In the final episode of the series, the former bar manager of The Old Man tracks her journey from the golf courses of Fanling to the famed American Bar in London

While chefs are often celebrated in grand oeuvres and Netflix documentaries, bartenders, despite their careers being predicated on interacting with the public, don't often get their dues when it comes to pop culture. Through The Stirring Glass is a video series by Tatler Dining that aims to flip this script on its head, with a look at the life and careers of six Hong Kong bartenders, each of whom captures their experiences in three cocktails made for the camera. From childhood memories to getting their start in the industry, all the way up to the current day, watch as Hong Kong's best mixological minds recount their journeys so far through the bottom of a stirring glass.

A Hong Kong-born bartender manning the famed American Bar at London's The Savoy hotel mades for an intriguing setup for a modern-day Hemingway novel—all of which aptly captures the dynamic narrative arc of Natalie Lau's bartending career thus far. Jocular and effervescent, Lau is one who clearly takes to hospitality like a fish in water, while her drinks-making approach is defined by a preponderance for bright flavours and fresh botanicals above all.

After graduating, Lau worked after graduation in everything from education to the auxiliary police, but ultimately her love of travel won out, leading her into the life of a flight attendant. It was in Riga, Latvia that she encountered a mojito—made from fresh mint, as opposed to the mint liqueur used in Hong Kong—that opened her eyes to the possibilities of mixology.

Soon thereafter, Lau enrolled in a bartending school where she would meet her mentor, Mauritian bartender Joao Balzani; and with her newfound direction, she began her first professional bar job supervising the bar at Hong Kong's Aqua Spirit. In 2016, Lau embarked on a working holiday to London with just £3,000 in her bank account—against all odds, she landed herself a role at the legendary American Bar, birthplace of classic cocktails like the White Lady and Hanky Panky, thereby becoming the first Asian woman to tend the bar in its 129-year history.

Despite the prestige of the position, Lau remembers it as a challenging time. In addition to the pressure of proving herself to her colleagues, she also had to contend with guests who refused to be served by her purely by virtue of her gender—an issue no doubt familiar to many other women in the bar industry. "It made me even more determined to become a bartender," she recalls of her two years at The Savoy.

When the time came for her to return to Hong Kong, Lau found herself leading the bar team at the city's most exciting speakeasy, dedicated to iconic cocktail connoisseur and one-time American Bar regular—The Old Man. There, she honed her people skills at the hideaway's distinctive H-shaped bar, while delving fully into the molecular magic that propelled The Old Man to debut at fifth place in Asia's 50 Best Bars 2018, just three months after her arrival.

Today, Lau fully leans into her passion for the advocacy of cocktails as the Hong Kong and Macau brand ambassador for London Essence, a maker of tonic and soda waters using infusions of British botanicals. Not tied to any single venue, Lau is a frequent face across many of Hong Kong's best bars, organising guest shifts both for herself and other industry colleagues.

For Tatler Dining, however, Lau chose to return to The Old Man to serve three drinks inspired by her cocktail journey so far. Watch the video above; and don't miss the rest of Through The Stirring Glass here.

Natalie's Cocktails

Half Swing

Gin, Indian gooseberry, lime juice, sugar

The Dream

Gin, sweet vermouth, rhubarb-infused Becherovka, London Essence Indian tonic

Rocket

Sesame oil fat-washed rum, cucumber liqueur, lime juice, grapefruit juice


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