Undoubtedly one of the best things that happened in 2018 for the drinks scene in Singapore is the opening of Brass Lion Distillery, the first micro-distillery and bar to make its mark here.
Their Alexandra Terrace grounds houses not just the copper still they use to batch distill three of their own gins – Singapore Dry, Butterfly Pea and Pahit Pink – for the market, but is also home to their own classy bar space found on the second floor of the industrial building.
At the bar, one friendly face you’ll find is Lee Shewei. You might have ordered a drink from her before at other well-known bars in town like Atlas and Ce La Vi. Now at Brass Lion, the 23-year-old budding mixologist isn’t just creating cocktails, but showcasing locally-made gin to the world.
We caught up with her and found out what she loves most about being in this line of work, how her own bar (if ever) might turn out to be, and what she enjoys doing most when she’s not behind a bar counter.
How did you first start getting into bartending and mixology?
After discovering I had an interest and passion for mixology, I set out to gain some of the skills necessary to pursue it as a career. This led to me enrolling in the European Bartender School in Amsterdam, after which, I started off my first bar job at Ce La Vi. Having gained some practical experience there, I then secured a job at Atlas. That’s how I got into cocktails!
Other than gin, what is your favourite type of alcohol?
Cognac. Most Chinese families love Cognac.
What do you enjoy most about being in this industry?
Bar work is an incredibly social occupation. You are constantly meeting new people and making new friends. Coupled with Singapore’s vibrant multicultural scene, you end up meeting people from all over the world. It’s always interesting to know more about other people’s perspectives on life.
Shewei at Atlas
Do you think people have certain expectations from female bartenders?
The stereotypical understanding is that females are always physically weaker than males. Somehow, this leads to the expectation that women will do less strenuous work. But actually, we are expected to do everything at the bar.
What is one reaction when you tell people you’re a mixologist?
People normally say I don’t look like a bartender, because I don’t have that typical bartender face.
How does your family feel about your occupation?
My parents are completely supportive now as they witness the growth and my passion in this industry. They were initially really worried about me pursuing bartending as my career especially in an environment with lots of alcohol and late work hours.
If you could guest shift at any bar here, which would it be?
Gibson, one of my favourite bars in Singapore!
And if you owned your own bar, what will it be like?
It will be omakase style, meaning the customer will leave it to me to decide what they drink. That gives me creative freedom, and for the guest, a more memorable experience because it’ll always be a surprise.
What are you doing when you’re not working?
Mostly I enjoy resting in bed and reading novels. Sometimes I even get inspiration for new cocktails from reading.
Complete this sentence: If I was drowning in a batch of gin…
If I was drowning in a batch of gin, I would drink it all up to save myself from drowning!