Slurrp Exclusive: In High Spirits, A Tete-A-Tete With Mixologist Peter Chua

Once you start mixing drinks, there is just no looking back they say. While mixology is not new, the first known guide to cocktails was published in the year 1862, by renowned American Bartender Jerry Thomas, but people are taking their cocktails more seriously than ever now. There is also a shift in the choice of liquor too, the urban millennials cannot stop raving about Gin and gin-based cocktails, a position occupied by Scotch, Whiskey and Vodka till a few years ago. The success of the recently concluded Gin Festival is proof that distilled alcoholic drink, deriving its predominant flavour from Juniper berries is here to stay.  

At the festival, we caught up with Peter Chua, a noted mixologist and owner of ‘Junior The Pocket Bar’ and he spoke to us about his association with the festival, his journey and some tips and tricks to throw a rager. Excerpts.  

1. Please tell us about your experience at the Gin Festival?

I had a whirlwind of a time! It was amazing to be back after 4 years and to be able to let the people of Delhi experience Singapore through me. Being a Singapore Tourism Passion Ambassador, it was an honour to be able to share updates on how the country has evolved as a cocktail nation to . The cherry on top was being able to mingle in large groups at an event again after the pandemic. Dancing to live music, shaking cocktails to a thirsty crowd and tasting other delicious concoctions made by other bartenders made me realise why I started working in hospitality to begin with! As always the energy from the crowd was palpable and I would do this again in a heartbeat!

2. Do you remember the first-ever cocktail you made?

Yes, I do! It was a Mojito while I was working at a club and I remember royally messing it up by forgetting to put in sugar so it was just a rum, mint, lime and soda drink.

3. How do you handle substitutions of ingredients when asked in drink?

Depending on the cocktail, the best way would be to find ingredients that share similar flavor profiles or properties. For example, switching lime and lemon when in a pickle or using pear liqueur instead of apricot liqueur. Finding the core flavors of what you are looking for in an ingredient and understanding how it works in your cocktail will allow you to pick the next best choice. However, there are some things that are irreplaceable (like Green Chartreuse or Maraschino) and you would be better off designing your drink based on something else.  

4. A recent cocktail you made that you are obsessed with. Please describe

A gin and tonic! I have been thinking of how I can bring in more flavors and making the cocktail more enjoyable yet retain all the properties that people love about the simplicity of having a G&T.

I’ve made one for my new menu at Night Hawk involving gin, bergamot, jasmine, unaged calvados, a touch of citrus and sugar and of course, tonic water. Those who like to explore something different and fresh can check out my signature cocktails at NightHawk and Junior the Pocket Bar.

5. Five easy cocktails you would recommend for a house party

  • Old Fashioned (any spirit base but I generally enjoy either American whiskey or rums)
  • Negroni (give a twist using mezcal/tequila and adding a touch of chocolate in it)
  • Southside (can even lengthen it with soda water to get a Southside Fizz)
  • Dark & Stormy (layer the ingredients to get the effect of its namesake and make it more Instagrammable).
  • Daiquiri or a Tommy’s Margarita (Either one is always a staple when I drink. Shake up the Daiquiri with some pineapple to give it a fruitier flavor or throw in some chili in the Margarita to give it a spicy kick!)


6. A few blunders we can avoid.

Trying too hard to make the drink sound impressive using fancy ingredients that don’t work well together rather than really trying to make the cocktail taste delicious.

7. Few tools we must have with us.

A jigger, a good set of tin on tin shakers (you can double up the small tin as a stirring tin), a barspoon, both a strainer and fine strainer and finally a good sharp knife!

8.If you had to prepare a special cocktail for your favourite celebrity, what would it be and for whom?

Slash from Guns N’ Roses. It would be an elevated version of his favourite Jack & Coke using a different American whiskey, adding some citrus, reducing the amount of sugar, and adding more complementary flavors like coffee, chocolate, and hazelnuts.

9. Any word of advice for budding mixologists.

Master the basics and never stop learning. Also always remember that we are tending the bar and that hospitality is the real product we are selling. More often than not, it is better to give your guests a marvelous and memorable experience rather trying to force them to try a cocktail that you made from harvesting feathers from a phoenix.