(What I’ve learned in) bartending is that, before creating a drink, it’s all about creating an experience. It’s not the end after creating a drink, you then take care of your people.
Ulysse Jonneaud, Head Mixologist, Shangri-La at The Fort
It was one of those days when I was eternally grateful for doing what I do for a living. As a drink blogger, my office can be many different places: My actual office, someone’s restaurant, a café, or a vineyard somewhere in the world.
I think that one of the best offices is in a bar… And in this part of the world, it couldn’t get swankier than Shangri-La at The Fort.
If that’s not believable enough, one could simply drop in Raging Bull and take a look at the gorgeous bar they have (which I was fortunate enough to have as an office for a day)… The best thing about it is, it’s not all about aesthetics: The drinks are pretty amazing.
As I’m a firm believer in the correlation between a mixologist’s philosophies and his creations, I decided to pick Shangri-La Fort’s Head Mixologist Ulysse Jonneaud’s head to prove my theory.
2shotsandapint: How is Manila treating you?
Ulysse Jonnaud: Except for traffic, I like it. I’ve traveled a lot but it’s my first time to work in Asia. Prior to this, I’ve been working in Abu Dhabi for 4 years but Shangri-La gave me an opportunity to transfer to Asia… And I’ve been dreaming about working in Thailand, Taiwan, or the Philippines, so I went. It’s a great new hotel with a good beverage program, a great culture and spirit. I feel that the bar culture in the Philippines is not as developed, but the good thing is that the people are curious… People really want to “try” (new things). It’s a good spirit. I’ve been here for almost 2 years, and I’d like to stay another year.
2shots: What made you decide to pursue a career in beverage/bartending?
UJ: Initially, I studied to be a chef. My brother is a chef, and I saw what he was creating at home: He took classic dishes and twisted them. I wanted try this creativity. (When I tried) to be a chef, I discovered that the creativity was there, but something was missing. I felt that it was because I was in the 4 walls of a kitchen… Maybe I needed to be around people. So I tried being a waiter, and I liked the people contact, but there was no creativity (so) again, there was a spark missing. Then I did a bit of sommelier work, but again, I was unhappy because there was no creativity. I went back to the kitchen, but the thing that was missing did not change. So, one day I entered a bar in Paris, I looked at the bartenders and I thought, they were like chefs (who meet) people. I was 16 and a half years old with my parents at the time (edit: he’s now 29 years old).
2shots: We have read up on your bio, you’ve had quite a global career. What are the influences of these places on your bartending?
UJ: “(What I’ve learned in) bartending is that, before creating a drink, it’s all about creating an experience. It’s not the end after creating a drink, you then take care of your people. The different places I’ve worked in have different cultures, and they work in different ways. Every experience is different, every country is different. On the part of mixology, it was also different to work with different palates: We have to adjust in terms of preference. For example, when I came here (in the Philippines), I had to change all my classic recipes to have a sweeter taste. After that, creativity comes in. So far, I’ve learned (and have tried to impart) molecularity, the tiki culture, old classics (with a twist), homemade ingredients (like shrubs, vermouth, and bitters), and I keep learning new trends. Right now, gin is the trend, followed by sherry… So I use those trends, incorporate homemade ingredients, do further online research, study the market… Then I take my inspiration from there, which comes in a daily basis. All of what I’ve mentioned are what’s around me wherever I go and what I see around me. It’s a matter of identifying what I can use, in which form, and how I can use it. Another secret I have is that I take a lot of inspiration from pastry chefs.
2shots: What are your most memorable stories during your career
UJ: I had a guest sitting in the bar, he wanted a Louis XIII Cognac. We usually have a service (specific for that Cognac). We take the bottle with the gloves, a small crystal tray, we present the bottle with a candle. He was looking at me like, “What are you doing?” So I served it (the way he wanted to), because he wants it with a Coca-Cola.
2shots: Each bartender has his own “philosophy” in bartending. What is yours? How does that translate to your cocktails?
UJ: People go to a bar to socialise, to release stress. They look for this interaction, or experience as we call it. So your drinks can be amazing but the experience is bad. Guests have to have a great experience from the beginning to the end, at each and every point.
To experience Ulysse’s bartending skills, check out the videos below. He was gracious enough (as the blog is geared towards education) to show us how to mix some of Raging Bull’s drinks (P.S.: We kept the videos as raw as possible to mimic the feeling of actually being in the bar)*:
For an even better bar experience in Shangri-La at the Fort, they will be having a guest bartender all the way from The Gibson in London, Marian Beke (also known as “The King of Garnish”), on 19-21 October 2017. He will be conducting private classes at the Raging Bull Chophouse and Bar. Masterclass seats are priced at PHP4,000 nett per person. As an added bonus, participants can sample some of Beke’s signature cocktails. Seats may be reserved through (632) 820 0888 or via email at ragingbullchophouse@shangri-
For further details, click here for their Facebook page. 😉
See you there! Cheers!
Special thanks to Ms. Sam Unson Gallardo and Ms. Enah Baba, Communications Department, Shangri-La at The Fort
*For ingredients, please check the descriptions in the videos.