Cover Photo: Lotus Gin Room

One of our favourite watering holes gives us the lowdown on how best to enjoy a cocktail — and surprise, it's more than just about getting tipsy.

Remember pre-pandemic, when everyone congregated around bars and clubs? It seems so long ago that our nights should have turned hazy from that extra bottle of beer, that extra shot of tequila. The drinking culture in the Philippines starts fairly early when compared to a few Western counterparts. At 18, people here are legally allowed to indulge in a tipple or two. Of course, it's rare that young college students (such as myself at one point!) know much about how to appreciate a good drink.  Now we see that cocktails are more than just a means to an end; in reality, each drink served at your favourite watering hole is a work of art.

The Lotus Gin Room, a cocktail bar at the Pasig food hub of Kapitolyo, is here to prove just that. In their words, the bar is "hell-bent on welcoming beginner drinkers". "You ask us what we know, and we will gladly share to you what we know," they say. Its founders, Rosenthal Tee, Inigo Uy, Vincent Alvarado and Anjelino Zetha want to educate the younger demographic on how to appreciate fine drinks and quality cocktails.  

"Typically, these types of sessions would be limited to industry-F&B folk or for those in the PR scene, so one thing that we wanted to expand on was tapping into a younger and interested demographic to start off this series," adds Inigo.  As one of the first few to have hosted an open-invite cocktail webinar, The Lotus Gin Room perpetuates an aura of welcome hospitality. They will be hosting a series of educational and interactive cocktail classes to keep an eye out for updates! 

Read also: Order Drinks & Cocktail Kits From Your Favourite Manila Bars

Their first event was on 9 October 2020, hosted by fashion designer and Gen.T honouree Rosenthal Tee, and award-winning bartender, MK Ramores, centred on two very familiar names: Aperol and Campari. "We decided to collaborate with Campari and Aperol first, basically because these two brands make for the most popular beginner-level drinks that everybody can do from the comforts of home," says Rosenthal. As such, we were treated to an informative night learning how to make Negroni and Aperol Spritz. 

Here are some tips on how to enjoy and create cocktails:

Invest in good barware

Negroni and Aperol Spritz were surprisingly simple to make. With the help of Lotus Gin Room's cocktail kits — which are available online for intimate events and celebrations — all I really needed was a glass, a pair of scissors, and a spoon to stir. Of course, they advise everyone who's interested to invest in better barware. "We highly recommend getting yourself a jigger, long bar spoon, strainer, and cocktail shaker," says Vincent, adding that "additional pieces to elevate the cocktail-making arsenal is to have a mixing glass and strainer (Hawthorne or Julep style), which just makes the whole set look more professional."

Read also: Four Smart Cocktail-Making Devices That May Be Making You A Drink This Holiday Season

Stay Social

As the night progressed, guests became more talkative. We'd just finished concocting our Negroni and I was excited for my first sip; and rightfully so. It tastes just like Poblacion, was my first thought. Although the setup was vastly different, the quick taste of a familiar cocktail easily transported me back to better times when socialising was normal. Therein, I believe, is the magic of the senses. While we are aching to return to our familiar watering holes, Lotus Gin Room suggests an alternative, teaching people how to utilise what's already in front of them.

"We always recommend stocking up on quality spirits and build a nice cocktail bar at home," shares Anjelino. But, he shares that you should also focus on mental health by "engaging in online sessions to get in touch with friends even if it's just virtual. We think that what makes any bar succeed is in the social experience [it fosters] with the bartenders, partners, guests and regulars."

Know the process

One of the things that beginner drinkers may not fully appreciate is the process involved behind every cocktail. It may appear simple, with only a handful of ingredients, but a quality drink takes plenty of effort to create that unique taste and smell. "In our webinar, we elaborated on why certain liquids must be poured in first. You may have the right ingredients but it's also a matter of appreciating the order in which each liquid works," says Inigo. Knowing the process and the proper step by step of each recipe may spell the difference between an amateur cocktail and one made by a professional.

Let your personality shine

One of the best parts about playing around with drinks is the creativity and freedom that comes with being a bartender. MK Ramores, one of our hosts that night, has pointed out that in the evolving world of cocktails, a new trend has emerged that puts the spotlight on localised ingredients. Imported ingredients don't necessarily make a drink better! Toss in ingredients and flavours that mean something to you. 

"Before the pandemic hit, [MK Ramores] had just gotten into the World Class 2020 roster of bartenders. His entry made use of coconut, which is not just abundant in his home province of Bicol, but abundant everywhere else in the country. We’re proud to say that it was his personalisation in the story and inspiration behind the drink that really shined," Rosenthal shares. 

Read also: How To Create Your Own Home Bar

The night ended on a high note, with happy drinkers and friendly banter. Another upside? We learned. And as someone who enjoys the occasional bar scene — I now have a greater appreciation of what I am ordering or making at home. "We like to think of ourselves as the beginner's guide/starter pack bar to the cocktail drinking journey for most of our guests," Inigo explains. "Our space gets in a lot of young professionals, working nearby and whose knowledge of drinking is often limited to university-level type of drinking. Alternatively, we also like being the bar where tired professionals can nurse a nightcap in, sit themselves in a homey and peaceful corner of the bar." 

Read also: Singapore's Jigger & Pony Is Asia's No. 1 Bar In 2020