The winner of the HOFEX Hong Kong Professional Mixologist Challenge 2021 tells us about her winning drink made with Pau Maui vodka and how she almost gave up on competing.
Joey has been a bartender for four years and has worked at the Conrad Hotel for one. Her bartending journey actually started back in 2014 when she was a captain at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and her then boss encouraged her to join a cocktail competition.
This year Joey went up against 30 other bartenders in the Hong Kong Professional Mixologist Challenge at HOFEX. The theme of the competition was Journey in a Bottle and comprised three categories: Whisky Wander, Holiday Brexit and Island Hopping. In the latter category, competitors had to use Nusa Spiced rum and Pau Maui vodka. Joey’s drink in this category won the competition.
Award-winning Pau Maui vodka is made by the Hali’imaile Distilling Company in Hawaii. Although it is distilled with Maui Gold pineapples – and Hawaiian spring water which gives it a lovely mouthfeel – it is neither overly sweet nor pineappley. Instead, it is light, clean and smooth, with a slight creaminess that makes it enjoyable by itself and excellent for cocktail making.
Joey tells us more about her cocktail and bartending experience.
What is the name of your winning cocktail?
Let’s Runderland – a play on ‘run’ because no one can really travel right now, and ‘wonderland’ to represent islands.
Please tell us more about it…
Well, the topic was Island Hopping – we all miss travelling! – and to me this means rich tastes like tropical fruits and spicy herbs. Pau Maui vodka is quite creamy but I wanted to add a bit of a Hong Kong edge to my drink so I infused it with dried orange peel.
How long did you experiment with the mix to get it right?
About two weeks. But still, even after that I didn’t think it was good enough.
But you won!
Yes, and I was so surprised.
This wasn’t your first competition, right?
No. My first one was in 2014 at RBHK (the F&B trade show, Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong). I had no bar experience, I didn’t even know how to hold a cocktail shaker! But my boss suggested I do it.
How was the experience?
I was so nervous. I made two very simple drinks, a cocktail and a mocktail. What I really like about taking part in competitions is I get to make new friends and the competitors are very kind, they support one another.
Did this encourage you to learn more?
Yes. I signed up to the Hong Kong Cocktail School in Tsm Sha Tsui and paid for a 10-week course. After this I moved to the Mira hotel where they had a bartender team. They gave me a lot of support and I learned a lot from them.
More competitions followed?
I entered a competition once a year for four years but I didn’t place or win anything. In 2018 I did another one at RBHK, but said to myself, ‘If I don’t succeed in this one then I’m not going to do any more’. I won third place.
What first attracted you to bartending?
When I was young I saw cocktails on TV programmes and I always looked at the garnishes. I had a visual attraction to them. For me, garnishes are important.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging?
Yes, combinations. So I experiment at home with making homemade ingredients and playing around with them. This is something I really want to continue to do – experiment and learn more about methods and combinations.
Where do you find inspiration for this?
Mostly online. But I also go out to visit bartender friends to see and try what they are making.
What are your hopes for the future?
I’d like to do more competitions, but overseas –when we can travel again! On the other hand I’d like to give that chance to younger bartenders, like my teammates who have taught me so much. I would also like to share my knowledge with younger colleagues. I’m passionate about making cocktails but I’d also like to be a housewife. Maybe I can do both.
If I wanted to make a cocktail with Pau Maui vodka at home, what do you suggest I mix it with?
Pineapple or mango juice. I would also add some passion fruit, which you could mix with pineapple. And serve with ice. Pau Maui has a slightly sweet aroma which is kind of like rum, so it’s great for tropical, tiki-style drinks.
To discover more about Pau Maui vodka click here.
Let’s Runderland Ingredients
•60ml Pau Maui vodka infused with lemongrass and dried tangerine peel
•10ml Nusa Cana Spiced rum
•10ml Amaretto liqueur
•60ml Passion fruit and pineapple juice
•20ml Lemon honey
•Method – Shaken
•Garnish – Lime peel or pineapple
•Glassware – Rocks