The Future of Hospitality with Ago Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani
World-renowned bartending duo Ago Perrone and Giorgio Bargiani of The Connaught have assembled a team of some of the biggest names in bartending today for our newest series, exploring the future of hospitality with the people who know it best – bartenders.
Listed in the World’s 50 Best Bars for the past ten years running and named as World’s Best Bar 2020, The Connaught is known for its impeccable service, charming bartenders, and free-flowing Martinis. At the helm, Ago and Giorgio have led their team to stratospheric success, cementing themselves as two of the most influential bartenders in the world. Suited and booted, Ago and Giorgio have already interviewed Carina Soto Velasquez (Quixotic Projects) and Benjamin Padrón Novoa (Licorería Limantour, Mexico City). For our latest episode, we’re joined by Vijay Mudaliar, all the way from Asia.
Multi-award-winning Vijay shaped his unique approach to bartending in his hometown of Singapore, with stints at the Library and Operation Dagger on his CV. In December 2016 Vijay opened Native, which has been listed in the World’s 50 Best Bars for the past four years running, named as No.18 in 2020, and the most Sustainable Bar 2019. He has drawn worldwide acclaim for his focus on local and seasonal ingredients, use of Asian products, and passion for creating a more sustainable bar industry.
At Native, Vijay forages for ingredients within a 400-metre radius of the bar, gathering wild plants, fruits and flowers from the Ann Siang Hill area, which are used alongside exclusively local and regional spirits such as Singapore gin, Indian whisky, Thai rum and Sri Lankan Arak, making for a truly unique drinking experience.
Asked by Ago and Giorgio to name his favourite drink, Vijay is happy to be surprised. “My answer to that question is always ‘the next one’; I’m genuinely excited by different flavour profiles. When I go to a bar, I’m always looking for something new, fresh, something I’ve not tried before. Or for a comfort drink, the Paloma is up there. Nice, fresh, the Tequila packs a punch.”
A keen traveller, Vijay struggles to choose just one favourite place to visit. “London is very close to me. Outside of Singapore, the place I travel the most is London - so many good friends, so familiar, a lot of diversity, a lot of things going on, cocktail bars, football, theatre, art museums. Spain - good food, architecture, and in Asia especially, I love cities like Tokyo, Taiwan, and in South America, Buenos Aires is up there.” Much to Ago and Giorgio’s dismay, he has not yet been to Italy.
Characteristically optimistic, Vijay is excited by the changes he’s seen in the hospitality industry recently “We are starting to think a lot more. The bartender is a chef, a barista, a sommelier, and we are having a lot of nice conversations that are really strengthening the industry and learning so many new skills as well, dipping into new industries. We are having a very healthy conversation. Even with sustainability, bartenders are doing more than just making your drink, so it’s going to be very exciting, and we’re going to see a lot of new things coming up and a lot of great talent for the industry in the next few years.”
When it comes to a piece of advice, he wishes he’d been given early on in his career, Vijay cites the importance of balance “You have to learn how to take care of your body. I stretch in the day before I leave, and I stretch a bit in the night, and that - wow - your body feels different. You have to force yourself to go out for a run, you have to really balance the physical aspect. Even the way you work, instead of rushing all the time, you have to learn how to take care of your body and pace yourself.”
For those of you who find the prospect of sustainability overwhelming, Vijay suggests taking it one step at a time “It’s a whole ecosystem, it’s not just about using plastic straws. You don’t use plastic, but you use paper - does that help with the trees? As humans, we consume so much, and what I like to say is - how do we control water, electricity, power? A lot of things we don’t have answers to yet. When it comes to controlling food and food waste, we have a very high level of control, and I think it’s important that we start with that. If you think of it as a whole ecosystem, it’s going to be very stressful, but we can take steps at a time.”
For more insight from Vijay, including how he makes Native memorable, why he’s taken up Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and how he balances life with work, check the full video interview. Stay tuned for more in this series, created by hospitality for hospitality, as we look to navigate the future of the bar industry alongside those who know it best - bartenders.