve them is changing. 2020 threw much of what we thought we knew about the industry into a cocktail shaker. How brands and venues reach their audience changed overnight. Home consumption, craft RTD serves, direct-to-consumer channels, online venue marketing, bottled cocktails from bars. Nascent trends became forces of change, and many are here to stay.

This year has been hard. We would be remiss not to mark the toll this year has taken on the industry, and all of us. We have collectively lost millions of jobs, thousands of great venues, and a measure of stability that we previously took for granted. The cost of the crisis has fallen unevenly, most notably on hospitality venues and professionals. We cannot forget this.

Next year will be hard, at least to start. 2021 brings the promise of recovery, but also of continued uncertainty. The first half of the year – at a minimum – will challenge us all. Some markets, such as New Zealand and China, are on the road to recovery. Others, such as Hong Kong SAR and Thailand, remain in the depths of the crisis. Our best hope lies in the lessons of 2020. Plan carefully, adapt quickly, embrace new ideas and take care of each other.

We’re in this together. For all of us at Proof & Company, the unprecedented sense of togetherness, which we wrote about back in May, remains the defining characteristic of 2020. This coming together of the spirits and hospitality industry – brands, suppliers, bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers – is the most powerful tool we take with us into 2021. Let’s all work to make it permanent.

New ideas and the embrace of change offer a pathway to recovery in 2021. Photo Credit: Rum Diary Melbourne

That leaves us at the final task of 2020: a simple, heartfelt thank you. To our team members, our brand partners, our business partners, our clients, our governments and our communities for the remarkable support they have given Proof & Company over the course of this extraordinary year. We are humbled and grateful for everything you have done in the difficult moments. We only hope that Proof & Company has been able to return the favour.

Whatever 2021 has in store, we will be stronger, together.

Spencer Forhart


Paul Gabie

Chief Executive Officer


MELBOURNE 29 October 2020 – Starting this month, acclaimed Tasmanian distillery Sullivans Cove has partnered with Proof & Company to expand the footprint for their extraordinary spirits. Under this new partnership, Proof & Company will take over distribution of Sullivans Cove spirits in their Australian home market as well as the broader Asia Pacific region.

The new partnership between Sullivans Cove and Proof & Company is a natural fit given both companies’ commitment to championing craft, quality and independence in the Asia Pacific spirits landscape. Proof & Company will now offer the Sullivans Cove portfolio of award-winning spirits to its client base of more than 3,000 leading bars, restaurants, hotels and retailers in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong and China.

Proof & Company’s award-winning drinks consultancy, Proof Creative, will also work closely with the Sullivans Cove team to bring Australian whisky to some of the region’s most high-profile bar openings. Although the new distribution partnership will help raise the profile of the distillery and Tasmanian spirits around the region, Sullivans Cove’s limited stock availability and very high demand remains. As such, stock will remain on strict allocation.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Proof & Company for distribution of our products in Australia and throughout the Asia Pacific region,” says Sullivans Cove Brand Manager, Fred Siggins. “Our focus has always been on quality over quantity, so it was important for us to partner with a distributor who understands that and isn’t just going by the numbers. As a small team, we’re never able to spend as much time out in the venues as we would like, so we’re excited that our customers in every state and every country in the region will have access to local knowledge and understanding through the Proof & Company team, and we look forward to building closer relationships, hosting brilliant events and offering better service than ever through this partnership.”

Sullivans Cove Distillery is Australia’s premier craft producer of single malt whisky. Founded on the shores of Sullivans Cove in Hobart, Tasmania in 1994, Sullivans Cove is one of Australia’s longest-running whisky distilleries of the modern craft era.  As Australia’s most awarded whisky, having won three “World’s Best” titles at the World Whiskies Awards in 2014, 2018 and 2019 and many, many other accolades both locally and globally, Sullivans Cove has been fundamental in the development of the Australian spirits landscape by becoming one of the world’s most awarded whiskies and one of a small number of local spirits producers to gain notoriety outside of Australia.

Pure Tasmanian rainwater, some of the cleanest in the world

The Sullivans Cove Distillery, Tasmania, Australia

Sullivans Cove Distillery is the true embodiment of craft spirits, producing full-flavoured, rustic, hand-made single malt whiskies from 100% Tasmanian ingredients. Allowed to mature over many years in the unique Tasmanian climate in hand-selected, full sized casks, Sullivans Cove whiskies are unrushed, each barrel allowed to express its own individual character and quality.

The majority of Sullivans Cove whiskies are aged in full-sized American oak ex-bourbon or French oak ex-tawny casks. All Sullivans Cove whiskies are allowed a long maturation period in the unique Tasmanian climate – typically between 9 and 18 years. Many of these casks will be hand-selected at the peak of their character and quality to be bottled completely unblended as Sullivans Cove’s flagship single cask whiskies, while others will be carefully married together to create Sullivans Cove’s small-batch vatted Double Cask expression.

Beyond whisky, Sullivans Cove also collaborate with the thriving Tasmanian wine industry in the Huon Valley, using a 100% Tasmanian grapes to produce both single cask and vatted expressions of some of Australia’s most intriguing and complex brandies.

Sullivans Cove Double Cask Tasmanian Whisky

Winner of Best Australian Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2018, the Double Cask is aged in a combination of French and American oak casks, displaying rich complexity and length. Non-chill filtered and additive free, this expression is bottled at 45% ABV (90 Proof).

Sullivans Cove American Oak Single Bourbon Cask

The distillery’s most awarded expression and Australia’s most awarded whisky, American Oak Single Bourbon Cask is the defining style of Sullivan Cove, with malty notes of caramel and vanilla on a foundation of  pronounced oak. Bottled at approximately 47.5% ABV (95 Proof), each bottling single cask bottling is unique, allowing the individual character of every cask to shine through.

Sullivans Cove French Oak Single Tawny Cask

The French Oak Single Tawny Cask has undisputedly put Australian whisky on the global map since winning World’s Best Single Malt at The World Whiskies Awards 2014 and then World’s Best Single Malt Single Cask in 2019. Aged in 300-litre Australian tawny fortified wine casks and bottled at approximately 47.5% ABV (95 Proof), each unique single cask expresses notes of rich dried fruit, Christmas spice, chocolate and fine European oak tannins.

The team behind Sullivans Cove is well-known and well-loved in the industry. The distillery is helmed by Head Distiller Heather Tillott and Production Manager Kirsten Laurie. Brand strategy and advocacy is led by Brand Manager Fred Siggins with Sam Cumming in the role of Sales Manager, both long-time bar and beverage professionals. The small team is made up of 20 staff in total across production, cellar door, bottling, logistics and administration, with all aspects of Sullivans Cove production and business based out of their facility in Hobart. Open to visitors seven days a week and for in-depth tours and tastings by booking, Sullivans Cove Distillery is a must-see for any Tasmanian-bound whisky lover.

“In recent years, Proof & Company has made a major commitment to championing leading local and regional spirits producers,” notes Paul Broadbent, Proof & Company’s General Manager, Australia & New Zealand, “The partnership with the wonderful Sullivans Cove team builds on that commitment. We look forward to sharing their exceptional portfolio with our clients across Asia Pacific.”

About Sullivans Cove

Sullivans Cove Distillery is Australia’s premier craft producer of single malt whisky. Founded on the shores of Sullivans Cove in Hobart, Tasmania in 1994, Sullivans Cove is one of Australia’s longest-running whisky distilleries of the modern craft era. Sullivans Cove is also Australia’s most awarded whisky, having won three “World’s Best” titles at the World Whiskies Awards in 2014, 2018 and 2019 and many, many other accolades both locally and globally. Sullivans Cove Distillery produces full-flavoured, rustic, hand-made single malt whiskies from 100% Tasmanian ingredients. Allowed to mature over many years in the unique Tasmanian climate in hand-selected, full sized casks, Sullivans Cove whiskies are unrushed, each unique cask allowed to express its own individual character and quality.

For more information, please visit sullivanscove


TOKYO 12 October 2020 In a city famous for its glamorous hotels and high-rise bars, a luxurious new hotel, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi, made its sparkling debut on 1st September. Nestled on the 39th floor of the new hotel, VIRTÙ is a destination hotel bar that celebrates the long, intersecting history of two capitals, Paris and Tokyo. Opened in collaboration with Proof Creative and the renowned Japanese Design Studio Spin, VIRTÙ offers French-inspired drinking and spectacular views of the bright megapolis that is modern Tokyo.

The golden thread at VIRTÙ is Paris’ and Tokyo’s common position as global capitals of style, now and throughout recent history. As a result, VIRTÙ is a celebration of the potent cultural influence of these two cities, spanning the arts, music, fashion, design, people and architecture. The name ‘VIRTÙ’ signifies the virtues of humankind and their influence on drinking etiquettes.

The gorgeous setting is courtesy of the award-winning team at Spin and centers on a main room with seating for 78 guests, an intimate crescent bar and a unique communal long table that spans the length of the room, inviting guests to interact in a family-style setting. The design fuses French art deco patterns and materials with Japanese textiles and craftsmanship.

Warm hues, soft fabrics and a distinctive checkered backbar at VIRTÙ

The arrival at VIRTÙ marked by an entrance library, home to a working collection of books by the world’s most prominent food and beverage authors. This collection supplemented with hand-picked cocktail artefacts and antiques, each with their own drinking story to tell. Tucked in a hidden walkway behind the library is the Spirits Chambers, which house a collection of the world’s finest French brandies as well as barrels and demijohns of spirits ageing experiments by the VIRTÙ bar team.

The entrance library at VIRTÙ

A wall of French Cognac in the Spirits Chamber

The bar and beverage program at VIRTÙ is led by respected Head Bartender Joshua Perez, an American known for his work at a series of legendary New York City cocktail institutions, including Booker & Dax, Experimental Cocktail Club and Milk & Honey. Fluent in Japanese, Perez was drawn by the prospect of returning to Japan to oversee a flagship hotel bar in a culture for which he has a deep appreciation.

Under Perez’s stewardship, guests can expect irreverent and detailed Japanese drinking rituals infused with classic French sensibility. Cocktails at VIRTÙ revolve around seven human virtues: Mercy, Loyalty, Justice, Honesty, Honour, Respect, and Bravery. The interlinking of drinking etiquettes and the strong social code of Japanese culture is purposeful, providing guests an intuitive guide when selecting a cocktail.

Notes Perez, “We’ve taken each virtue to represent a different style or category of cocktail to guide guests along. We start with ‘Mercy’ being low ABV aperitif-style cocktails, ‘Respect’ are spirit-forward, and we end on ‘Bravery’ with more experimental and esoteric drinks. The cocktails combine minimal Japanese styling, fresh local produce, with epitome French flavours, liqueurs and fine aged spirits.

The Takara Cocktail

The Champs de Lavende Cocktail

In collaboration with Tokyo’s YYG brewery, the VIRTÙ team have developed ‘Saison de Tokyo,’ a traditional French-style farmhouse ale. The craft beer is made exclusively for Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi and brewed in the YYG brewery in the Yoyogi district.

As is fitting, the food at VIRTÙ highlights the culinary traditions of these two culinary capitals. The bar menu is provided by the neighboring est restaurant, helmed by acclaimed Michelin Star chef Guillaume Bracaval and plays on French cuisine with endemic Japanese ingredients. One of our favourites is the Gyu Katsu Sando, a decadent wagyu beef sandwich on house-made toasted milk bun with VIRTÙ ‘bulldog’ sauce.

The aural direction aligns with the French and Japanese influence, drawing on influential French and Japanese musicians from the 1940s through present day. All expertly curated by the musical styling experts Bellosound. 

The opening of the new hotel and its elegant food and beverage offerings has been led by Regional Vice President and General Manager Andrew De Brito, along with Hotel Manager Anthony Tschudin. “Four Seasons Tokyo at Otemachi is in the perfect spot for guests to experience the best of Tokyo as we bring a freshness to the city,” notes De Brito, “In Japan, the art of hospitality is known as omotenashi; here at Four Seasons, it is how we take care of our guests every day.”

VIRTÙ is a project three years in the making and the latest in a long series of collaborations between Proof Creative and Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, dating back to the opening of Manhattan Bar in 2014 and including the acclaimed Caprice Bar in Hong Kong, Charles H. in Seoul and Bar Trigona in Kuala Lumpur. VIRTÙ development work was led by Spirits Evangelist Bobby Carey, with support from Creative Director Jason Williams and Creative Project Coordinator Jonathan Teo.

“Four Seasons Asia has developed a reputation for beverage excellence, and we have every confidence that VIRTÙ and Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi are another step in that journey. It has been an honour to collaborate with Andrew, Anthony, Joshua and their entire team on this latest Four Seasons landmark opening,” notes Carey.

VIRTÙ is now open to the public. For reservations, point your cursor to or Catch all the latest news on Instagram and Facebook.

In a city fuelled by boundless energy and defined by intriguing contrasts, Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Otemachi delivers next-generation luxury experiences with inimitable style. Soaring above the heart of the capital and offering expansive Imperial Palace views, Four Seasons puts you at centre stage, from sky-high gourmet meals on our rooftop terrace to gala business and social events at Tokyo’s best address.

For more information, please visit:

Design Studio Spin based in Tokyo are a distinguished interior design company serving for clients around the world who seek for the highest quality. Multiple award-winning creators of stunning Food & Beverage spaces, their high-profile work can be experienced throughout the globe.  They have previously worked closely with the Four Seasons at their Tianjin, St Petersburg, Bali, Cairo and Hong Kong Properties

For more information, please visit:


BANGKOK 11 September 2020 In a city renowned for its rooftop bars, this week marked the opening of a new standard bearer for open air drinking: Paradise Lost at the Siam@Siam Design Hotel. A neo-tropical bar and social habitat, Paradise Lost is a signature project for the team at Siam@Siam.

As the name foreshadows, Paradise Lost is inspired by a post-apocalyptic world, one in which climate change and environmental trauma have banished lush, tropical biosystems to the hazy reaches of distant memory. The only hope for resurrection lies in sustainable and thoughtful living.

Led by Managing Director Khun Pranai Phornprapha and General Manager Justin Swart, Paradise Lost is more than two years in the making. In collaboration with Proof Creative and award-winning Australian designers MASH, the Siam@Siam team developed a multi-level, maze-like venue with 360-degree views of the Bangkok skyline. Featuring three distinct bars, stunning wraparound ledges, a multitude of hideaways for guests, bold neon lighting, and liberal dashes of neo-tropical colour, Paradise Lost is all about escapism.

“We always wanted to create something very conceptual, a hidden sanctuary which allows us to spread the message about sustainability,” notes Phornprapha, “We would like for our visitors to feel like they’ve entered another world and hope that both locals and tourists will enjoy our unique twist on the modern bar experience.”

The drinks program at Paradise Lost is managed by Head Bartender and ‘Good Times Guide’ Gabriel Lowe. Lowe is the creator of Black Bear in Bogotá and a former bar manager at Locanda, Black Cat and The Battery in San Francisco. He was listed in Zagat’s 30 Under 30, honouring up-and-coming food and drink talents of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Gabriel Lowe, Head Bartender and ‘Good Times Guide’ at Paradise Lost

The food and beverage on offer at Paradise Lost showcases the sustainable practices that a neo-tropical future might entail:  eliminating single use plastic and glass, local and hyperlocal sourcing, upcycling of ingredients and working with brands and suppliers that share the same sustainability ethos. Drinking vessels, coasters, furniture, and more throughout the venue are made from reused or recycled materials.

Upcycled drinks coasters from salvaged plastics by BOPE in Chiang Mai

Paradise Lost is also a proud partner venue for ecoSPIRITS, the world’s first low-carbon, low-waste spirits distribution technology. Through this partnership, nearly every cocktail served in the venue saves 150g of carbon emissions and supports reforestation through the planting of Paradise Lost geo-tagged trees in the endangered Kalimantan rainforest area in Borneo, Indonesia.

Sustainable doesn’t mean there is a deficit of fun or flavour. Drinks at Paradise Lost are as bold and delightful as the interiors. The cocktail menu plays homage to disaster manuals of pre-apocalypse times, offering guests a step-by-step guide to making the most of their moment. Lowe says, “Every drink is a miniature vacation, a moment of escape and enjoyment in a world where reality can be all too weighty.”

The WWW (What We Worship) Cocktail

Drinks such as the WWW (What We Worship), a play on the colours and flavours of Bangkok and Thailand. A colourful combination of low-carbon Tried & True Straight Wheat Vodka, blended with Rinomato Aperitivo and Rinomato Americano; bolstered with native citrus and local passionfruit. WWW is a drink that evokes the venue: vivid, bold and uncompromising.

The Invisible Garden Cocktail

Drinks feature world-class spirits, a new standard for Bangkok’s rooftop bars, as well as surprising and thoughtful local flavours. The Invisible Garden Cocktail is a spin on the classic Bloody Mary, featuring low-carbon Widges Gin, clarified tomato, celery, Thai peppers & lemon, salt and some heat from Scrappy’s Firewater Tincture - with a Thai chili dust rim.

The focus on quality, sustainable sourcing flows throughout the other drinks categories too, including the venue’s bespoke Paradise Pilsner, a tropical- leaning light and dry refresher with subtle sour mango nuances created in collaboration with the Rise of Civilization brewery in Saigon, Vietnam.

Food at Paradise Lost is just as thoughtful and colourful. Sitting above the hotel’s award-winning creative Thai restaurant, TAAN, and sharing a kitchen, the Paradise Lost food menu adopts its sister restaurant’s celebration of Thailand’s food artisans and their unique ingredients. One of the highlights is the Prawn Steak Roll, native fried prawn heads, layered with sour chili cream, onion marmalade & a burst of citrus, on a toasted butter bun.

The Native Prawn Steak Roll

With a rotating list of DJs and performance artists, Paradise Lost promises to be a beacon of escape, hospitality and positive energy in the Bangkok skyline. Just what 2020 needs, we suppose.

Paradise Lost is open to the public from 6 September 2020. For reservations, make your way to or Follow along on Instagram or Facebook.

Established in 2007, Siam@Siam Design Hotels takes inspiration from the diverse and colourful neighbourhoods that surround its properties in Bangkok and Pattaya. Believing that exceptional hospitality goes hand in hand with cutting-edge design, nightlife, and culinary experiences, the hotel group boasts a growing portfolio of bars, restaurants and public spaces. Siam@Siam Bangkok is home to Paradise Lost, a bold and creative rooftop cocktail bar, as well as TAAN, a modern Thai fine-dining restaurant, and Chim Chim, a vibrant all-day diner (coming late 2020).

For more information, please visit:

Mash is an interdisciplinary design studio creating spaces and brands that ultimately help their clients achieve hospitality success. Coining the phrase ‘Art-itechture’ Dom Roberts the founder has created an emporium of innovation blurring the lines between interior design, branding and artistic endeavour. They are designers and brand-creators, bringing wonder and imagination to their clients’ venues. Their clients hail from all around this small world of ours. With projects completed in Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Bangkok to name a few. They are currently working on new endeavours in Tokyo and London. Mash is inspired to create holistic spaces where harmony between all the parts come together to create a complete venue experience. Founder Dom Roberts believes interior design and branding must co-exist and work together to enhance and create truely amazing hospitality venues.

Their work has won multiple accolades including D&AD Awards in London and Graphis Awards in New York. Their work has also been displayed in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA).

For more information, please visit:


SINGAPORE 3 August 2020 – The modern era of craft distilling has well and truly arrived in India, home to one of the world’s largest spirits markets. This month marks the launch of an extraordinary new offering: TERAI India Dry Gin from the India Craft Spirit Co. in Behror, Rajasthan. 

Inspired by the Indian region of ‘Terai,’ which is a strip of fertile marshland running along the foothills of the Himalayas, TERAI is carefully crafted to pay homage to these notions of being lush, bountiful and fresh. The Swarups, the family behind the India Craft Spirit Co., have a history of agriculture in the region dating back to the 1700s and opened one of the first distilleries in India in 1958. TERAI India Dry Gin is their first contribution to India’s new era of distilling.

The verdant Himalayan foothills in India

Best known for its signature bar projects, the Proof Creative team worked closely with Shekhar Swarup, the founder, over two years in the development of the gin itself, the visitor experience at the distillery, and the storytelling and launch plans. The assignment? Develop an emblematic gin that sets a new benchmark for India craft spirits and one that can hold its own in the Second Golden Age of fine drinking.

“Our commitment over the last two years has been driven by a devotion to our land, our experience in agriculture and distillation, a spirit of craft and the love of a good drink! We are immensely proud of how this journey has shaped TERAI India Dry Gin and are delighted at its launch,” says Shekhar.

TERAI India Dry Gin is a modern interpretation of a traditional London Dry gin, the result of countless recipe trials drawing on India’s rich botanical and spice offering and testing in some of Asia’s best bars. The final recipe showcases 11 botanicals – juniper berries, tulsi (or holy basil), coriander, fennel, lemon peel, orange peel, lavender, rose, almond, angelica and orris root. Many are sourced from Asia’s largest spice market Khari Baoli in New Delhi.

TERAI’s commitment to craftsmanship exemplifies the best qualities of modern independent spirits. The gin is produced in a purpose-built distillery, using traditional one-shot distillation in the country’s first copper pot still from Carl GmbH. The neutral spirit at the heart of TERAI is produced from rice at a neighbouring distillery owned by the Swarup family. The glass bottle draws inspiration from pillars in ancient Indian architecture, and each stopper is handmade in the traditional style of India’s Channapatna craft. On the label an intricate representation of the botanicals has been illustrated in the design of vintage Indian coins.

“This is a world class gin,” notes Jason Williams, Proof Creative Director and Master of Gin at ATLAS Singapore, “Shekhar and the Swarup family should be rightly proud of their new addition to the global spirits landscape. With the launch of TERAI, and other quality India craft gins, the world of gin has come full circle to its historical roots in India. We could not be more delighted to have played a role in TERAI’s development.”

The TERAI botanical mix gives the gin a bold, dry spice profile, while the tulsi, a signature botanical, and the more floral elements add freshness and vibrancy. As a modern London Dry Gin, TERAI India Dry Gin works beautifully in a classic G&T with fresh lemon and mint or in a classic Southside cocktail.

TERAI India Dry Gin is available in New Delhi starting this month and will soon be available across India. A launch in overseas markets are planned for later in the year.

About India Craft Spirit Co.
India Craft Spirit Co. is an initiative undertaken by Globus Spirits Ltd. one of India’s leading grain distillers. Within this initiative, Shekhar Swarup, Founder, aspires to create contemporary spirits inspired by Indian produce and culture. Shekhar is a 4th generation distiller and part of the Swarup family which has been involved in agriculture in India since the 1700s. The family has been part of the burgeoning spirits industry of India with the family’s first distillery that was established in 1958. India Craft Spirit Co. has established its own small-batch craft distillery in Rajasthan and TERAI India Dry Gin is its first offering.


SINGAPORE 13 July 2020 – Brass Lion Distillery, Singapore’s leading craft spirits producer, has appointed Proof & Company as their distribution partner in the city state. This announcement brings together two home-grown champions of independents spirits and cocktail culture.

“Local is a big part of the future of fine drinking. Across our Asia Pacific markets, Proof & Company is committed to championing the very best of local and regional distilling – and Brass Lion certainly fits the bill.” says Richelle South, Proof & Company’s Commercial Director, Singapore. “We look forward to working closely with Jamie, Kino and the entire team to continue Brass Lion’s rise as the benchmark distillery in this cocktail and spirits-loving city.”

Founded in 2018 by Jamie Koh, after a six-year journey of development, Brass Lion Distillery is Singapore’s first full-fledged micro distillery. Notes Jamie, “I first conceptualised the idea of a Singaporean distillery producing uniquely Singaporean spirits back in 2012. We believe Singapore is the perfect place to create a holistic distillery experience, given how the cocktail and spirits scene here has matured in recent years. At Brass Lion Distillery, we place a strong focus on the quality of our product.”

Jamie Koh, Founder & CEO, Brass Lion Distillery

The heart of the 4,000-square-foot standalone distillery is the ground floor, where small batch spirits are produced in a hand-crafted 150-litre copper still, then hand-labelled and hand-bottled. The distillery also features an urban herb garden, which features an assortment of herbs like lemongrass, rosemary, peppermint and kaffir lime leaves, specifically cultivated for use in the distillery and the second-floor tasting room.

The second floor of the distillery is also home to a retail corner, spirits research lab. The tasting room, serves iterations of gin-based cocktails and light bites that pair well with these drinks. Tours and workshops run on a regular basis, allowing spirits lovers to learn more about the art of distilling and customise their very own bottle of gin.

Brass Lion’s flagship spirit, the Singapore Dry Gin, is a tropical and distinctly Singaporean gin that evokes the island’s sense of place. Crafted in the New World-style, gin draws inspiration from the region’s centuries-old spice trade, which brought a plethora of Asian herbs and spices to the island.

The flagship dry gin is complemented by the Butterfly Pea Gin, which is a floral spirit infused with butterfly pea flowers and lavender. Butterfly pea flowers, a staple in local Peranakan cuisine, gives the gin its deep blue hue. With the addition of tonic or citrus, the gin morphs from a deep blue into a vibrant indigo.

The distillery’s other current release is the Pahit Pink Gin, a classic pink gin with a local, historical twist. First popularised by the British Royal Navy as a remedy for sea sickness in colonial Malaya, a mix of gin and bitters became known in the Straits region as Gin Pahit (or bitter gin). This blend of Singapore Dry Gin and Brass Lion Singapore Bitters is a warm, full-bodied spiced gin.

Kino Soh, Brand Ambassador, Brass Lion Distillery

The new partnership aims to make Brass Lion Singapore’s gin of choice. Proof & Company will expand Brass Lion’s existing on-trade and off-trade presence through its strong client network of national retailers, leading cocktail venues and major hotels. The Proof & Company and Brass Lion teams will work closely together to provide enhanced levels of customer support and engagement for the rapidly growing base of consumers and bartenders who are drinking local.

Kino Soh, Brand Ambassador for Brass Lion Distillery, “I am delighted to now work with the Proof & Company to spread Singapore pride in the trade. Please do come spend time with us through the distillery experience and more!”

About Brass Lion Distillery

Launched in 2018, Brass Lion Distillery is Singapore’s first full-fledged micro-distillery offering a selection of high-quality craft spirits using local ingredients. Inspired by the flourishing spice trade that made Singapore a trading hub in the 19th century, Brass Lion Distillery uses familiar Southeast Asian botanicals to create distinctive spirit creations that reflect Singapore’s heritage as a cultural melting pot. The debut offering is the Brass Lion Singapore Dry Gin, featuring 22 botanicals, with strong Asian influence, including pomelo peel, tangerine peel, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass, chrysanthemum and torch ginger flower. Distilled using a traditional 150-litre copper pot still, the gin presents floral and citrusy notes with a full-bodied mouth-feel. The distillery also houses a herb garden, a R&D lab and a tasting room with drinks that take inspiration from the gin’s various botanicals. Tours and workshops are also available for participants to sign-up and learn more about the art of distilling and customising their very own bottle of gin.

For more information, please visit

Brass Lion is now available for Singapore trade customers through Proof & Company’s B2B Portal or email to place an order. Consumers can purchase Brass Lion at EC Proof and other leading Singapore online retailers.


SHANGHAI 20 May 2020 – Proof & Company China has formed a strategic partnership with LIBER, Ltd. that combines Proof & Company’s rapidly growing national distribution platform with LIBER China’s extensive private client and corporate network to expand the sales capacities of both groups. This partnership also allows Proof & Company clients to access LIBER’s portfolio of crafted wines and champagnes across China.

This three-year exclusive partnership builds on a multi-year relationship between Proof & Company and Stéphane Moreau, Co-Founder of LIBER. In 2019, Stephane was appointed as Senior Advisor, China for Proof & Company. In this role, he is a member of the group’s advisory board.

“While Proof & Company is not a wine company, we benefit greatly from a strong partner in this adjacent category. As we launch the ecoSPIRITS offering of pouring craft spirits, it is also wonderful to have an exceptional champagne to complement our craft spirits lineup,” says Christopher Lowder, General Manager, China. “The LIBER team also maintain an excellent network of luxury corporate clients, and we have been able to successfully collaborate in supplying these clients with some of our premium spirits products such as Ferrand Cognacs and single-cask Scotch whiskies.”

Jean-Marie Pratt from the LIBER x Proof & Company team serves Presidents Xi and Macron in Shanghai in 2019

LIBER manages an exclusive portfolio of fine wines mainly from Rhône Valley, Burgundy, Bordeaux and Champagne. Their wine portfolio features premium, terroir-driven brands such as Billecart-Salmon, Nicolas Rossignol, Confuron-Cotetido, Jasmin and Gerin. LIBER’s team in Mainland China includes wine industry veterans Queenie Xia and Jean-Marie Pratt, both of whom serve as national ambassadors for these high-quality brands in China’s luxury hotels, gastronomic restaurants and networks of private and corporate clients. In addition to Mainland China, both Proof & Company and LIBER have distribution operations in Hong Kong and Macau, where they similarly collaborate through shared offerings to both on-premise and private clients.

Billecart Salmon in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, France

“The partnership between LIBER and Proof & Company is truly the result of a common vision, shared values and a strong will to build together a platform to develop a customer-centric strategy for our independent crafted wines and spirits. I also feel extremely proud to be a Senior Advisor for our group operation in Mainland China, which is a major priority for both companies,” notes Stéphane Moreau.

The partnership in China allows the combined salesforce to access a broader base of clients, which bolsters opportunities while streamlining operational costs. Both measures will help the partners strengthen their financial position and service quality during the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

About LIBER, Ltd.
LIBER, founded by Connor McClay, Bertrand Carquillat and Stéphane Moreau, is an independent privately-owned company dedicated to crafted wines, champagnes and spirits. LIBER operates in Greater China with a team of dedicated professionals who live and work by their shared values: Passion, Respect, Integrity and Accountability. LIBER activities are structured around four divisions, each focusing on specific customer needs: Distribution, Servicing, Consulting and Open Market Sourcing.

For more information, please visit


SINGAPORE, 13 May 2020

To Our Industry Community,

For the first time in nearly nine years, the Edison lightbulb above the entrance at 28 HongKong Street in Singapore is dark. That simple, welcoming symbol of hospitality will stay dark until at least 1 June, when Singapore’s “circuit breaker” lockdown is tentatively scheduled to be lifted.

28 HongKong Street, the cocktail bar where the Proof & Company journey started in 2011

These past 12 weeks have been the most difficult that all of us at Proof & Company have seen in our lifetimes in the hospitality business. COVID-19 has been devastating for the bar, restaurant and hotel industry in Asia Pacific. It has brought about a level of stress regarding the present and uncertainty about the future that can be difficult to grasp. Many of the clients who have supported us for years are hurting even more than we are.

This pandemic has forced all of us to make painful decisions. At Proof & Company, no decisions have been more painful than parting ways with beloved team members who had such bright futures with us. Through it all, our approach to the crisis has been straightforward: to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on our team, our clients, our brand partners and our shared future.

And yet we count ourselves amongst the fortunate. Something extraordinary has emerged from this crisis in recent weeks: an unprecedented sense of togetherness. All across the region, the industry is coming together in remarkable and unexpected ways. If we are all lucky, these changes will strengthen our industry for years to come.

To our team, the sacrifices we are making together are difficult, but they are making the difference. To our warehousing and delivery teams, who have worked through the lockdowns across the region, thank you. You are part of an army of essential workers who are keeping economies on life support. Your continued belief in our mission, your dedication to our clients and your positive spirit inspire us.

To our clients, the bars, restaurants, hotels, wholesalers and retailers of Asia Pacific, you are the frontline in this crisis and you are being hit the hardest. As you pivot to new business models overnight, you are sharing your learnings with peers and competitors alike. Look up Hope + Sesame in Guangzhou, China and their excellent online COVID recovery content. You won’t regret it. On our side, we are doing everything we can to be there for you – by extending credit terms, by helping you launch bottled cocktail programs, and by supporting local COVID-19 industry relief initiatives like #lovetowuhan. Is there more we can do to help? Please reach out.

To our global bar family, your perseverance, creativity and tireless energy in the face of historic adversity inspire us every day. Your camaraderie is of benefit to us all. Nearly 2,000 of you have signed up for our complimentary COVID-19 JERRY beverage learning, looking to sharpen skills and knowledge during the lockdowns so you can take even better care of guests when the good times return. We cannot wait to see you over the bar when they do.

To our brand partners, almost without exception, you have asked a simple question, “How can we help?” You have extended payment terms, air freighted shipments to avoid stock outs, and generally had our collective backs. Your support ensures that we can serve our clients without interruption, as they navigate this difficult period. We will not forget it. We are proud to represent you.

To our regional governments, your COVID-19 support for small- and medium-sized enterprises, such as the JobKeeper program in Australia, is giving everyone a fighting chance – and saving countless jobs. We are fortunate to have such capable, action-oriented government leadership. Asia Pacific was hit first, and hit hard, but it will do its part to help lead the world out of this crisis.

To our shareholders, you have always believed in the Proof & Company vision. Your steadfast support, particularly in a crisis of this scale, puts us in a stronger position to help our teams, our clients and our hospitality communities.

This togetherness translates into resilience. As hospitality venues in China, Hong Kong and, soon, New Zealand reopen, this resilience is on full display. It gives us all hope.

A busy service at 28 HongKong Street in happier times

We now have every confidence that we – as a community, as an industry, and as a company – will beat COVID-19. Yes, the post-COVID world will be different. Hospitality will be different, possibly for a long time to come. The road back will take time, and there will no doubt be setbacks along the way. Like you, we are using this time to reflect, to absorb the lessons we are being taught, and to adapt to the new normal that will follow.

More than anything, we are grateful to be a part of this community. It may be amongst the hardest hit, but it is also the most unified. The light outside 28 HongKong Street will most certainly come back on in due time.

When it does, let’s come back stronger, together.

Spencer Forhart Chairman  I   Paul Gabie  Chief  Executive Officer


Published Feb 13, 2020 by Hong Kong Tatler   Written by Dan Q. Dao

Thank you to Dan Q. Dao and the team at Tatler Magazine Hong Kong for the excellent feature on the Asia bar scene, including a selection of the regional bars developed with the assistance of the Proof Creative Team: 28 HongKong Street (Singapore), ATLAS (Singapore), Pontiac (Hong Kong), Manhattan (Singapore). It is wonderful to see so many of our friends celebrated for their good work, especially during these challenging times.

Twenty years after the craft cocktail revolution launched in New York City, Asia is pioneering the next frontier of drink-slinging innovation. Bridging Western tradition with disciplined craftsmanship plus a treasure trove of untapped local ingredients, Asian bars are creating some of the most exciting and outré cocktails in the world.

The first thing you see is an eight-metre-tall gilded tower whose brightly lit shelves are neatly lined with seemingly hundreds of liquor bottles. Below, bartenders in crisp white blazers shake and stir with equal parts poise and bravado. You order a gin martini, which arrives in a custom etched coupe glass with one of those thin, rounded lemon peel twists floating on top. But even before you take a sip, you’ve already forgotten where (and when) you’re standing.

You’d be reasonably forgiven for losing yourself at Atlas, the legendary gin-centric bar that opened in Singapore in 2017 yet feels like New York City circa 1920. After all, the 7,400sqft bar is set in the lobby of Parkview Square, one of the island city-state’s iconic Art Deco skyscrapers whose grandiose bronze facade and stunning geometric designs were meant to mirror the style of Prohibition-era Gotham. Equally attention-grabbing is that soaring pillar of spirits: it’s holding 1,000 or so gins, whiskies and wines—all catalogued meticulously by producer, origin, type of still and more.

The lively scene at 28 Hong Kong Street, one of the bars that started the craft cocktail revolution in Singapore (Photo: Courtesy of Hong Kong Street)

Sitting at number eight in the annual World’s 50 Best Bars ranking, Atlas is Asia’s top performer on the list. Last year, another Singaporean bar, Manhattan, came in third overall—beating out all of its competition in the United States. Suffice to say: as far as international regard is concerned, Asia’s finest bars would hold their own if they were picked up and dropped down in any of the world’s cocktail capitals.

Now with the undivided attention of the drinks world, however, Asia is pioneering a new, exciting frontier for cocktail culture. While the more developed scenes in Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo push the envelope with creative concepts and untapped ingredients, newer emerging markets like Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City are taking note and vying fiercely for a place on the global stage. Challenges remain, of course—namely, a lack of resources, training and access to ingredients—but the competition is spirited and the thirst palpable.


It makes sense that Singaporean bars with a classic ethos would rake in the top honours in the West. After all, it was largely successful US, European and Australian bartenders and entrepreneurs who first saw fertile ground for a cocktail scene in relatively wealthy, globalised Singapore. In 2011, former New York City lawyers Spencer Forhart and Paul Gabie helped kickstart the Asian cocktail revolution with the opening of 28 Hong Kong Street, a then-unprecedented 55-seat speakeasy tucked away on a nondescript block in Singapore’s Chinatown. Nine years and countless accolades later, the bar remains remarkably faithful to its founding ethos: classics and original creations shaken and stirred to a hiphop and soul soundtrack.

The success of that bar would inspire Forhart and Gabie to launch Proof & Co, a bar-and spirits-focused creative agency that’s since become the pioneering force behind top establishments in Singapore—including Atlas and Manhattan—and throughout the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Services include menu and concept development, but also a much-needed supply chain, particularly for spirits, liqueurs and barware not yet available in Asia. With a flagship office in Singapore, Proof & Co has been instrumental in establishing the city-state as the modern capital of cocktail culture.

“Singapore was historically a trading post and financial hub, so you have different cultures and ethnicities coming together to promote creativity,” explains Jason Williams, a Queensland native who moved to the Lion City five years ago to serve as creative director for Proof & Co as well as Master of Gin at Atlas.

“There are tons of expats from the United States and elsewhere, along with a local middle class that have come up in a globalised economy. They experience cocktail culture elsewhere and bring it back here. And since food culture in Asia is so integral, people already have much a broader palate compared to in Australia, where I’m from. Here, they’re more willing to try new things, from smoky mezcals to European liqueurs.”

Photo: Courtesy of Atlas

Yet it would be inaccurate to give Singapore sole credit for birthing cocktail culture in the vastness that is Asia. Those with a longer memory may recall that the US food magazine Bon Appétit in 2008 proclaimed Tokyo to be “the cocktail capital of the world”—perhaps for the precision, craftsmanship and omotenashi (hospitality) of Japan’s buttoned-up bartenders. Often compared to other Japanese crafts like the tea ceremony or ikebana (flower arranging), Japanese bartending is a reflection of virtues like patience, respect and service.

It’s worth noting that many attributes of Japanese bar culture predate even the US’s own cocktail revolution. Indeed, even the late New York bartender Sasha Petraske cited the enthralling bartending performances put on at New York City’s Angel’s Share and other local Japanese-owned cocktail bars as inspiration for his legendary reinvented speakeasy Milk & Honey. And when Petraske’s disciple, Richard Boccato, began investigating the now ubiquitous use of “fancy,” hand-cut ice, he turned to a Japanese ice-sculpting studio in Queens, Okamoto Studio.

That early fascination with Japanese cocktail culture would soon be mirrored by a love for the cult genre of Japanese whisky—a product of Scottish-Japanese collaboration that emphasizes the meticulous selection of natural spring water and a ceremonial reverence for the art of blending. In 2015, when Suntory’s Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 won the title of World’s Best Whisky, the spirits market acknowledged, for the first time, that Asian distillers were a force to be reckoned with. These days, Suntory and its primary competitor Nikka are foraying into gins and vodkas made with Asian botanicals and citrus such as yuzu.

But while there are exceptions, Japan’s cocktail culture continues to be defined by a near obsession with a classic canon of drinks and a dedication to honing even the simplest techniques. “One time, I was talking to a Japanese bartender working at Mizunara: The Library in Hong Kong,” remembers Nick Braun, creative director of the Bangkok-based Umami Hospitality group. “I asked him what he’d been learning, and he said, ‘My gin and tonic isn’t quite right.’ That’s all he’d been working on for months: perfecting a gin and tonic. They do things perfectly, or not at all.”

That’s not to say that creativity has been altogether sacrificed: Hiroyasu Kayama, in particular, has been revered for plucking out lesser-known ingredients like Japanese peppers grown at his family farm and gula melaka (palm sugar) brought in from Malaysia. But broadly speaking, Tokyo, like New York City and London, is marked by a concrete identity that’s become easily recognisable to global cocktail fans—one of scientifically accurate measured pours, impeccable light-touch service and exactly timed cocktail shaking.


More fast-paced streams of innovation might be found in second-wave Asian markets like Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei, but also particularly where a convergence of diverse cultures and widespread economic growth have given rise to newfound cultural, and thus cocktail, capitals: Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City and notably Bangkok.

With emergent middle classes, many Southeast Asian cities are seeing land grabs for first iterations of global concepts like craft beer breweries, Third Wave coffee shops and classic cocktail bars. For both the people who drink cocktails and the people who make them, it’s a brave new world.

Photo: Courtesy of Pontiac

“The best thing about the bar scene in Southeast Asia is that it’s youthful and diverse,” says Williams, whose consulted on regional projects like the hyperlocal Trigona at the Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur. “People are doing cool and crazy things—not just the cookie-cutter-style bars that you might see in different cities. There are also mutations of different concepts, whether that’s Ginza-style Japanese bars that also play heavy metal, or bars doing molecular mixology with all Southeast Asian ingredients.”

One standout of these exceedingly inventive hybrid concepts is Hong Kong’s Pontiac, a women-led, Coyote Ugly-esque neighborhood dive that oozes pure rock ’n’ roll. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, owner Beckaly Franks has been dubbed the First Lady of Hong Kong mixology for leading the city towards the trend of relaxed and inclusive cocktail bars that still shake up award-worthy drinks. “Before we opened in 2015, there were some great heavy hitters but mostly the scene was very exclusive,” Franks says. “That ‘you can’t sit with us’ mentality has flown the coop. There’s a spirit of collaboration in the scene.”

Franks is quick to earnestly shout out Pontiac’s peers, including Stockton (“They’re the OGs representing Hong Kong”), COA (“Jay Khan is the most honest, determined guy in the industry”) and Quinary (“Antonio Lai is a champion and a badass leader”), as inspirations for how she trains and mentors her staff. But Pontiac’s unique calling card is perhaps its multiculturalism: the staff has included people from the Philippines, Taiwan, Hungary, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Brazil and the United States.

“Hong Kong is special in that we have a beautiful melting pot of cultures—everyone comes from a different background, so we have to learn to respect each other and how each of us does things,” Franks asserts, adding that that diversity translates directly onto the menu. “My bar manager Tracy Villegas, who is Filipino, created a Palamig Ti Punch—a classic agricole rum punch but made with the flavours of Palamig, a traditional drink in the Philippines.”

Photo: Courtesy of Stockton

Local ingredients likewise inform the ethos at Singapore’s Native, a three-year-old bar by luminary Vijay Mudaliar that looks and breathes like a classic Western cocktail bar except with a fixation on Asian ingredients (pandan leaves and Indian whisky, for instance) as well as locally procured artisan crafts (batik fabric aprons and locally crafted ceramic vessels). One notable drink, Antz, fuses salt-baked tapioca and coconut yogurt with aged cane juice and Thai agricole rum. The garnish? Crunchy Polyrhachis ants from Thailand nestled in a liquid nitrogen-frozen leaf with melting basil “cubes.”

“It took us a while to connect with our audience, as we work solely on local and regional produce and make no classics at the bar,” admits Mudaliar. “However, I think it was exciting for the local audience to rediscover ingredients used in our heritage—but in terms of a cocktail. We work on reconnecting our customers with tradition, farmers and foraged produce. Being indigenous to this part of the world, we really wanted to showcase not only the unique ingredients, but also give a sense of familiarity to the culture.”

More surface-level attempts to simply drop Southeast Asian flavours into classic cocktail formats have been at times misguided. Braun recalls an early moment in Bangkok’s cocktail renaissance in which Thai ingredients were used primarily in such forced applications with subpar results.

“Back then, it was tom yum-spiced cocktails, sticky rice infusions, and mango liqueurs—low-hanging fruit that weren’t very creative and didn’t mix well,” Braun says. “But now that more and more people are seeing Bangkok as a true cocktail city, we’re seeing interesting ways that the breadth and variety of Southeast Asian cuisines lend themselves perfectly to innovation. For example, things here are typically locally sourced. And while Western cuisine is generally quite wasteful, Asian cuisine focuses on eating the whole animal.”

Photo: Courtesy of Asia Today

Asia Today, the neon-lit bar that Braun opened with veteran Thai bartender Niks Anuman-Rajadhon in 2017, offers a masterclass in spotlighting local ingredients in thoughtful ways. “We focus our drinks around local wild honey from different regions, species and vintages, as honey is one of the most terroir-driven natural ingredients,” explains Anuman-Rajadhon.

A house daiquiri incorporates a honey variety from Khao Yai National Park, while the back bar showcases local ingredients like cocoa wine and various rums produced around Thailand. “European food has been pretty well explored in cocktails,” Braun adds. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the next new ingredient fads coming out of Asia.”


The retro interiors of Live Twice are inspired by a Japanese take on mid-century modern aesthetics (Photo: Courtesy of Jigger & Pony)

Asia’s rapid ascent in the bar world offers the continent’s top haunts an opportunity to shape the global conversation in terms of ingredients, techniques and trends. At the same time, more acclaim has turned a profession once deemed unworthy into a lucrative, sustainable industry.

“The prestige of being a bartender is small but growing in Asia—it’s now seen as a viable career path,” Williams says. “At Manhattan, we hired a strong Filipino contingent of bartenders who were used to working banquet situations. Five years later, most still work there and they’re travelling the world leading presentations on how to build one of the world’s best bars. That’s a huge metric of success for us.”

Indra Kantono, co-founder of Singapore’s pioneering Jigger & Pony group, which just launched its latest venue Live Twice, says a new generation of homegrown bartenders is emerging to helm and open their own bars. “It is already the case that home-grown bartenders are leading and opening exciting bars that take the cocktail scene to the next level and make it their own,” Kantono says. “The Jigger & Pony bar is managed by Jerrold Khoo, a Singaporean bartender who rose up the ranks from apprentice to bar manager at our group.”

Beyond their home bars, Asian bartenders have also earned acclaim through their performances at the world’s largest bartending competitions. At this year’s Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition it was a Thai talent, Ronnaporn “Neung” Kanivichaporn of Bangkok’s whimsical theatre-themed Backstage Cocktail Bar, who took home the crown with his basil-garnished take on a lighter, rum-based Bloody Mary. He was the first bartender representing an Asian country to win the competition.

Kanivichaporn notes that he’s not the only Thai making waves in global competitions, expressing excitement for peers like Arron Grendon of Tropic City, who won the Chivas Masters Global 2018 competition, and his Backstage colleague Supawit “Palm” Muttarattana, who bested the rest at Campari’s Asia-Pacific bartender competition.

“I’ve been thinking about Thai-born bartenders for a couple years—we are good enough now that we can make our country’s name global,” Kanivichaporn says. “We have a new generation of talented Thai bartenders. If they can get through the language barrier, I would love to see them share their ideas and passion on the world stage.”

Photo: Courtesy of Manhattan

But language is hardly the only struggle. In Ho Chi Minh City, several ambitious bars have emerged as hopeful champions for the still-nascent Vietnamese cocktail scene. Among them is Rabbit Hole, a recently opened but already beloved speakeasy that whisks revellers to a bygone, prewar era of Saigon with live jazz and subtly tweaked classics.

Co-owner Leon Nguyen cites poor access to ingredients as a major issue: “I have to source things in non-official ways, such as hand-carrying. That’s been the biggest challenge. We can’t even get Chartreuse, Cherry Heering or Pimm’s.”

Another obstacle is a lack of infrastructure for training. “Saigon fell behind because we didn’t have alcohol literacy yet,” Nguyen explains. “Vietnamese bars tried to copy popular Japanese concepts, but many times people don’t take the time to learn the basics.” But to improve training and education within his fledgling bar, Nguyen is not looking only to the West. Rather, he’s bringing in heavy hitters from Asia’s mighty cocktail scene for an ongoing Asia 50 Pop-Up Series at Rabbit Hole, featuring guest shifts from seminal regional bars like Ben Fiddich in Tokyo, Quinary in Hong Kong and its namesake Rabbit Hole Bangkok.

Nguyen is hopeful that with the right training, a little patience, and some inspiration from those who’ve come before that Vietnam might one day see one of its own bars in a coveted place on a World’s 50 Best Bars list. “After we opened, we saw more and more bars taking cocktails seriously and understanding classics,” Nguyen says. “That’s the greatest reward—being able to change something big-picture in Vietnam.”

From classically minded stalwarts to innovative newcomers, here are five bars worth visiting during your Asia cocktail bar tour:

1. Bangkok: Asia Today

Taking advantage of Bangkok’s Wild West allure, bartender Niks Anuman-Rajadhon bucks global cocktail trends and does things his own way. The ethos here is local: the menu prominently features Thai rum along with dozens of varieties of foraged wild honeys and lesser known ingredients like bai hor wor—a herb coming from the Pga K’nyau indigenous peoples of northern Thailand.

Cocktails at Asia Today in Bangkok’s Chinatown district put the spotlight on local ingredients such as cocoa wine and various Thai rums (Photo: Courtesy of Asia Today)

2. Ho Chi Minh City: Rabbit Hole

Advertising professional Leon Nguyen’s self-proclaimed avant-garde bar transports drinkers to pre-war Saigon. Art Deco furnishings, velvet curtains and live jazz sessions contribute to the image, while regularly rotating cocktails skew classic. One notable nouveau spirit to try: Hanoi’s small-batch Song Cai gin, a wholly Vietnamese bottling fused with hand-foraged botanicals and heirloom grains.

Rabbit Hole in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is a new, speakeasy-style bar that is already beloved by patrons (Photo: Courtesy of Rabbit Hole)

3. Hong Kong: Pontiac

Pontiac is worth a visit for the music alone—a jukebox loaded with old and new rock anthems helps solidify the bar’s grungy street cred. It’s also one of Hong Kong’s most culturally progressive watering holes: female-led, with staff from Asia, Europe and the Americas. Its relaxed, devil-may-care attitude is encouraged by owner Beckaly Franks, who’s known to look the other way as her staff hop on the counter to pour shots for the crowd.

An original creation of Pontiac, a progressive Hong Kong bar founded by mixology maven, Beckaly Franks (Photo: Courtesy of Pontiac)

4. Singapore: Native

Offering the most straightforward interpretation of classic drink culture reimagined with local ingredients, Native, helmed by veteran Vijay Mudaliar, sets the standard for hyperlocal cocktail bars. Here, you grab a seat on a stool carved by a local carpenter to enjoy cocktails made with local rum and locally foraged herbs—while enjoying local music as you sip.

Drinks at Singapore’s Native are created using a hyper-local approach (Photo: Courtesy of Native)

5. Tokyo: Ben Fiddich

At this tiny Shinjuku institution, the whitesuited owner-bartender Hiroyasu Kayama slings cocktails using Japanese whiskies and spirits infused with herbs grown at his family farm. The journey to the bar is also notable: enter the nondescript building, take the lift to the ninth floor and search for the giant wooden doors that’ll transport you into a wood-bedecked den adorned in paintings and still-life fruit arrangements.

Photo: Courtesy of Ben Fiddich