Tan Pham is the owner of ATM Cocktail Bar, in Ho Chi Minh City. He makes two cocktails for us, one with Gin and Bitter Melon and the second with Bourbon and Banana Syrup.
Tan introduce yourself
My name is Tan and I’ve been a bartender for the last 15 years. I started in a small coffee shop as a waiter in Ho Chi Minh City and when I saw the bartenders making classic shaken cocktails I was impressed and wanted to try it for myself. At this time there was a greater distance between the floor staff and the bar staff, so it was hard to move. Now it’s different and we are all on the same team which I prefer. After two years at the coffee shop, I moved to at the bar in the Hyatt Hotel here in Ho Chi Minh. A few years later I was offered the job of manager at a new Hyatt in Abu Dhabi and I knew it was a great chance to manage a team as well as improve my English. I stayed there for two years but wanted to learn about the hospitality industry and so accepted a job as brand ambassador for all the Reserve brands for Diageo. I was also in charge of organising the World Class competition in Vietnam. I worked in this position for four years before opening my first venue, The Alley Cocktail Bar and Kitchen. It was hard because I did everything myself and I am not an architect and it was difficult to discuss what I wanted with the builders. After opening, the first months were hard because the bar was unknown, in an alley and I did no advertising. I focussed on the drinks and the food and by word of mouth more customers came and we received good reviews on the internet which helped. I had an opportunity for a new venue, which is now ATM Cocktail Bar and Kitchen a few months ago. I was not prepared, but it was a great opportunity, so my wife and I took it. It has the same concept of classic cocktails like The Alley, using local flavours, but we’ve got a longer list with added signature cocktails.
The classic you want to show us
30ml of Bitter Melon Infusion
30ml of Gin
30ml of White Vermouth
The bar you dream of
My dream bar would be a small bar for 20 people, so I could focus more on the cocktails whilst having time to interact with clients. You can find cocktail everywhere, but when you speak about you, with your heart, it changes the relationship with clients. So basically my dream bar would be the same as here, offering classic cocktails using local products.
What do you do in your time off
I basically never have time off. When I have any spare time, I spend it with my two children who stay with my mother in law.
The spirit you like the most
My favourite spirit is scotch whisky. I prefer the Islay side for the peatiness because it’s strong so even when you mix it in a drink, you keep its special taste. I respect the spirit and I want my customer to feel the flavour of it. For a long time when I worked with Diageo, I favoured Talisker for its taste of the sea with pepper notes.
What makes a good cocktail
In my experience, it’s about the combination of ingredients that match with the spirit. After that, it’s about technique and the right dilution.
What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I love elderflower and really like St Germain. It’s sweet and floral and easy to use. And here in Vietnam, we cannot get fresh elderflower.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
60ml of Bourbon infused with Banana
20ml of Lime Juice
20ml of Banana Syrup
2 dashes of Ginger Bitters
20ml of Egg White
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
You need to go to London to Nightjar and Oriole, I was really impressed with both of them. In Singapore go to 28 Hong Kong Street, Operation Dagger, Manhattan and Jigger and Pony. And in Manila go to Curator and Blind Pig for their good collections of whiskies.