Meet the mixology gurus behind Hyde and Seek Bangkok
The much acclaimed Bangkok gastro-bar Hyde & Seek opened in 2010 as a collaboration between a group of Swedish mixologists and high profile Thai celebrity chef Ian Kittichi.
Identical twins Ben-David and Dannie Sorum, and their friend Thomas Anostam brought their international experience in the bar industry to Thailand back in 2004 and have operated a successful regional bar consultancy and events business out of Bangkok ever since.
We sat down for a chat with one of the trio- Dannie- for some of his thoughts on their Thailand adventure so far.
Dannie, what brought your bartending career to Bangkok – what was the draw?
Ben and I ended up here together in 2004 for a short-term project consulting on bar management and mixology training.
It was only meant to last a few weeks, but we were asked to stay for an additional three months to take on a side project - a cocktail recipe book called "Tipple Thai" for the Tourism Authority of Thailand.
It was then that we saw the possibilities and opportunities for the bar industry. Three to four years later, fellow mixologist Thomas showed up and joined the team.
What was the biggest difference in bar culture coming from such a different place as Sweden?
The first thing was the lack of popular cocktail ingredients to work with as there were only a handful of spirit/liqueur brands available. The palate of the locals also took a little while to understand - taste is the most important part of good mixology. Then there was the technical aspect of running a bar that took some getting used to – getting ingredients from 50 suppliers instead of ordering from a one-stop-shop, service styles and even early closing times made a difference!
How has the drinking culture in Bangkok changed in the time you’ve been here?
The drinking culture has come a long way since we first set foot in Bangkok. Everything from product availability, style of bars/nightlife, bartenders’ pride in the industry and most of all the amount of experience guests have with quality cocktails from around the world and now locally, too. In a way, these developments have encouraged bartenders to evolve and improve their mixology techniques and skills in order to keep up with consumer demand. Competition among bartenders is fiercer too, which I think makes the industry in Thailand a more interesting place to be in now.
Describe the process of how you create a new cocktail and eventually put it on the menu
Cocktail inspiration usually starts with an idea (which can come from anything - a movie, a moment, a feeling, a name, anything…) and then that drink evolves in our minds. You start combining flavours and textures mentally, drawing on past experiences; like looking in a library of flavours then matching them and almost tasting the final cocktail in our heads. When we have a blueprint cocktail recipe, we create the actual cocktail and fine tune the measures. Most times it turns out as imagined, sometimes even better. If it meets the criteria, it gets a spot on the menu.
How are new bartenders trained and mentored?
Our in-house bartender training programme focuses on the absolute basics; they all start as assistants and then we (with the support of our core team) train them step by step, starting with the most basic things like the tools of the trade, the equipment and ingredients, service etiquette and so on.
You’ll also find us behind the bar the bar working alongside our team, leading by example in a way. That’s how we learned from our mentors and mastered our mixology skills, and that’s how they pick up the small things that they might not ask about, or even think about.
Martin Archer - Long term Asian resident and serial entrepreneur- founder and publisher of www.asia-bars.com - the authoritative on-line guide to Asia's finest bars and restaurants.