Hendrick’s Gin's brand ambassador Charmaine Thio on female bartenders, 2020 cocktail trends, and must-visit bars in Asia
Gospel of gin
In 2018, Hendrick's Gin sold over one million cases worldwide. And if we aren't fixated on numbers, the brand has played an important part in igniting the infatuation towards craft gins globally. Starting with its distinct formula that both bartenders and patrons have become smitten with. Following a foolproof product, an extension, the Hendrick's Orbium came next. Dubbed as a reimagined Hendrick's Gin in a parallel universe. Made with 11 botanicals and essences of rose and cucumber, there's also a unique combination of quinine and wormwood — both of which are ingredients that are found in the world's most iconic gin cocktails: our go-to G&T and the timeless martini. To balance out the bitter elements, master distiller Lesley Gracie uses a touch of Blue Lotus Blossom — resulting in a well-rounded spirit bearing a long, dry finish. Remarkably, Singapore was the first market in Asia that debuted Orbium with a slew of local bars creating a special cocktail with it.
Leading the charge for the curious and unusual world of Hendrick's Gin is Southeast Asia's regional brand ambassador, Charmaine Ann Thio. Her triumphs include being the first Singaporean to be accepted into the Tales of Cocktail Apprentice Programme, among the first Asian cabin to be invited to the spirits camp in USA as well as a distinction in a Level 2 Award for Wine and Spirits. Below, we pick her brain on 2020's cocktail trends and what her role as a brand ambassador exactly entails.
Tell us more about your role as a brand ambassador, and what do you like most about it?
In a nutshell, my role as the regional brand ambassador of Hendrick's Gin, is to travel around the region, spreading the gospel of gin, cucumbers and the unusual. What I like most about the job is that it's essentially an amalgamation of all of my favourite elements of my days working in bars. I get to meet wonderful and interesting people on a regular basis, travel and experience different food and drink cultures, plan events, throw amazing feasts and parties, develop new cocktail recipes and menus. Every now and then, I still get a chance to jump behind the bar to make drinks.
Do you still have to deal with the miconceptions of female bartenders?
I suppose the more common negative misconceptions are that female bartenders aren't as strong or as fast as their male colleagues. Another one I've heard come up a few times is that female bartenders don't know their whiskey. None of that differs from biological sex, it's just down to how much effort you put into your craft. The only thing you can do about it is prove them wrong. Which isn't difficult if it isn't true in the first place. Remember that: "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent" (Eleanor Roosevelt). So just don't consent.
Tell us about the cocktail trends that you're excited to see in 2020.
Umami cocktails! Most of the time I can guess what a sweet or sour cocktail is going to taste like based on the ingredients listed, but the savoury ones tend to intrigue me a little more.
What are some unconventional ways we can enjoy Hendrick's Gin, well besides a G&T?
If you're into spirit forward drinks then try it freezer fresh and poured straight into a chilled glass. Hendrick's Gin already has an incredibly creamy and round mouthfeel that gets further accentuated when left in the freezer. If spirit forward is not your thing and you prefer it tall, dark, and delightful, then perhaps a Supersonic Gin & Tonic, which is essentially a Hendrick's and Tonic with a shot of espresso. When I first heard of it I thought, "How on earth does that work together?" But then I tried it, and I'm still not sure I know how it works, but it does.
With regards to non-alcoholic spirits being an emerging trend, what are your thoughts on that?
I think it has its place in the cocktail world. Non-alcoholic distillates are a great way to add complexity and flavour without adding more sugar or alcohol to a drink. Moreover, many of us regular imbibers are now more conscious of our long-term health, so we take a break from time to time. Sometimes on these breaks, you want to have something more than a sparkling water but you also don't want to drink unnecessary sugar, so you add a non-alcoholic distillate — essentially a sugar-free soda that's not laced with artificial sweeteners. I'm not particularly concerned that it will ever take the place of alcoholic spirits because it's not meant to. It's just a separate category with a different function.
What are some of your current favourite bars in Asia?
Tough one! There are so many great bars manned by people I adore! New favourite openings in Singapore would have to be No Sleep Club and Live Twice. Both serve amazing food and drinks in cool spaces. Outside of Singapore, Wa Shu +1 in Taipei offers quite the unique drinking experience, but just be sure to clear your schedule for the next two hours. A/A in Jakarta is tons of fun, and they have a jazz band, which I'm a sucker for. As for what to try, order whatever your heart tells you to try. It'll all be delicious!