Hong Kong-based bartenders, from left, Gerry Olino of Ming Fat House Group, Joe Villanueva of The Wise King, and Jake Mendoza of The Sea by the Old Man
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These trailblazing global Filipino bartenders are coming home to mix up a storm

Bargoers will get the chance to try their world-class concoctions during the first ever Manila Cocktail Fest this September 12 to 14
Cyrene de la Rosa | Sep 01 2019

Coming soon to some of Manila’s most iconic bars is the Philippines’ first ever cocktail extravaganza. Dubbed the Manila Cocktail Fest (MCF), this three-day event has been a long time coming. It is meant to celebrate the country’s dynamic cocktail scene and the heartwarming camaraderie at the heart of this close-knit and fun-loving bartender community. It is also a chance for local bargoers to experience the topnotch cocktail making skills of Filipino bartenders making it big abroad.

Singapore-based bartenders, from left, Mel Chavez of the Tippling Club and Edriane Lim of The Bar at 15 Stamford, The Capitol Kempinski Hotel

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Ken Bandivas, the On Trade Commercial Manager of family owned, independent distiller William Grant & Sons, was responsible for getting the ball rolling to make this first Manila Cocktail Fest a reality. He shares, “We have come a long way since 2011 when one of the first speakeasy cocktail bars opened in the country. This year, three bars were recognized in Asia’s 50 Best Bars list, with many more gems to be discovered, and we are excited to now have a platform to celebrate the cocktail scene and encourage more people to visit these great bars.”

Davide Boncimino of Madame Fan Bar, The NCO Club, Singapore

Cocktail aficionados and enthusiasts alike are invited to join the fun by attending the many events lined up from September 12 to 14. Here are five highlights to look forward to:


1. Top bartender tandem

From left, Cedric Mendoza and Gabriel Carlos

Top billing goes to Cedric Mendoza (Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney) and Gab Carlos (Manhattan Bar, Regent Hotel Singapore) who were both part of the Manhattan Bar SG team when it captured the No. 1 spot on the Asia’s 50 Best Bars list for 2017 and 2018, and ranked No. 3 in the World’s 50 Best Bars list in 2018. Manhattan Bar Singapore was also just awarded “Best International Hotel Bar” by the Annual Spirited Awards held during this year’s Tales of the Cocktails, an annual trade conference, festival, and gathering of cocktail and spirits industry professionals in New Orleans, Louisiana.


2. Guest bartender shifts

Bargoers will be spoiled for choice as expat Filipino bartenders from Singapore and Hong Kong are scheduled for 18 different guest shifts across various participating bars in Makati’s Central Business District and Poblacion, and Bonifacio Global City.

From left, Jon Bunoan of Bar Q88, JW Marriott Hotel and Kervin Undo of Mo Bar at the Landmark, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, both in Hong Kong


3. A stint with Steven Schneider

From left, Steve Schneider and Bryan Bonifacio

One of the most respected bartenders in the industry, Steve Schneider, will be in town just for the MCF. Hailing from Employees Only New York (awarded World’s Best Cocktail Bar at Tales of the Cocktails 2011), Schneider will be doing a guest shift with Filipino bartender Bryan Bonifacio, who currently works with him at Employees Only Singapore.


4. Bar tours

Buccaneers' Ulysse Jouanneaud. Photograph by Jar Concengco

Participants can sign up for a four-stop bar tour, or else complete a cocktail passport to redeem exclusive MCF merchandise. Participating bars include The Curator, Edge, Mandalay, The Peninsula Manila, Proof, and Rambla in Makati CBD; Agimat, Buccaneer, Lampara, Polilya, RRR, and The Spirits Library in Poblacion; The Backroom, Bank Bar, Ministry of Crab, Osteria Daniele, Versus, and Yes Please in Bonifacio Global City.


5. Trade panels

The Manila Cocktail Fest will not be all about drinking. According to the organizers, trade-focused panels are also in the works to provide a venue for professionals to exchange ideas and knowledge, and discuss industry relevant topics like sustainability, service, and cocktail trends.


For the complete list of participating guest bartenders and bars, the schedule of 18 guest bar shifts, and other MCF events, visit manilacocktailfestival.com