In this month’s edition of #MySpiritDrink, we speak to Saimai Nantarat — Bar supervisor and mixologist at ABar — about her lockdown liqueur and favourite quarantine cocktail.
For Saimai Nantarat, who’s been making quite a name for herself on the city’s mixology scene, the recent pandemic lockdown has been an unexpected interruption in her career timeline. However, she’s been spending her days and nights wisely, perfecting new cocktails at home that she can’t wait to present to guests at ABar, the snazzy rooftop gin joint at the Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park hotel where she’s been working for the past two-and- a-half years (scheduled to reopen June 1st).
Born in Ayutthaya, and raised in Khon Kaen, Saimai came to Bangkok to study at St. John’s University, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Tourism Management. At the age of 19, while working part time at a steakhouse, a friend suggested she try bartending and helped her get a job at a bar. “I’ve never looked back since,” she’s quick to add.
Although still under 30, her past resume consists of impressive stints at Peek-A-Boo and Bunker, as well as Highball, the now defunct watering hole which only employed female mixologists. Over the years she’s also pocketed several awards in Thailand, winning both the Gin Jubilee in 2017 and the Nusa Cana Rum competition in 2018, and cinching the first runner-up spot in last year’s Rock Rose Gin competition.
“I usually like to drink gin cocktails anyway, and so ABar presents a good opportunity for me to increase my knowledge about gin,” she points out. “I can recommend different types of tastes for gin lovers, and also perhaps give them something new to try, such as Gin Mare [from Spain], my favourite.”
Her Lockdown Liqueur
“My inspiration for new cocktails comes from my life experiences, especially the places I travel to and the people I meet. There are just so many new ingredients you learn about while travelling. But during this recent period of restricted travel I took inspiration from very interesting ingredients I had at home and also some I ordered online. For instance, I ordered plums from the north of Thailand to create a homemade umeshu (Japanese-style liqueur) which I will drink again next year to remind myself of this particular moment in 2020.”
Her Quarantine Cocktail
“I made my own shrub, which is a non-alcoholic concentrated fruit syrup, but I did mine with ginger, aromatics, sugar, and vinegar. I also made my own mixed veggie pickle. Mix the shrub (10ml) and liquid from the pickle (15ml) together with gin (45ml, Stranger & Sons brand preferred). Add tonic or soda, garnish with some pickle, and serve over ice in a highball glass. It’s a perfect drink for quarantine time.”