Meet: Larry & Sharleen Guevara
VENUE: Manille Beach Bar, Palawan, Philippines
The Blend talks to bartenders across the globe, in markets or locations not necessarily in major cities, but off the beaten track. The Philippines, an archipelagic country in South East Asia, filled with beautiful islands, sun and white beaches therefore, thirsty people! We were lucky enough to catch up with two individuals, drawn together by passion, and delivering hospitality to their guests daily, at Manille Beach Bar Palawan.
Where are you working currently, and what is the style and concept of the venue?
We are running ‘Manille Beach Bar’, a Filipino-themed bar on the beautiful island of El Nido, Palawan, Philippines. This is our first bar venture in partnership with the country’s oldest distillery. It was established in 1852. We are also serving Filipino comfort food.
Drawn utside of that, we are managing our bar and beverage consultancy called Liquid Concepts in the Philippines. This is another outlet for us to be able to share our love of bartending through a series of seminars and training for hospitality students and professionals. We want to help raise the local bar culture.
What is the bar culture like in your local market?
It is still very young, but promising. When we first came to the island, beer was the most consumed alcoholic beverage in bars and restaurants.
We are the only cocktail bar in our area and that is why we are really excited; we have the opportunity to raise awareness for customers and the local bartending community.
What’s a product unique to the Philippines and used within your cocktails?
We are really fortunate to have partnered with a local distillery, because its main focus is not only to showcase the full potential of its product line, but also to use locally sourced produce from the Philippines.
This allows us to be creative with our cocktails and play around with some of the more interesting, indigenous ingredients: things like ‘calamansi’ (local lime), ‘dalandan’ (local orange), mango and ‘kapeng barako’ (local liberica coffee).
A new set of more exotic produce will come out in the launch of our next beverage program at Manille Beach Bar, so stay tuned.
Do you have any challenges with sourcing supplies and fresh produce?
Living and running a bar on the island is very challenging. Most of our items come from mainland Manila, which means they have to come by sea or air and can be delayed by the weather. Nowadays, luckily there are local suppliers we can go to from time-to-time. However, securing a consistent supply is still difficult. We make sure our par stock is checked regularly and well maintained to combat that.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Everyday life. We are lucky to be living on an island that still has pristine beaches and rich flora and fauna. Our bar also happens to be on the beachfront, which means you can view the sunset and breathe in fresh air every, single day. We really can’t complain.
History books, watching films, travel and working behind the bar together are also great sources of inspiration to us.
Who’s driving the trends, is it consumers visiting your venue and requesting specific flavours and spirits, or is the venue leading the way?
We can say in our experience here that we have led the way in introducing new flavours to local and international consumers. Our venue is also leading the way in trends. In saying that, we are always happy to create flavour combinations according to our guests’ preferences.
Who is your clientele - locals, tourists or a combination?
We have a mixed clientele, however, tourists make up for around 50 to 60 per cent. Palawan was placed on the world map when it was included in the Conde Nast Traveler as one of the best islands globally. The influx of tourists hasn’t really slowed down since then.
What motivates you and why do you enjoy this industry?
We feel truly blessed to be sharing the ‘bar stage’ as a couple and to interact with our guests daily; we enjoy meeting all kinds of people from all walks of life.
We are motivated by seeing students from colleges and universities all over the Philippines, who join our bartending seminars and events and go onto become successful bartenders.
In which moment in your career did you know this was your passion?
Sharleen and I both have a degree in hospitality management, although how we got into the industry differs. I finished my first college in the seminary (I was supposed to become a Catholic priest!) with a degree in philosophy. The turning point for me was watching my classmates flip bottles in our bar and beverage management class, during my hospitality management years. Sharleen, on the other hand, juggled three jobs while she was in Alberta, Canada and it was her job as a bartender at Sheraton Red Deer Hotel that excited her the most.