Kata Simon: Below Whisky Den (Ho Chi Minh City)

Kata Simon is the bar manager of Below Whisky Den in Ho Chi Minh City. She makes us two cocktails, one with Gin and Vermouth and the second with Whisky and Tomato washed Campari

Kata introduce yourself
My name is Kata Simon and I’ve been living in Saigon for the last 2 years. When I was 17 years old in Hungary, I went to a small bar and fell in love with the industry, so began working there on weekends. I moved to Budapest after graduating, because I knew I wanted to pursue a career in hospitality. I worked in restaurants and then met Zoltan Nagy who taught me everything he knew about cocktails. After working with him for a few years, he encouraged me to move to London to progress and learn English. Eight years ago, I joined the Coburg Bar at The Connaught in London as a barback, then joined the team which opened Mister Foggs Residence where I finished as head bartender. I needed another challenge and decided to move to Vietnam, where I opened Below.
I also started a project here for the younger bar community called the Song of Bar & Tender. We try to show them how to be creative and work differently and develop a community of practice. We do it every month in different bars and invite experienced bartenders to talk about whatever they want to share. The next step is to develop it on a national level (Hanoi, Danang, Nha Trang) where bartenders will be able to practice and create, as well listen to talks.

The classic you want to show us
Royal Negroni
30ml of Royal Sedang Gin
30ml of Campari
30ml of Cinzano Rosso

The bar you dream of
I’d like to create a bar that makes you feel like you’ve entered another time and space, like Alice in Wonderland. I’d like it to be in Budapest, with a cosy atmosphere, for around 60 people.

What do you do in your time off
Now that my girlfriend and I have a dog, he’s become our life.

The spirit you like the most
My go-to would not just be rum but in particular the Diplomatico Mantuano Exclusiva. In my opinion, it’s the most balanced rum and works perfectly with any cocktails.

What makes a good cocktail
I think balance is the answer.

What ingredient do you enjoy using in cocktails
I love to use our fermented homemade wines. We’ve made carrot wine, ginger wine, lemon wine and many others.

The signature cocktail you want to show us
Garden Boulevardier
30ml of Glen Moray Port Cask Whisky
30ml of Tomato Washed Campari
30ml of Cinzano Rosso
A Tomato Iceball
All ingredients are aged in a Vietnamese Pumpkin

Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender
You need to go to Svanen in Oslo and here in Saigon visit Peter at Cocktail Merchant.

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