For a 29 year old to have a job which allows them to be who they are and earn a living in a way that feels fulfilled and fun might sound like a dream but for Tasha Lu, it's a reality.
"9 years ago when one of my first jobs was working in an office, I found it really mundane and everyone in the office was old. I wanted to make friends my own age and also get paid to party, so with no experience of working in a bar I scored my first job in a nightclub! From there I fell in love with the industry, it allowed me to be who I am and earn a living that way felt fulfilling and fun," she says.
Through experience and the people she met, she ended up scoring a spot at Eau de vie Melbourne after the owner and head bartender asked her to join the team.
"It's still one of the most fun bars I've worked in and I have the fondest memories of working there, I left EDV to go work for another close friend who had just opened a new rooftop cocktail bar. I used everything I had learnt at EDV and my previous experience of managing bars to operate Loop Roof, I still miss working there and my team that I left behind."
Shortly after, Tasha was offered an opportunity of a lifetime a brand ambassador for Hendrick's Gin in Southeast Asia.
ESQUIRE: How is the bartending industry like now for a woman? Would it be safe to say that it's a man's field? And are there more women getting into the industry?
TASHA LU: I never noticed that it was generally a man’s field. The industry is different in every market, in Australia and I guess in western cultures it’s different to Asian cultures. In my experience it not seen as an appropriate job for a woman. This is very strange. What job isn’t appropriate for a woman?! A woman can do any job she wants. I don’t want to get too deep into it, but I feel proud that other women in Asia look up to me and other in women who are successful in the industry like Camille Ralph Vidal.
I think what the issue might be is that bartending is a very physical/labourious job and genetically men are build for that. I mean I remember when I was working at Long Room in Melbourne as a dispense cocktail bartender, I had to make hundreds of cocktails a night for hours and hours, when I first started my arms where the size of chopsticks, after a couple of months I started looking like the bloody Hulk! It was the gun show every night at knock offs, I looked super tough with my muscles and tats ha-ha! It’s not a glamorous job like some make it out to be, you do get dirty and it is hard active work, that’s what I love about it, you get adrenaline when its busy you all of a sudden have to think super quick and move super quick, there’s music and your working next to your friends... aaaah sweet memories!
ESQ: How did being an ambassador for Hendricks happen?
TL: Pure Witchcraft. Jokes. I was put forward by a really good friend who was my mentor back in Melbourne many many years ago. He pretty much pressured me into applying for the role, I’m thankful for his ability to convince me!
ESQ: What is it about Hendricks that you absolutely love?
TL: I actually love everything about Hendrick’s Gin; I could go on and on and on and on and on and on... oh sorry... the top 3 things I love about Hendricks is because it’s unusual—the Hendrick’s world is amazing! Check out the website https://www.hendricksgin.com/ and the YouTube channel to get more of a feel for the gin. Its infused with rose, cucumber and it makes for easy drinking cocktails.
ESQ: Speakeasy bars have been sprouting all around this region lately; do you see this as a good direction for the culture of drinking in this region?
TL: Just like every industry there are trends, I personally think the speakeasy trend has been overdone, there are already so many cool speakeasy bars but I would love to see more bars that embrace their own culture. Use more native ingredients, or be your own trend setter, be individual. I actually really love true speakeasy style bars that are really hidden, do classic cocktails really well and are dark and quiet and play jazz, perfect to sip on a Hendrick’s French 75.
Bartenders need to engage more with their customers; it’s how you learn what your clientele want, so you can stock more of what they order.
ESQ: We’ve previously had some bartenders that tell us that people in this region are generally shy at the bar when it comes to ordering drinks; it’s usually the same orders (Old Fashioned, Gin Tonic etc etc). Apparently we’re less adventurous compared to others, would you agree?
TL: Here’s what I think: some customers just like to drink the same thing all the time and that’s totally ok!
I also think that bartenders should be more vocal with their customers. It’s a part of the job you know... talking to people! If customers are ordering the same thing all the time you can totally say “hey do you want to try something different today? Something new? We just launched our new cocktail menu, would you like try one and tell us what you think?”
Bartenders need to engage more with their customers; it’s how you learn what your clientele want, so you can stock more of what they order. Every bar has a particular demographic. Now customers and people are generally afraid of the unfamiliar so the bartender needs to be genuine and trusting. As a bartender you’re there to make sure the customer has a good time/experience. Dare to be different! Nothing exciting ever happens if you stay within your comfort zone. I’m not saying force the customer to try something different, but if you suggest it they will remember the extra step you took and maybe seek for you on their next visit when they’re ready to be adventurous.
ESQ: If you could make a drink for someone you admired, what drink would it be?
TL: Someone I admire the most is Dracula, I think he is so handsomely pale and he is just so hypnotising.... similarly I admire Tim Burton, I would make him a Classic Negroni, and no matter how nervous or star struck you are it’s literally the easiest to remember/make. Equal parts Hendrick’s gin, Campari, sweet vermouth. You can even just build it in the tumbler glass and just add ice and an orange wedge for ultra fastness! The faster you make the drink the more time you have to stare and stroke Tim’s face.
ESQ: Consequently, if you cook make dinner for that same person, what would you cook?
TL: I have no cooking skills, except for making syrups and other bar ingredients. Last time I cooked in my apartment (which is the only time I have used the kitchen) I burnt myself, dropped the food all over the bloody floor and cried. Never. Again.
ESQ: You’ve got some pretty cool ink on you, can you tell us what are some of the most significant pieces of tattoos you have? And maybe a piece that you might plan to get in the future?
TL: Why thank you. Actually they’re all significant, for me my tattoos represent memories or values basically they are all meaningful. I have too many tattoos to count, I think eventually they will all connect and I can just say I have one giant tattoo.
My mother always says to me that she doesn’t understand why I got so many, that I was beautiful before, I just tell her: Beauty is about being yourself—and being different is better. Everyone should embrace being different, everybody should embrace being themselves.
ESQ: What are the top three cocktails everyone should know how to make?
TL: A Negroni for sure, it’s perfect for all occasions and you can really never get sick of it! This my all time favourite recipe:
Hendrick’s Unusual Negroni No. 2
45ml Hendrick’s Gin
30ml Sweet Vermouth (I prefer Antica Formula)
5-10ml Fernet Branca (if you can find it!)
All ingredients go into a mixing glass filled with ice, quickly stir and pour into a rocks glass serve over block ice or cubed ice, whatever you have at home and garnish with a slightly burnt cinnamon quill!
A refreshing summer cocktail is a must know, especially in Asia. I love a Hendrick’s classic cocktail called:
45ml Hendrick’s gin
20 fresh lime juice
15-20ml sugar syrup
8-10 mint leaves (depending on size, I like mine more minty fresh!)
And a few chunks of cucumber.
First you need to muddle the cucumber in a cocktail shaker, add the mint leaves and all other ingredients, fill up the shaker with ice, and shake with all your Hulk might! Fine strain into a martini glass, garnish with a nice mint leaf and slice of cucumber.
For an even MORE refreshing take, pour the cocktail into a highball glass (tall glass) and full with ice and just top a little bit with soda water. Mmmmm refreshing!
A champagne cocktail, because champagne is so fancy! And refreshing, my Hendrick’s recipe is called:
Fizzy Make Me Feel Good
30ml Hendrick’s Gin
20ml Spiced Pear Syrup
10ml Fresh squeezed lemon juice
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, fine strain into a flute glass or champagne saucer and top with your favourite champagne. (Prossecco is also good!)
ESQ: What’s the craziest drink you’ve ever had?
TL: Recently when I was in Bangkok we did a mini Gin & Tonic competition, I was so surprised and impressed at how many of the bartenders were so creative and funny! Most remember able was a drink creation done by one of my favourite bartenders FahBeer and her team mate made a twist on a G&T called: WTF using a local fruit called a fak fruit! HAHA! Absolutely amazing! It was delicious.
ESQ: What do you think are the important qualities that someone needs to have should they do what you do?
But in all seriousness, you really need to love the industry you’re in; being a brand ambassador really does require dedication. The role requires a lot of travel, may seem glamourous but it also means a lot of time away from loved ones. You spend a lot of time in airports which is really boring and then you come back to the office with a whole bunch of reporting and paper work to do. But the pros far outweigh the cons, especially when you work for a brand that you truly love, it just doesn’t seem like work at all.
So the main qualities would be: independence, autonomy, creativeness and ambition.
ESQ: What motivates you to continue doing what you do?
TL: Literally my passion for the industry and my love for Hendrick’s Gin. The urge for me to teach others in the Asian market what I have learnt and to be a good role model.
ESQ: Finally, do guys hit on you a lot at the bars? If so, what are some of the usual tactics?
TL: Never, and I’m glad they don’t. Ha-ha