Vietnam Whisky & Cocktail Festival 2024 Celebrates Vietnam’s Supreme Servers Of Fine Spirits

Never a team to rest upon their laurels, the gang behind the beloved Gin Festival Saigon and last year’s inaugural Vietnam Whisky & Cocktail Festival, have merged the two boozy bacchanalian balls into one big blow out. This is The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024. 

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

Added to that, this time around the event runs over two days, Friday 14th and Saturday 15th June, from 3-10PM, with a new host venue, Sheraton Saigon Grand Opera Hotel. 

Attendees get the usual generous supply of goodies – which this time includes a snazzy steel hip flask – and an even more generous supply of beverages, with free-flow cocktails and spirits. 

There, there’ll be over fifty sponsors and exhibitors from around the world, enticing guests with their gins, whiskeys, rums, vodkas, and even a glass of wine or two. And for a deeper dive into some of the beverage brands, the event will host four daily masterclasses and an exclusive room for spirits enthusiasts to try some premium and rare bottles. 

After a strong showing last year, Phan Trần Trung Tín has learned and come back stronger…and stranger than before.

But some things, reliably, stay the same. Like MC and magician Petey Majik returning to fearlessly lead the debauchery from the front lines, microphone or pack of cards in one hand, glass of whiskey in the other. And he’ll be joined this time around by DJ Pia. 

As for the accolades, The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024 will crown a Best Master Bartender Of The Event, and there’ll be two new awards: the Best Cocktail Of The Event, and the Favorite Brand Award, all chosen by guests, who each get one vote, via QR code.

Trần Mẫn from Ministry – Concept Bar.

Four Bartenders Preparing For Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024

So, we asked four of the bartenders in attendance about their drinks and why they should pick up an award.

Phan Trần Trung Tín is Group Beverage Manager of Momentum Hospitality, managing three outlets “the experiential Nikkei spot” Tinto, The Brix, “a wonderful tropical oasis that’s an escape from the city,” and the newly opened YUNKA, “that’s a place to see and be seen.”

At The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, he’ll be representing Stranger & Sons Gin, a spirit, made in Goa, India with prominent botanicals that encapsulate the flavors of Asia. 

Trần Mẫn is from Ministry – Concept Bar, formerly known as Ministry of Men. It’s a bar that “exudes an air of effortless sophistication.” 

At Ministry – Concept Bar, this self-confessed “new face in the industry” gets to make drinks that embody the spirit of their namesakes – the historical figures whose pictures line the bar’s walls. But at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024 he’ll be representing Michter’s Whiskey.

Phong, from the “comfortable, cozy, Shanghai-themed” Madam Kew Cocktail Bar, describes himself as a rookie too, but one with a huge curiosity to learn about and create cocktails. And Rum Matusalem, a spirit that invokes Cuba’s Golden Age.

Finally, Yến Ngân is head bartender at inBetween Rooftop Bar, a bar where, above the tree-lined streets of District 3, the city becomes quiet and its patrons have pause to reflect. “We’re here to represent the quiet moments in life,” Yến says. “And don’t we figure the important things in life out in between?” And at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, Yến will be representing Kyoto’s first whisky. 

Yến Ngân is head bartender at inBetween Cocktail Bar in Saigon’s District 3.

Tell us about the spirit that you’ll be representing?

Phong Mai: We hosted a Rum Matusalem guest shift at Madam Kew with the team from the legendary Madrid bar Salmon Guru (at #16 in the World’s 50 Best Bars 2023). They helped teach me the range of possibilities of the rum. So when I discovered I’d be representing that brand at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, I was like, ‘Oh yes baby!’”

Trần Mẫn: For so long, Michter’s Whiskey has held a prominent position in the minds of consumers. And it’s always in a prominent position on our spirit shelf too! And deservedly so. Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey is an amazing product – there’s those explosive aromas and flavors, and the lingering smooth, silky aftertaste. 

Phan Trần Trung Tín: Stranger & Sons impressed me when I first tried it. It’s such a great gin. The botanicals come through really strongly and it embodies lots of Asian flavors. I feel like it flows through me. And drinking it triggers lots of different emotions. 

Yến Ngân: Okay, I have to confess, I came across Kyoto Whisky by accident. I was browsing the web, looking for quality whiskies to serve at my bar, and Kyoto, with its attractive bottle, and embroidered fabric label – made with Nishijin textile, a traditional craft of Kyoto, that looks like an obi belt – caught my eye. I was impressed by the process they use to make it too. It’s tied to nature and steeped in tradition. When I tried it, I found it had a smooth taste, with a hint of sweetness from vanilla, which I also liked. 

Trần Mẫn mixing up some Michter’s Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey, “an amazing product.”

And what kind of cocktail will you be making with it at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024?

Phan Trần Trung Tín: We all go through changes. First comes a strange feeling, and suddenly change strikes us in a moment and things won’t ever be the same again – for better or worse. 

I’ve always loved the Last Word, a gin-based cocktail that’s said to have originated at the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1910s, shortly before the start of Prohibition. 

I’ll be using Stranger & Sons to give it a lighter, more approachable twist, with some Chamomile Tea Soda, and lime leaves. Hopefully, this unexpected change, that I call ‘A Change From Strange,’ will lead to new and interesting experiences.  

Yến Ngân: It might seem romantic, but Kyoto, in my mind, is a historic town, through the alleys of which flutter Geisha. With that in mind, I’m creating a cocktail I call Windflower, a twist on the whisky highball. 

The drink features green tea, jasmine, and homemade green mango soda fermented with dổi seed. It’s a refreshing blend of sweet and sour, with a hint of saltiness, and the fragrant aromas of green tea and jasmine. 

Phan Trần Trung Tín’s ‘A Change From Strange.’

Trần Mẫn: At The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, I’m proud to present a creative cocktail I call my ‘George Washington.’ Its protagonist, the first president of the United States, is said to have purchased Rye Whiskey from Michter’s to fortify his soldiers during the long and brutal winter at Valley Forge during the American Revolutionary War.

George Washington is also said to have had a passion for farming, as evidenced by his Mount Vernon mansion. 

So, my cocktail, a testament to the multifaceted life of George Washington, a leader who fought for freedom and nurtured the land that sustained a burgeoning nation, combines Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey from Michter’s Distillery, with flavors of apples, corn, herbs or flowers, in a drink with bold, earthy sweetness and a celebratory fizz. 

Phong Mai: As you may know, Madam Kew is above Quince, the award-winning Saigon restaurant. So, there’s lots of knowledge sharing, and we get to learn culinary techniques we can apply in our cocktails. 

With that in mind, at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, I present my Bánh Mì Old Fashioned. And I’ll make it with fat washed Matusalem 7, a demerara umami syrup, with popcorn, roasted green peppercorns, soy sauce and balsamic, and blended bitters, with coriander, chili, lemon, orange and cacao, and finally a skewer of Vietnamese sausage, with pickled radish and carrot. 

Phong Mai from Madam Kew, is right behind Matusalem’s comeback.

Why should your spirit win the Best Brand Award at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024?

Yến Ngân: Japanese whisky has become incredibly popular. And, I feel, it represents lots of traditional values. I think Kyoto is a new whisky in that category, but one which has really good potential to impress consumers. 

Trần Mẫn: Michter’s has such a unique legacy that’s been built over hundreds of years, even before America was founded. I think because of their dedication and durability they deserve the award.

Phan Trần Trung Tín: At Gin Festival 2023, we finished runner up. It was a great showing for a new brand to Vietnam. So, for The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024, we’ll consolidate all we’ve learned and come back stronger…and stranger than before. 

Phong Mai: Matusalem, as a brand, has staged a bold comeback recently. But it has a long history of producing the highest quality rum. So, and you can trust me on this, people’s taste buds will decide which is truly the champion at The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024.

As bartenders, we love to deep dive into traditional cultures, and bring them to life through our cocktails.” Yến Ngân explains.

And why should your cocktail win the Best Cocktail Award at Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024?

Phong Mai: Regardless of who wins, I think my drink will stand out because of its flavor that reflects the beauty of a Vietnamese, and Saigonese, culinary icon: the bánh mì. I hope it ignites lots of nostalgia in our guests as a staple they’ve grown up on. But what I want to emphasize too, is that those additional ingredients are a stage on which Matusalem can shine. 

Phan Trần Trung Tín: My cocktail should win the Best Cocktail Award because of its unique flavors. I’ve employed some modern techniques and ingredients, but, as with any award-winning cocktail, it’s the taste that should matter the most – and this one has bold flavors that bring out the best in Stranger & Sons Gin.

Trần Mẫn: We all deserve to win! But I know that the drink is only one part of that. A winning cocktail needs a good story, to be served in a good place, and with the right people. I hope all of those elements align and my cocktail will be the most memorable, whoever wins. 

Yến Ngân: As bartenders, we love to deep dive into traditional cultures, and bring them to life through our cocktails – which is exactly what I want to do here. Plus there’s a bit of Vietnam in my drink – connecting the cultures of Japan and my home country. Surely, that’s worth celebrating?

Tickets for The Vietnam Cocktail Festival 2024 are available here.

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