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Tipples

Konga Shaker seeking revival among bartenders here

The next time you are at a bar, you might see the bartender using a curious, retro-looking device to make your drink.

The Konga Shaker, popular in bars in the 1930s, has been resurrected by Monkey Shoulder Whisky.

Using two rotating handles on the sides of the cylindrical contraption, you roll rather than shake the cocktail. There is a built-in sieve so the drink can be poured straight out.

The Monkey Shoulder brand ambassador for South-east Asia, Mr Jay Gray, 26, describes using the Konga as "something in between throwing and stirring".

Throwing is used with drinks such as the Bloody Mary, where the liquid is poured from one mixing tin to another in a long stream to loosely aerate but not dilute or chill the drink too much.

Stirring helps to control the dilution and chilling of drinks with delicate flavours or that are very booze-forward, like an Old Fashioned.

Monkey Shoulder brand ambassador for South-east Asia Jay Gray says the Konga Shaker holds 1.5 litres of drinks and can make up to eight servings of a cocktail at one go.
Monkey Shoulder brand ambassador for South-east Asia Jay Gray says the Konga Shaker holds 1.5 litres of drinks and can make up to eight servings of a cocktail at one go. PHOTO: MONKEY SHOULDER

"With the Konga, you can make really delicate, citrus-forward drinks without taking away from any of the other elements of the drink, like letting the alcohol speak for itself," Mr Gray explains.

The Konga's advantage is that it can be used to make drinks in large batches.

"If you have a table where one big group orders six or seven of the same drink, it can be quite laborious using two or three shakers to get the job done," he says.

But with the 1.5 litre-capacity Konga, bartenders can make up to eight servings of a drink at one go.

Unlike typical cocktail shakers which create a bit of racket from the ice smashing against the tin, the Konga is noticeably quieter because it is filled to the brim with ice.

That is an important feature for Mr Gray, who is from the United Kingdom and has been bartending for the past 10 years.

He says: "When we look at what it is to be a cocktail bartender, it's not only based on crafting the drink, but also around the hospitality. It's not easy to hold a conversation when there is so much noise from the shaking. With the Konga, you can give a bit of a show and at the same time hold down a conversation."

He says there is no hard and fast rule on how many rotations are needed for a drink. "It dilutes the drink quite quickly so you don't have to give it as much as you would when shaking a cocktail tin-on-tin," he says.

Monkey Shoulder made 250 Kongas to be distributed to bars and selected people in the industry. Twenty of them are in Singapore and four can be seen in action at 28 Hong Kong Street, The Cufflink Club, The Flagship and Employees Only.

There are no plans to retail it at the moment.

Mr Gray hopes it will not be just a novelty for the bartenders.

"We want to see people making drinks with it, we don't want it to be a bar decoration," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 21, 2016, with the headline 'Do the Konga'. Print Edition | Subscribe