Your first cocktail?
My first cocktail was the White Lady, made of gin and lemon juice, 53 years ago. I was 24-years-old then. It was prepared in Gimlet, my first cocktail bar. It’s a classic cocktail.
What inspires your creations?
It’s things like movies, music, art…and everything else that I can find inspiration from. Even when I’m running or in the gym, or I’m watching a movie, I’ll get an idea and I’ll need to write it down.
What made you want to create cocktails?
When I was six, there was a wine [bar] in front of a friend’s house. But it’s also a place that serves coffee and things to eat. People from everywhere went there to eat and talk. To me, it looked like a show, like an orchestra.
Did you receive any training?
No, I actually studied medicine. I like being with people and taking care of them. But I decided to take another option in life. So I didn’t practice medicine at all.
So how did you get into this industry?
I don’t remember how it happened but I just decided to start my own bar. Maybe it’s because I like taking care of people, not with pills for infections, but with cocktails that are drunk in an intelligent way. I think having one cocktail is okay. Two maybe. But three, no. I want to offer a great experience but not headaches the next day. That’s why sometimes I use less alcohol in my cocktails, or add fruits and vegetables to them.
Tell us about Gimlet, your first bar.
We opened on December 31, 1979 to offer cocktails in a classical way. It was a strange concept then, because at the time in Barcelona there was a boom for creativity, but I just loved the classic model. It was the first bar I created. We broke [traditional] paradigms — instead of a big security man at the door, we had a woman. And we had a sushi-maker there too! The Gimlet Foxtrot, a very successful cocktail that is attributed to the place, will also be served in Singapore.
What about Dry Martini?
I didn’t create Dry Martini [which opened in 1978]; it was given to me 18 years ago. But we’ve had the chance to develop things at Dry Martini that we couldn’t at Gimlet, because [Gimlet] was younger and fresher. We’ve been in the Drinks International awards list since it started four, five years ago — Now, we’re ranked the second in Continental Europe.
I understand Dry Martini also has plans to start an academy. Tell us more.
Not many bars allow you to go behind the counter to learn to make a cocktail and the academy allows you to do that. We are now in contact with a university — we’re preparing workshops for people who are interested in beverages. They’ll be able to sign up for programmes and classes.
With all your experience, what do you hope to achieve with One-Ninety?
My illusion for One-Ninety is a fusion of both concepts [from my bars in Barcelona] there — they worked very well there. But it’ll be different here because it’s still very Asian. I love being in Singapore: It’s like a cocktail here. This is our baby now and we must take care of it.
Why did you choose One-Ninety?
I visited two years ago and I loved this bar. It is the look and feel that helps give you a good experience, and for me, One-Ninety is like my home — I’m really comfortable here. I fell in love when I first saw the space. And at Four Seasons, the service is great.
Will there be anything made exclusively for One-Ninety?
We are going to offer the Singapore Sangria here. It has all the ingredients of a Sangria — wine and fruits — with a Singaporean touch, using the fruits here. It’s a connection between Spain and Singapore. We will also have the classic martini cocktails and some signature cocktails that have been designed specifically just for One-Ninety. You cannot find them in [our bar at the Four Seasons Resort Bali in] Jimbaran Bay, for example. It’s very exclusive.
Any non-alcoholic cocktails?
Yes, we have four already. We also have an herb garden here, which we will use in these cocktails. Also healthy cocktails are becoming a trend now.
What’s your favourite cocktail to make?
The Dry Martini. It’s simple but difficult to prepare because it must be very, very cold and you cannot use a lot of water. It must also be served at the right temperature. So there are some [special] techniques required to make this cocktail.
And to drink?
Depends on the moment and the company. With my wife, I always drink the Dry Martini. On a trip, I like the Pisco Sour, Gin Tonic, mojitos…it depends on the moment. I don’t usually like to drink a lot.
What is one thing that many people don’t know about you?
I don’t like to always be at bars because I don’t like my conversations to always be about cocktails.
What, to you, is the most important ingredient in your cocktails?
Passion because with it, there are so many possibilities — just as with everything else in life.
How many bars do you have around the world now?
Any other plans to expand to other parts of Asia?
Who knows? We’ll see!
Photographer / Simon Sim
One-Ninety Bar by Javier de las Muelas is located at the Lobby level of the Four Seasons Hotel Singapore.
Your first cocktail?