We’re back! But those were dark days, especially for bars and restaurants in Vietnam. With the industry shutdown for months, Doozy Hanoi bartender and co-founder Vu Ngoc waited it out in Saigon. Now his ‘minimalist, high-tech’ Hanoi bar has reopened. And we hope it’s for good this time. To reflect the feeling of positivity coursing through the country, we asked the award-winning mixologist to give us a music mix about survival and perseverance. This is the sound of sunshine after the rain.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt
Doozy Hanoi is one of those bars that has redefined cocktail culture in the capital. Modern techniques. A long bar glistening with spirits and elixirs. An embrace of local ingredients. And a vibe that amps up perfectly as the evening wears on. It’s all presided over by a sober-looking Vu Ngoc. “It’s weird,” he admits, “I look sober, even when I’m really drunk.”
We met Vu Ngoc, who’s now 27, the day before his flight back to Hanoi at the loft concept café and event space My House (14 Ton That Dam) to find out how the award-winning bartender broke into the profession, and to get his uplifting guest mix.
Some people love Saigon’s backpacker area of Bui Vien. Others hate the mayhem. But amid all the polarizing chaos – gap year gallivants, balloons and banging Vinahouse – Vu Ngoc fell in love with bartending. “That is where I started,’ he laughs. It was a good place to practice his English and bump into other bartenders having post-shift beers on the street that barely sleeps.
It was important to Vu Ngoc to get the bartending basics down even in those early days on Bui Vien. “That’s what I’d advise anyone – master the classics. And keep growing from there. Being a passionate bartender for three weeks is an experience, being a passionate bartender for three months is an effort, but being a passionate bartender for three years and beyond…that’s a career.”
And at some point after that, if you work hard enough, awards might follow. They did for Vu Ngoc. In 2021, he won the coveted Diageo World Class Vietnam. And he did it with a clean sweep of all the competition’s challenges. “That’s a dream for anyone in the industry,” he shakes his head in awe of his achievement.” He did it on his second attempt: “The first time, because of work commitments, I had to drop out, but I gave it a second shot and won. I might try again when I’m 30, to try to help push Vietnam to even more global recognition – that’s the real honor in doing this, doing it for my country.”
What’s the music like at Doozy Hanoi?
I prefer R&B and some pop music early on, while we’re quiet. As we become crowded, I move the vibe towards new-school hip hop and rap, and then we finish with some old-school classics.
We really pay close attention to the customers. At the end of the night, something more gentle helps carry the conversation along. During peak times, when guests have to speak loudly to be heard, the music is uptempo and bass-heavy, to drown out their voices a little and to make things more fun.
When did you first get into music?
Before becoming a bartender, I was a dancer. I needed to develop my music knowledge quickly by paying close attention to it to help my performance. I also learned a good song is not simply about the lyrics. There are lots of other factors. And I also discovered the wide world of music and its many genres. It began to fascinate me.
Which music is overrated and which is underrated?
Since I can remember, personally, I’ve been a ‘hip hop will never die’ kinda guy. But looking at other genres, I think jazz is especially overlooked and underrated. It takes some understanding but rewards patience. Vinahouse might be the most overrated.
What song would you play someone to make them fall in love with music? And what song would help them understand you better?
I’d play them ‘Cảm ơn’ by Đen Vâu, guaranteed to make them fall in love with music. And to understand me better? ‘Humble’ by Kendrick Lamar!
And which music will you play at your wedding? And which would you like played at your funeral?
At my wedding, I’m going to choose ‘A Thousand Years’ by Christina Perry. And my funeral? ‘Thiên Đàng [Heaven]’ by Wowy. But I guess I have no choice. I’ll have to accept whatever anyone wants to play.
Can you describe your mix in a couple of words?
How will people feel when they listen to it? And when’s the best time to listen to your mix?
After all these months of adversity, I want this mix to fill people with positivity. Personally, I want to face any challenges head-on, and I hope to inspire others to do the same. You can listen to this any time, but maybe before an exam, or before an intense competition or sporting event to hype yourself up!
Finally, tell us why you chose these tracks?
The first track, Hawk Nelson’s ‘Sold Out’, was one I listened to a lot in the run-up to the Diageo World Class Vietnam 2021 competition. It gave me the motivation to do well.
Fall Out Boy’s ‘Centuries’ has the energy to uplift you even when you’re at your lowest. Then Lil Nas X and Jack Harlow’s ‘Industry Baby’ keeps the vibe going.
After that, I chose Wiz Khalifa and Iggy Azalea’s ‘Go Hard Or Go Home’. True to the name of the song, the track makes me move my ass every morning. Then we get spiritual with Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’. After than, Pharell’s ‘Happy’ to relieve us of any remaining gloom. Then Wiz Khalifa and 2Chainz with ‘We Own It’. The lyrics make you self-reflect. And refocus on the goals ahead.
Then we’re really in the zone with The Script ft. Will I Am’s ‘Hall Of Fame’. The lyrics go something like, “You can be the greatest, you can be the best.” It’s impossible to hear that and not feel self-belief. Then some rap with Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘Savage’ before we wind down with ‘Lalala’ by Y2K, Enrique Iglesias, bbno$ & Carly Rae Jepsen.
Translation by Bao Ngoc, photos by Nghia Ngo and special thanks to our hosts, My House (14 Ton That Dam)