Bob has been living in Asia, flying back and forth between Beijing and Seoul for 9 years, and has established himself as a well respected bartender, consultant and business owner based in Seoul, South Korea. Bob is the founder of Sool Bar Week and the founder of Spirit It Ltd Bar consulting company.
Lets speak to Bob!
Why did you decide to live in Asia?
It’s been 9 years now…I think a third of my life has been in Asia, and I’m really enjoying every single day here. Asia has so much to offer in terms of the food and drinks culture, and of course its people. I consider Asia my second home today.
You have been working on several interesting projects here in Asia, can you share more about them?
I worked a lot in the past with brands such as Grand Marnier, Moet Hennessy, and Perrier. Thanks to them I got to travel outdoors around Asia and make new friends, visit different places, and expand my area of knowledge and contacts. I got the chance to participate in many spirits and bar show festivals across the region, and some bar academy training events as well. I also got the chance to consult for some very good bars in the region and was invited to be their guest bartender. Working in those super famous bars, with very talented people, opened my eyes, and taught me a lot. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I was given, and to make a lot of new friends.
When did you realise that the F&B industry was for you?
On the first day I was behind the bar! When I turned 18 years old, the same week I went with my resume in my hand (pretty light at the time obviously ^^), got a trial shift three days after my birthday and got hired. By the end of the week I was hooked! I fell in love with this industry, and never turned back since then.
How long have you worked in industry?
It’s been 17 years now.
If you had to choose, what would you choose, shaker or bar spoon? And why?
Bar spoon because it sounds more elegant and detailed.
What is your favorite spirit to work with and to drink?
Rum!!! I’m a rum lover, it’s such a diverse category, and I love it, that there are no specific rules that defines its production which makes it very unpredictable, wild, and more fun. It leaves a wide scope of things you can do with the spirit.
How would you describe Korea in three words?
Oh my god! Trendy, dynamic, Pali-Pali! (Pali Pali: 빨리빨리 means quick-quick!) Because everything is done quick in Korea, people move and do things at a very fast pace. Fastest internet in the world…
Can you describe the Korean bar scene?
It’s such a dynamic and exciting growing scene. The bartenders are so hungry for knowledge, trends, and anything they can get their hands on. It had a slow start but I believe now we are moving full speed towards a growing emerging scene that wants to be recognised on the international bar scene. They are working very hard every day, and try to differentiate from each other’s, rather than do similar concepts which is what happened for three years before. The Korean bar scene is a tough market as it suffers from a limited population, low tourism traffic, and too many bars opening the last two years. There are over 250 whisky focused/cocktail bars just in Seoul! Also most bartenders are very new to the industry so we have a very young new wave of bartenders coming up. Everyone works hard to study and improve their craft to survive in this market. In a nutshell it’s a fun and exciting time to live and work in the bar industry in Korea today!
Would you share some of the hidden spots for food and cocktails in Seoul?
Alright so my list might not be everyone’s choice but they are my go-to places I love to hang out at…
Bars: D.Still, Charles H, Nightstealer (in Pangyou area south of Seoul), White Bar (the first white spirit bar with an amazing selection of gins), Old fashioned, Honey Hole, Speakeasy Mortar, Cobbler Bar, B28 and Southside Parlor.
Coffee bar: Chocolate DJ.
Coffee shop: Bean brothers, Lay Bricks, Coffee Lab Express.
Coffee Bakery shop: Gâteaux de Voyage.
Restaurant: Mish Mash, Manimal, El Pino 323, La Marmitte.
What is your favourite flavor/ingredient from Korea to work with?
I have been recently experimenting with a Kimchi jam and this is just amazing! I’m doing some tequila infused kimchi jam cocktails, or Bloody Mary kimchi jam variations. People are going mad for it! It works so well. I also like to use Korean shiso leaves, and use some of their local roots and spices to make homemade bitters and special infusions.
What are you currently working on?
I’m preparing Sool Bar Week, getting ready for Tales of The Cocktails as I will be a CAP red coat team member this year, and also working on my next menu for my bar Bob’s Speakeasy as summer is coming soon. I try to launch a menu every season since the opening in January.
Can you share more about Sool Bar Week?
Sool Bar Week is aiming at educating local consumers, promoting local bars and talents and promoting local spirits to educate locals and foreigners of premium Korean spirits. I also hope this will attract a lot of attention to the local bar scene and bring recognition on the international bar scene. We need all the help we can get to help the market grow. I think doing a week of bar events, seminar, masterclasses with people from all around the world, will help our industry grow faster, stronger and better. More than anything I’m trying to do something fun for everyone!
Can you share a cocktail recipe with us?
Here is one special recipe I serve at my bar, Bob’s Speakeasy:
Drift in Mexico
45 ml Tequila reposado
20 ml VSOP Cognac
15 ml Maple syrup
20 ml Lemon juice
15 ml Sweet vermouth
2 dashes of Aromatic bitters
1 pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a shaker, add ice and hard shake. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with orange peel with coffee bean.