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Five minutes with Zachery De Git

Only 24 years old, the mixologist is working at one of the World’s Top 50 Bars –Tippling Club, as listed by Drinks International—and, on top of that, was recently crowned the winner of Diageo Reserve World Class Singapore 2013. The down-to-earth Australian-born stalwart is a prominent figure in Singapore’s nightlife circuit and will go on to join the finest bartenders around the world for the global final this month. We had a chat with Zach to find out more about his winning cocktails, the nerves and setting sail.

Congratulations on your win at the recent Diageo Reserve World Class Singapore National Final 2013. Tell us more about your winning concoctions.

The final was the most nerve wrecking for me. I was in fourth place and knew that it would be the toughest part of the competition so far.

For the Copper Ketel Serve I concocted a champagne cocktail with a strong body of Ketel One, a small amount of grapefruit-infused aromatised wine, bitters and champagne. I poured this over a house made syrup flavoured and colored with clitoria flower (a flower that grows wildly here in Singapore. I took some from my neighbor’s garden.) This flower changes color with acidity from bright blue to purple.

The Johnnie Walker challenge was the most fun I had. I created simple flavours that worked with Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve --accentuating the ones present in the whisky.

The Speed challenge was the most energetic of the day, I found myself practicing for the whole week and felt like I did a lot better on the day.

The final challenge was the Punch bowl; I pulled out a nice Ron Zacapa-based punch with hints of different sherries, a little citrus and crème de mure.

How close were you to winning in the previous years?

This is actually only my second year competing. I came in second runner-up the last time.

And you won it. How does it feel?

It felt amazing when they announced it. It was such a challenging competition and everyone competing did such an amazing job. There was no telling who was going to win. Everyone that competed was world class.

Coming from Tippling Club --known for their molecular leanings-- do you think this gave you an advantage in terms of understanding the subtle values of ingredients used and how they complement one another?

Definitely at Tippling Club we have access to some great scientific equipment. This helps give me a broader perspective on flavors and combinations. The scientific aspect comes into play in testing and research and development. Then implemented in the preparation stages. Through this process, we get to find out what works and what doesn't.

We’re guessing it’s a different ball game concocting for patrons versus a panel of esteemed judges. What's your take on this?

At the end of the day you’re there to make a drink and that drink has to taste nice and you still need to entertain your guests as much as you do a judging panel. The only difference is reading your customers and knowing how much they actually want to know about what you’re doing, whereas the judges want to know everything.

Apart from being technically competent and well-versed in the ingredients used, what other elements are equally important when competing?

Confidence. I still get nervous, but I think learning to calm your nerves before you present is a very key thing.

The local cocktail scene has recently grown leaps and bounds on the back of a progressively close-knit and inclusive bar community. I am sure it wasn't like this 5 years ago. How does this affect you professionally and what does it do in the greater scheme of things?

Professionally it helps drive the industry to new levels. People want to be known for their craft and will strive to stay up there with the best. In the greater scheme of things, it puts Singapore on the map as one of the leading countries in hospitality. We now have two bars in the World’s Top 50 Bars list and I'm sure there will be more soon. People are actively coming to Singapore now to see what we have to offer which is great.

As the national winner, you'll be housed on a cruise ship, setting sail for about a week down the French Riviera with stopovers in St. Tropez, Ibiza and Barcelona. Make us jealous with a little thank you speech.

I really don't know what to say on this one. It's going to be a tough week! Looking forward to the challenges ahead and hopefully bringing back the trophy for Singapore!

For the past 5 years, Zul Andra has been covering Singapore's nightlife circuit for publications such as Esquire, inSing.com, The New Paper, Time Out and Juice. He's also the publicist for booking agency Feedback Asia and curates parties currently at Loof and kyo.