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A MAN’S A MAN FOR A' THAT

來自勇氣的力量

A cocktail without a story behind isn't quite the most impressive one; the same goes for a man. One cocktail that symbolises the struggle and courage at the crossroads of life, "A Man's a Man," made Samuel Kwok the Bartender of the  Year Hong Kong and Macau by Diageo. The bar manager of Quinary is representing Hong Kong the compete in World Class Global Final in Mexico in August.

 

"A Man's a Man for a' That" is a notable Scottish poem, which was turned into a pop song and became even more popular. It was composed in the eighteenth century on the background of a society with distinct classes and disparity between the rich and the poor, saying that with honesty, dignity and independent mind, a poor man is of higher rank than even his landlord. The cocktail "A Man's a Man" tells the story of Samuel himself: "about seven years ago, when I was still single but my would-be wife was pregnant. I was faced with an important choice: do I get married and proceed to the next stage of life?" Making a family meant a lot of sacrifice, but to be responsible for a' that, he bravely accepted the change. First of all, he would need to work extra hard and changed job, from a night club to a cocktail bar, but that meant he needed new knowledge, included the stories of all classic cocktails, various spirits, and devoting time to learn and practice. And he had his reward from the two major decisions: he now is a father of two, and his career reaches a new level. 

"Life is a cocktail of all those sweet, sour and bitter, and thus I sought and created my cocktail." Over the sweet, round Zacapa 23 rum goes the bitter peatiness of Talisker 10 yo, which signals the vicissitudes of life, and chocolate bitter that goes well with the alcohol. The mix is to be drunk with the cranberry garnish that gives the acidity.  The sustained sweetness, undercut by bitter and sour notes, showing delicateness and balance, as well as the sort of appeal of a mature gentleman.

Although Samuel worked in bars for more than ten years, he has only been in the cocktail circle for seven. He learned much of the skills by himself, such as from YouTube plus repeated practice. He has also developed a relatively open attitude, emphasizing creativity than pursuing absolutely consistency for every output. His imagination leverages on the equipment at Quinary, which is noted on its "molecular cocktails." The distiller, centrifuge and drier help make clear grapefruit juice with beautiful pale pink colour, and special ingredients such as lavender and wasabi spirits, and these provide a great start for imagination to take off. Recently, though, he went into the trouble of making low-calorie. "Customers are increasing demanding for drinks 'that doesn't get fat', but I ain't nutritionist!" Samuel laughed. Some requested to skip sugar, but that would impact the balance of taste. So it is his headache to search for new materials. "I began to look for sugar substitutes, and recent began to experiment a Chinese herb which is several hundred times sweeter than sugar, but very low calories." By extending his job to a healthcare professional, he truly live to the meaning of embracing challenges.

沒有故事的雞尾酒總不夠精彩,而人也一樣。將面對人生抉擇時的的掙扎和勇氣,放在雞尾酒的創作裡,就是這杯「A man’s a man」,為Quinary的bar manager Samuel Kwok贏得了由Diageo舉辦的”Bartender of the year” Hong Kong and Macau,到今年八月他還會代表香港,到墨西哥出戰World Class Global Final。

A Man’s a Man for a’ That是一首著名的蘇格蘭詩歌,後來再被當成流行曲唱紅。詩歌創作於十八世紀,在階級分明和貧富懸殊的背景下,歌詞說的是即使一個平凡的男人,只要誠實、正直和有獨立思考,他甚至可以是一個比地主更好的人。

Samuel的這杯A man’s a man說的正是自己的故事,「在七年前,當時未結婚,但太太有了小孩,當時我就面對了一個重大的抉擇:是否要結婚,並投入人生的另一個階段呢?」結婚和成家代表了很多的付出,但為了向自己和身邊人的人生負責,他勇敢地面對這改變。若要成家,也就需要更努力工作,所以他也在同一期間,決定由夜場類的酒吧,轉到主打雞尾酒的酒吧,但那也代表了他需要學習很多新知識,包括所有經典雞尾酒的故事,各類烈酒,更要花時間去學習和練習調酒的技巧。但這兩個重大的決定成就了今天他,現在已經是兩個孩子的父親,事業亦已更上一層樓。

「人生就是充滿了各種甜、酸和苦的味道,我也以這個方向創作了這杯雞尾酒。」在豐潤甜美的冧酒Zacapa 23底下,是略帶滄桑的Talisker 10的煙燻甘苦味,還有完全能與酒味融為一體的巧克力苦精,喝時再同時吃酸酸的伴碟紅莓。每個環節的甜度都一致,酸和苦就在甜的背後滲出來,細緻而平衡,也透現著成熟男性的韻味。

 

雖然在酒吧工作了超過十年,但Samuel正式踏足雞尾酒界也只有七年,不算紅褲子出身的他不少技巧也靠自學得來,例如從Youtube裡學習一些技巧,再不斷練習。也因此對雞尾酒持比較開放的態度,不勉強自己很嚴謹地能做到杯杯味道一樣,反而著重追求新意。特別是在以分子雞尾酒l著稱的酒吧Quinary,在蒸餾機、離心機、風乾機等機器輔助下,可以得到如淡粉紅色的清澈西柚汁,還有薰衣草和青芥末力嬌酒等特別原料,要創作就更容易。對他來說,近日最大的難題是低卡路里,「很多客人要求『唔肥』的飲品,我可不是營養師啊!」Samuel笑說。或有客人要求走糖,但這會影響雞尾酒味道的平衡,為此他也感到很頭痛。「我開始尋找一些糖的替代物,例如近日開始試用一種中國的藥草,甜味是糖的幾百倍,但卡路里相對低很多。」連營養師的工作也攬上了,這就是能擁抱挑戰意義吧。