Bartender Vijay Mudaliar wins Diplomatico World Tournament Singapore final

Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapor
Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapore Final on Jan 5. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapor
Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapore Final on Jan 5. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapor
Bartender Vijay Mudaliar from Ann Siang Hill's Operation Dagger concocted a rum-based cocktail, which was inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, to beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapore Final on Jan 5. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

A homage to his Singaporean roots mixed with South American flavour proved to be the winning recipe for barman Vijay Mudaliar, 25.

His rum-based cocktail, inspired by the Japanese occupation of Singapore in the 1940s, beat eight other competitors at the Diplomatico World Tournament Singapore Final on Jan 5.

Now in its second year, the international bartending competition was founded by Venezuelan rum producer Diplomatico, and features some of the best barmen in the world competing, creating innovative cocktails using Diplomatico rum.

Mr Mudaliar's winning cocktail, named Jewel Of The East, was crafted using rum, a sweet potato compote cooked with rum liqueur, pandan leaves, cinnamon and cardamom.

A "ration card" was issued with the cocktail, referencing the ration cards issued by the Japanese to control supplies of rice and other essential items during the World War II. It also came with a brown paper bag filled with sweet potato chips and banana money, currency printed with banana tree motifs that were used in Malaya during the war period.

Mr Mudaliar, a bartender with Operation Dagger in Ann Siang Hill, says of the inspiration behind his drink: "Some of the people I look up to include Mr Lim Bo Seng, slightly a forgotten war hero, and a crucial point of time (for him) was the Japanese Occupation."

Lim Bo Seng was a Chinese resistance fighter known for his anti-Japanese activities during World War II, which was why Mr Mudaliar picked the Japanese Occupation as inspiration for his rum-cocktail.

His grandmother also used took care of his family during the war, and "saved the family during the occupation as she used to cook Indian food for the Japanese".

Singapore's positioning as a strategic port location was also why he dubbed his cocktail Jewel Of The East.

He adds that he was looking for "a cocktail that represented me" and his Singaporean roots, which he grew more appreciative of after spending time overseas for work and travel.

Bartenders Boo Jing Heng of Jigger & Pony in Amoy Street and Tom Hogan of Anti:dote at Fairmont Singapore, took second and third places in the competition respectively.

Thirty participants signed up for the Singapore competition of the Diplomatico World Tournament, which started last November. After two qualifying rounds, 10 bartenders were picked for the finals.

One of the finalists, Byron Tan of The Horse's Mouth, pulled out at the last minute due to work commitments, which left nine finalists competing on Monday night.

Each were given 10 minutes to create four of the same cocktail, and they were allowed to use their own home-made bitters, syrups, and liqueurs.

Mudaliar will go on to represent Singapore at the World Final in Venezuela in April (2015), where he will be pitted against more than 20 bartenders from countries such as Australia, Italy, France, Canada and China.

melk@sph.com.sg