When you’re travelling, a well-made tipple and an extraordinary meal can truly make your stay — whether as the key to unwind overnight during a business trip or to kick start a long-deserved vacation. Loyalty programme Marriott Bonvoy’s latest endeavour ensures just this for guests with the launch of its new Top 52 restaurants and bars list.

Rounding up the crème de la crème of wining and dining experiences all across the Asia-Pacific, the list defines good travel with some of the best designed bars and restaurants with equally beautifully executed menus, not to mention sophisticated atmospheres to match. We tracked down five amazing talents behind the bar you’ll want to keep your eye on for your next visit.

 

1. Ilhan Beser at Yào, Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse

Marriott Bonvoy mixologists - Marriott Bangkok

Hailing from Turkey, Ilhan Beser started his career in the bar world in 2003, with tenures across hotel brands JW Marriott, Mandarin Oriental, St. Regis and The Ritz-Carlton, taking him across Turkey, Hong Kong, Dubai, Doha, and most recently, Thailand. The former head bartender at The Excelsior Hotel Hong Kong’s ToTT’s Roof and Lounge now heads up Bangkok’s very first Chinese-inspired rooftop bar, Yào, which takes references from the glamour of Old Shanghai and transports it to Silom — the heart of Bangkok’s financial district.

Tell us a bit about your favourite ingredients to use in your drinks. Anything unusual?

Tropical fruits are my favourite ingredients, especially passionfruit. The unique fruit gives a very refreshing taste with its intense sourness. Mixing with honey also provides a perfect combination of sweet and sour. With its aromatic characteristics, passionfruit is also the perfect ingredient to mix with Asian herbs such as ginger and coriander.

What is the biggest trend that you see driving drinks culture in Asia at the moment?

For over a year in Bangkok, I’ve seen that using local ingredients has become more and more mainstream across Asia. Using local herbs, fruits or even vegetables results in exciting and different cocktails. From pandan leaves to ginger or pomelo to lychee, these ingredients allow us to make spectacular cocktails. There’re still more of such herbs, fruits, citruses and spices to be discovered by artisans.

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?

The sky’s the limit. There’s no roof in the mixology scene — we are alchemists in the millennium era. Discovering new ingredients combined with the mixologist’s passion and imagination will surely result in striking cocktails. Perfect cocktails require only one essential thing: the harmony of ingredients. The next addition would be choosing the right technique along with picking the perfect glass or container to add some excitement to your drinks.
Tell us about your bar. What makes it unique for out-of-town visitors to put on their must-visit list?
Yào Rooftop Bar is the first Chinese-inspired rooftop bar in Bangkok. Not only can you find a breathtaking view of the city and the Chao Praya River, the oriental-influenced signature cocktails are also highlights. There’s also a selection of delectable late-night bites and midnight dim sum that you can enjoy along with your favourite cocktails and the amazing 360-degree view above the city.

What is your signature cocktail? Can you share with us how you make it?

Yào’s signature cocktail, ‘Shanghai, The City “Upon the Sea”’. Using tropical flowers and fruit as main ingredients, the bright violet cocktail is inspired by the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai. The cocktail is made by mixing white rum, lychee liqueur, butterfly pea and lime juice then shaken together with ice. Serve in a martini glass with a butterfly pea flower and blueberries as a garnish.

Yào Rooftop Bar, 32/F, Bangkok Marriott Hotel The Surawongse, 262 Surawong Road, Bangkok, Thailand, +66 02 088 5666

 

2. Oscar Mena at Ozone, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong

Marriott Bonvoy mixologists - Ritz Hong Kong

If you ever need a drink recommendation at Ozone — the world’s highest bar — just look for the man with the unusual moustache. Mexican-born Oscar Mena has headed up Ozone since his appointment last summer, bringing his passion and expertise for intriguing old and new ingredients to the Hong Kong cocktail sphere. Mena previously spent time behind the bar in London at Ronnie Scotts’ Jazz Club, Sushi Samba London, Scarfes Bar of Rosewood London and COYA Mayfair, before relocating to Asia for the first time in 2018.

Tell us a bit about your favourite ingredients to use in your drinks. Anything unusual?

Herbs — I love them. Any time I have the chance to add them into my drinks it’s definitely a plus. I think herbs could add a significant touch to any dish or drink. It could be some savoury flavour, or simply the fragrance or aroma on a cocktail. Also, you can find them fresh or dry but there’s always a different variety on different continents.

What is the biggest trend that you see driving drinks culture in Asia at the moment?

What I see in Asia is that most of the bars are using local ingredients and trying new or old flavours coming from the locals. It could be teas, seasonal fruits, local spices or herbs. And the really interesting thing is sustainability, putting greater emphasis on minimal or zero waste behind the bars, and making sure that the entire process — to create drinks and put it in front of a guest — has as little impact on the environment as possible.

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?

One of the favourite things is that the hospitality is part of it. You are meeting a lot of people every day, and you also start building the relationship with the guest and at the same time, I am making my favourite drinks for them at the highest hotel in the world. Also, I am so thrilled to see the guests are all very happy at the end when they are leaving the bar, the restaurant or the entire building with a big smile. When all these happen, I know that these guests will come back one day. That’s my favourite part.

Tell us about your bar. What makes it unique for out-of-town visitors to put on their must-visit list?

I am so proud to work at Ozone, the highest bar in the world! And the combination of great service, great drinks and perfect view with the spectacular Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong skyline as a backdrop, all of these make Ozone bar a very unique place.

What is your signature cocktail? Can you share with us how you make it?
We just came up with a new cocktail menu themed after the Five Elements and in particular my signature is ‘Wood’. The drink is fully rounded and a bit smoky as I used agave spirits for the main ingredient and also aged the cocktail for 50 days in a barrel. I use mezcal, tequila, Fernet Hunter, sweet vermouth and a dash of chocolate bitters. Love it!

Ozone, 118/F, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, International Commerce Centre (ICC), 1 Austin Road West, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, +852 2263 2270

 

3. Villa Surya Andika at Woobar, W Bali – Seminyak

Marriott Bonvoy mixologists - W Bali

Part of W Bali – Seminyak since its opening, Villa Surya Andika (above centre) rose quickly from bartender to head mixologist, mastering every aspect about drink-making on the premises and winning various accolades and recognitions along the way. As an Indonesian finalist and Top 5 Marriott Liquid Master in Bangkok 2018, Andika also won the East Indonesia title for the Opihr Gin competition in Vietnam 2018. It’s no consequence that Woobar Bali has become one of the most coveted nightlife hotspots in town.

Tell us a bit about your favourite ingredients to use in your drinks. Anything unusual?
I love to use ingredients with floral and citrus characters. As we are on a tropical island, I choose ingredients that match well with the weather. With these two types of refreshing ingredients, people will always want to ask for more.

What is the biggest trend that you see driving drinks culture in Asia at the moment?
Nowadays, I see a lot of room for creativity due to an increasing demand as society is more and more accepting of alcohol consumption. In Asia, a lot of new bars are opening up, asking us to always evolve and stay ahead in the industry.

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?
My favourite thing about my profession is to please people, I love to see their reactions when they take the first sip of the drinks I made for them. I like to keep exploring new ideas that can give the best cocktail experience for the guest.

Tell us about your bar. What makes it unique for out-of-town visitors to put on their must-visit list?
It’s all about how W Bali treats people and also our lineup of events, constantly proposing what’s new or next in Bali. Woobar is definitely the party scene for people who are looking to let loose by the beach accompanied by an amazing sunset view.

What is your signature cocktail? Can you share with us how you make it?

The Just Mint Gimlet: house-made jasmine tea gin, Aperol, carbonated apple lavender, yuzu jam, mint, lemon juice, finished off with a touch of lavender salt.

Woobar, W Bali – Seminyak, Jalan Petitenget Kerobokan, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia, +62 361 4738 106

 

4. Rie Hidaka at The Bar, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo

Marriott Bonvoy mixologists - Ritz Tokyo

High above The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, The Bar offers a glamorous respite with glossy marble, rich woods, and dramatic floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the city. With over 200 kinds of Japanese and international whiskies in addition to wine, sake tastings and exceptional liquors, you’ll also find an opulent selection of signature cocktails, such as the Diamonds are Forever Martini, garnished with a one-carat diamond. Behind the bar shaking up these concoctions is Rie Hidaka, captain bartender and the only female mixologist at The Bar. With her sophisticated sense and relentless attention to detail, she was recently crowned Asia champion at the first ever Four Pillars Gin Asia Cocktail Competition 2019.

Tell us a bit about your favourite ingredients to use in your drinks. Anything unusual?

I like to go for whiskey and gin based cocktails that make use of tea infusions. I usually make tea bitters and tea syrups to achieve this.

What’s the biggest trend that you see driving drinks culture in Asia at the moment?

Recently, bartending itself in Asia has become more fashionable and attractive as a concept.

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?

Creating new cocktails and seeing guests smile while having it is my happiness.

Tell us about your bar. What makes it unique for out-of-town visitors to put on their must-visit list?

The view, the atmosphere and winning cocktails made by champions behind the bar, doing their best to wow our guests every day.

What is your signature cocktail? Can you share with us how you make it?

My signature cocktail is ‘Hilly training’, which was inspired by the natural beauty of the scenery in Yarra Valley. I wanted to present the landscape, the atmosphere and scent of Healesville. It’s made with Four Pillars Rare Day Gin, homemade botanical cordial, and matcha powder.

The Bar, 45/F, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo, Tokyo Midtown 9-7-1, Akasaka Minato-ku, Tokyo, 107-6245 Japan, +81 3 6434 8711

 

5. Rizal Junior, WET Deck, W Kuala Lumpur

Marriott Bonvoy mixologists - W Kuala Lumpur

Rizal Junior is Liquid Operations Manager at the W Kuala Lumpur’s WET Deck, billed as one of the city’s best spots to see and be seen. With the breathtaking sight of the Petronas Twin Towers in full view, guests come for a splash in the pool and to soak up the glittering night lights of Kuala Lumpur. Behind the bar, Rizal shakes up exotic tipples inspired by the beauty of the majestic national animals — the hornbill and monkey — and allows local flavours such as coconut, tuak, Tualang royal black honey and more to shine.

Tell us a bit about your favourite ingredients to use in your drinks. Anything unusual?
I love using out-of-the-box ingredients that you would never think to add into drinks. For example, a little hint of savouriness from porcini mushrooms and seaweed to balance out an otherwise sweet drink. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

What’s the biggest trend that you see driving drinks culture in Asia at the moment?

I’ve been seeing a lot of scientific techniques like sous vide, clarification and fermentation being used throughout the region. I notice a lot of bars keeping it simple by reinventing classic drinks. One of my favourite things to do is to clarify my mixes, which is the process of turning liquid clearer by removing any solid components that may still be in it, and is done via distillation.

What’s your favourite thing about your profession?

I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed with a lot of amazing opportunities, so I must say some of the best parts include being able to travel for work and learn about different countries and their respective mixology cultures, and learn about new techniques.

Tell us about your bar. What makes it unique for out-of-town visitors to put on their must-visit list?

WET Deck at W Kuala Lumpur is the place to see and be seen in downtown KL. Its swanky ambience and stunning views make it a hot spot to hang out at. Besides that, we employ a sustainable concept by using homegrown ingredients along with internationally renowned spirits. We also eliminate single-use plastic, and instead use natural glassware such as bamboo, copper, steel and wood. Our cocktails are also uniquely Malaysian, incorporating local flavours and in line with the hotel’s Jungle City theme.

What is your signature cocktail? Can you share with us how you make it?

The Ketayap Colada is a spin on the classic piña colada. It has a rich and nutty local taste to it, and is done via the clarifying process which means that its colour is close to clear.

Mix coconut cream, pineapple juice, pandan water, gula melaka (palm sugar); stir in a dissolved agar-agar solution and allow it to freeze for 30 minutes. Strain out with a cloth or paper coffee filter. Divide the mixture into 130ml portions, add mezcal and stir. Serve in a bamboo glass with full ice, then garnish with a skeleton leaf and baby’s breath.

WET, W Kuala Lumpur, 121 Jalan Ampang, Kuala Lumpur 50450, Malaysia, +60 12 347 9088

 

The ‘Top 52 Restaurants and Bars’ by Marriott Bonvoy highlights the one-of-a-kind F&B experiences available at Marriott properties across the Asia-Pacific region. For more information on Top 52 events, experiences and workshops, visit the website here.

Evelyn Lok
Associate Editor
When not trying out the latest beauty and wellness trends, Evelyn is likely enjoying a perfectly balanced negroni or exploring some of Hong Kong's best new places to eat and drink. At Lifestyle Asia she covers everything from the biggest events in town to interviews with Hong Kong specialists, with topics spanning art, food and drink, health, tech, and travel.