Julie Nguyen is one to watch. Part-time waitress turned award-winning mixologist, she’s making a name for herself shaking up not just cocktails, but also the competition.
Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt
Julie Nguyen never thought she would be making it big time behind the bar. It didn’t feel like it would ever be an option.
“When I started out as a part-time waitress, I honestly didn’t even know what most of the cocktails on the menu were”, she laughingly admits. “But I was so curious and was constantly asking questions. Mixology was like magic to me”.
Appreciating this relentless curiosity as potential, Julie’s then manager encouraged her to take a couple of shifts behind the bar, and it wasn’t long before her natural talent became apparent.
From there, things started to snowball. Crowned winner of Cointreau’s Margarita Challenge Thailand 2023, and both the Flor de Caña Sustainable Cocktail Challenge in Vietnam 2022 and Thailand 2023, it’s unsurprising that she recently featured as part of the Lady Triệu’s Female Icons Series.
Beating The Boss
Through one of these victories, she landed a position at the Opium Bar Bangkok, #59 on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars extended 51-100 list in 2023, and perched above the Michelin-starred Potong Restaurant, in Bangkok.
“It’s a funny story actually” she tells us, “I stole the crown of Thailand’s Flor de Caña 2023 competition from the reigning champion, and Opium’s Bar Manager, Matteo Cadeddu. And he’s now my boss.” Turns out that post-defeat Matteo was so impressed by Julie, that he invited her to join his own team of talented bartenders.
Yet, despite all the triumphs, trophies and trips abroad that come with competing, Julie still says her favorite moments are within the everyday.
”Winning competitions doesn’t make you a good bartender” she humbly notes. “I always remind myself that ‘bartender’ consists of two words. It’s both ‘bar’ and ‘tender’. I’m not just a mixologist. And I’m not just making drinks. I’m the one who through generous hospitality and captivating storytelling can make their experience a happy memory that lasts a lifetime.”
Seven Hours, Eighteen Cocktails And One Patient Julie
One of Julie’s more memorable recent moments was when a solo customer took a seat at the bar when Opium opened at 5pm. Seven hours and a staggering eighteen cocktails later (yes, you read that right, eighteen), and where was Julie? Still behind the bar, of course, patiently chatting to him as she worked.
“We talked about everything: cocktails, travel, life. Sure, he was a little drunk by the end, but it certainly made for one of my favorite shifts and an experience that I hope has stuck with him too.”
Unwavering Resolve In The Man’s World Of Mixology
But it hasn’t all been budding stardom and success. As a woman in a heavily male dominated industry, Julie faces her fair, or rather unfair, share of challenges. The only female in an all-male team at her first bartending job, she was victim to frequent sexism. “It didn’t get to me,” Julie says coolly. “I ignored it all and just focused on myself, but I’ll admit I’d get great satisfaction if one day, those people see me go far and regret what they said. Bartending should be a job that welcomes everybody.”
So what will we see next for this tenacious talent? “I have big dreams and I want to go international” declares Julie, but she’s in no rush; “When I’m ready, and the opportunity comes, I will take it. But for now, I’m just working hard where I am”. As we’ve said, she’s one to keep an eye on…