In celebration of International Women’s Month, we are proud to put the spotlight on five top female bartenders who have been rocking the Manila bar scene and raising the bar, too. The profession of bartending has been (and still is) for the longest time dominated by men. So in choosing to become bartenders, these women are still in somewhat unchartered territory. Not only are they professionally trained bartenders, but they’re champions as well, having competed and, in most instances, bested their mostly male colleagues in cocktail competitions here and abroad. So in truth, they may be listed here because they are women, but also because they all excel at their jobs. Here are their stories and where you can find them behind the bar.
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Head Bartender, Bar 10-Four, 104 Aguirre Street, Legazpi Village, Makati, IG @bartenfour
Don Papa Cocktail Competition Co-champion 2017, La Maison Cointreau Philippines Cocktail Competition Champion 2019
Quilal-lan started as a server at the now defunct ABV in the year ABV was on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list. She was fortunate to have manager-mentors, from Kenneth Bandivas to Lester Ligon, who were generous in sharing their bartending know-how with the whole team. This allowed Quilal-lan to attend bartender training sessions, and she soon fell in love with the profession. She started to research and practice on her own, and her growing interest and effort didn’t go unnoticed by management. ABV soon offered her a bar back position first before promoting her to a full-time bartender spot. She then made her bar mates (and the Philippines!) proud by winning, not just one but two cocktail competitions so far, most recently the La Maison Cointreau Philippines Cocktail Competition 2019.
When asked what she considers the most important bartending skill, she answers, “Patience. Like pretty much any job, bartenders are working physically, but moreso mentally. Knowing how to make 50 more cocktails and figuring out which one to make, and accurately making it, when requested. You need to be ready, patient, mindful, and attentive.” Quilal-lan is now the head bartender at the newly opened Bar 10-Four in Makati where you can try her award-winning libations.
Bar Manager, OTO, 5883 Enriquez Street, Poblacion, Makati, IG @oto.ph
Don Papa Cocktail Competition Co-champion 2017, Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental Bartender Competition Champion 2019
This former chef used to complain that restaurants would always try to convince her to work in the front-of-the-house instead of the kitchen. It wasn’t until a doctor told her that working inside a hot kitchen seemed to be detrimental to her health that she started considering another career. Osmillo found her calling working behind the bar where her culinary background could be put to good use. Through hard work and determination, it didn’t take long for Osmillo to shine in her new chosen field, winning the first bartender competition she joined (Don Papa 2017) during her first year in bartending. She credits the mentoring and support of OTO owner David Ong and team for her early success. Osmillo believes, “The most important skill that a bartender should have other than passion and having a good palate is being an entertainer. It is a given to have the passion and skills, but being an entertainer is a big factor. It is one of the reasons why guests keep on coming back. It’s not just about the cocktails you serve, but the way you serve them.”
These days, Kate has become a force to reckon with in an industry dominated by men. She bested an impressive line-up of male and female bartenders competing in last year’s Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental Bartender Competition to emerge as the Philippines champion for 2019. This automatically earned Osmillo the honor to represent the Philippines in the world finals held in Scotland last year. She currently manages the bar at OTO at its new location in Poblacion.
Officer in Charge, Raging Bull Chophouse and Bar, Shangri-La at the Fort, BGC
Ultimate Monin Cup in Dubai UAE 2014 Finalist, Hendrick’s Competition in Dubai UAE 2015 Champion, Whisky Live Cocktail Competition 2017 Third Place, Chateau Laubade Cocktail Competition 2016 Champion, Diageo World Class 2017 Finalist
The low-key, multi-awarded bartender Munar has been working behind the stick since she graduated from college. Her bartending debut was at TGI Fridays where she also excelled at flair bartending, which involves juggling bottles and bar tools to entertain the crowd. She then moved to Dubai to work at the Siddharta Lounge, a sister brand of Buddha Bar, and Rhodes W1 of Michelin-starred chef Gary Rhodes. She cites her “ability to organize and multi-task” as her most important skills, adding, “This is the best combination for a bartender to have, especially for a very busy or even calm type of bar.”
Munar moved back to Manila to be part of the opening team of the bar at Raging Bull as its service leader, under the guidance of former Shang Fort beverage manager Ulysse Jouanneaud. She credits him with teaching her the finer details of bartending and management that enabled her to “raise the bar” higher in her new role as the OIC of Raging Bull.
Bartender, Cove Manila, Okada Manila, New Seaside Drive, Parañaque, IG @covemanila
Diageo Worldclass 2017 Top 4 Finalist, Glenfiddich World’s Most Experimental Bartender 2019 Top 3 Finalist, Speedrack Asia Philippines Representative 2017 and 2019
Fernando is a veteran of many bartending competitions, as she has represented the Philippines at the Speedrack Asia Finals in 2017 and 2019. She shares that she didn’t expect to passionately fall in love with the bartending profession. That is, until she landed a bartending gig at The Curator where the owners Jericson Co and David Ong focus on teaching everything that they know about bartending to all their bartenders, luckily including her. “The result is what I am right now,” shares Fernando. On what she finds most important about being a good bartender, she believes, “For me, having a good palate of flavors for tasting. Everything is good, but you should know how to balance the flavors based on what kind of drink your guest is requesting you to make.” Then she adds, “So be a good listener and have a sense humor.” You can now find Fernando behind the stick at Cove Manila in Okada Manila.
Vanessa “Van” Rabadon
Head Bartender, Kampai, 5857 Alfonso Street, Poblacion, Makati, IG @kampaiph
Diageo World Class Philippines 2015 Top 5
Rabadon used to be a barista, only stumbling into bartending in 2006 when she tried to apply for a receptionist position at the now closed Prince of Jaipur in BGC. Unfortunately, Rabadon’s chinky-eyed features didn’t make the grade to front this posh Indian restaurant. Luckily, she was offered a bartending position instead. While first doubting her own ability, she persevered and eventually got recruited to head the operations of a bar in Shanghai in 2015 where she worked for two years. Rabadon shares, “The most important skill a bartender should (have) is good communication toward the people around you, which includes how you interact with the guest. My main goal is for them to always have a different experience. She cites the factors needed, “Good quality service by giving them what they need and understanding clearly what they are asking for. Proper timing of when to initiate a conversation. An interesting story that they would love to listen.” Now back in Manila, Rabadon actively leads the bar teams of some of the most popular bars in Poblacion, starting with the old Kampai, to Nokal, and (back) to the new Kampai that just opened this month.
Abby Quilal-lan and Kate Osmillo photos by Pat Mateo
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