The Virtuosic Hands of ARTOZ Bar’s Umay
Amidst the intoxication of wisdom, it is said that sometimes you run into people who change your life for better, bartender is what they are called.
ARTOZ Bar, bringing a chivalrous charm to the sparkling neighbourhood of Sudirman Central Business District (SCBD), is the largest whiskey house in Jakarta that owns numbers of classic and rare collections of single malt and cognac from across the globe. Not only boasting the pride of its collections, ARTOZ is also curated as a haven that welcomes the guests to a vintage paradise with the brilliant skill of its bartenders.
Born and raised in Indonesia, Umay is one of the magic hands behind the establishment of ARTOZ Bar in Jakarta. With the wealth of bartending experience gathered since 2008, he was brought as the second champion Vibe Liquor & Spirit Mixologist 2012. Despite his unprecedented achievements in the field, Umay’s enthusiastic trait constantly motivate him in improvising the agility to evolve with the trend. His witty and joyful charm is no less than treasures that would appeal the inducement of many.
In the novel of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami said, “Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze it first, and it’s time to drink.“ Subsequently, Eat Vacation team is delighted to share the insightful moment with Umay to benefit a more intense gaze of ARTOZ Bar and all that it comprises.
What sets ARTOZ apart from other bars in Jakarta?
It’s our collection! Despite the fact that there are quite a number of whiskey bars in Jakarta, our collections are unique and classic. We have more than 70 brands in our library, with most of them hail from the five renowned scotch-producing regions in Scotland. Apart from that, there are also collections from Japan, Taiwan, United States, Italy and even German. You can find rare collections of cognac and Armagnac nowhere else other than ARTOZ Bar. Hence, we stand out amongst the akin.
According to you, what is the best drink offered at ARTOZ?
Everything! Each of them presents something unique. To mention, especially the single malt we have here. Also, every individual would be having their own palate characteristics. Based on my observation, the local market prefers the taste which is sweet with a few cherry hints instead of the smoky-or-oily-noted whiskeys.
Describing it with the products we have from the five regions in Scotland; let’s say when I have local guests here I would recommend the whiskeys from Speyside, Highland or Campbeltown. On the other hand, if I have foreign guests here, it would be something from Islay then.
The single malts produced in Scotland, almost all of them, are not matured in the new oak barrel – since they do not produce oak barrel in the country. They use the barrel which has been used to mature wine taken from places such as Xerez – Spain, Portugal, United States, and Japan as well. These barrels take their course in influencing the nose, palate and finish of the whiskeys. Apart from that the climate, soil, water and the malted barley also affect the character of a single malt.
You have mentioned in brief, however, to have a deeper insight, how do we understand the quality of a single malt and the factors contributing to it?
To add up from some of the factors I mentioned earlier, if we consider single malt in general, their main ingredients are similar – malt barley, water. The same goes for beer making as well, but the development is not as perfect as single malt as it stopped after fermentation. For single malt, we let it go through distillation, maturation and finally bottling.
In general, the oak barrel ageing of a single malt takes place for at least 3 years. But this does not apply to all, such as Indian whiskey, for which 3 years shall me maximum ageing period. This is due to is hot climate.
The oak barrel used, as mentioned, also affect the character of a single malt. There are some whiskeys which own the sweet palate, despite not having sugar as its ingredient. This could be because the oak barrel used is the one which has been used to mature wine with sugar content. So when the Eaux-de-vie is filled into the barrel they blend the absorbed taste of the wine from the barrel itself. Sometimes the sweet palate is also obtained in the mashing process when all the ingredients are combined and mashed together.
Next is the location where it is produced and the process involved in the making. For example, Islay whiskeys, since it resides in the coastal region of Scotland, the maturation process gains the peaty notes. Here, the oak barrel is burnt which makes the whiskey smokier and more intense.
How do you nose a whiskey?
This is a fascinating step. When you nose a whisky, you will not actually get its aroma if you take a direct sniff into it. You stare by swaying the whiskey softly and slowly from left to right to connect with the drink. Then you go the other way round, where you start to have a summary-like character of the whiskey. The process is repeated until you actually immersed in detail with its character. There is a special glass used when we do this.
When it comes to the palate, you might have different notes from what you have nosed. Here you take a sip and have it in your mouth to develop a sense of tasting the whiskey. Again, once you have defined its taste, it might lead to distinct overall notes from the nose and palate. This is why in the Master of Malt there will be a description of nose, palate and overall.
What is the most expensive single malt you have here?
It’s Bunnahabhain 40-year-old, priced at IDR 78,000,000. However, the most expensive item is a cognac, Tesseron Extreme, with the price of IDR 125,000,000.
Tesseron Extreme is produced once in a century and limited to 100 bottles per production. It is a hand-down whiskey-making process, with the harvesting done in the third generation. This why it is one of the most expensive cognacs – it’s rare, vintage and made of the rooted family recipe.
How did you first discover your passion in being a mixologist?
I started my career as a bartender. Basically, every bartender is a mixologist, owing to the skill of creating new original drinks. So I knew it right from the time I became a bartender. If I may explain a bit, bartending is classified into three segment – flare bartender, mixologist and sommelier.
If you ever see the skilful hands that juggle the mixers or glasses, they are flare bartender. It is done more for an entertaining purpose, however, there are ample of bars which specifically highlight and promote this. Even in the process of making a vodka orange, they have to flare – since it’s an entertainment.
Mixologist, As I mentioned, here the bartender’s capability to create new drinks shines. Still, the trends we follow are generally rooted in the West, though some of us are, like I said, trying to elevate the local to global trend itself. Perhaps, it is the constrained rules and regulations concerning alcohol that limit us. It is easier to experiment outside the zone.
And the third, sommelier, as we know, it is all about wines. It is important to get on the ship of your passion. For me, it is the mixology, since I love to experiment based on my own character. Interestingly, every mixologist has their own style as well. For example, some of the mixologists here would love to create something which is creamy and foamy with strong hints of vanilla and chocolate. Whereas myself, I’m inclined towards something which is more fresh and classic.
What is usually more preferred by customers?
It varies from person to person. Some of them would settle with something from our selection of signature and international cocktails, on the other hand, there are some who would put the balls in our court with the words “Surprise Me”. In this case, we usually try to get to know the taste buds of the guests, whether they like something strong, sweet, creamy or etc. Being a whiskey bar, we mostly use whiskey in our cocktails.
Where do you find your inspiration when it comes to concocting new cocktails?
Well, it is everywhere actually. Sometimes I get inspired when I’m home or while on road; it could also be whilst walking through markets and coming across some idea-feeding ingredients. Back then, the tradition was pairing food with wine, however, since 2012 the trend has been evolving into whiskey pairing or even cocktail pairing. I, therefore, discuss my ideas with the chef as well. Besides, inspirations could strike me in conjunction with some kind of promotion that we are going to offer to the guests, as we do have different kinds of promotion every month.
Following your statement, how long does it usually take for you to create a new cocktail – from the experimental time to the finalized stage?
As for the duration, it depends on the flow of our instinct in finding the perfect technique to blend the cocktails. Sometimes, what we perceive to be delicious in our palate might not resonate similar definition for the guests. But we believe that our guests love what we create. If I have to tell you the time, it could even be in a day.
Are there any other factors that contribute to the taste of a cocktail apart from the ingredients used in it?
Definitely! The method of concocting a cocktail plays an important role in amplifying its expression. Whether we use the technique of shaking, stirring or flambé; they will lead to different flavours of the mixture. Therefore, we have to understand which method would be perfect for certain ingredients such that they release the best level of taste in a cocktail.
Do you experiment with local ingredients?
We do. As a matter of fact, it is a trend to embrace the local ingredients now – the term that goes ‘from local to global’. It is really great to be able to introduce the wonders of local ingredients and set their prestige to align with other international cocktails. Sometimes the use of local ingredients also drives us to make new cocktails which have the archipelago’s characteristics. We can experiment a lot with the spice characters from ginger, star anise, peppers and many more. Indonesian food and beverages could set inspirations too. For example, last year, when one of our mixologists took part in a competition, we created Sekoteng Cocktail. Sekoteng is a traditional Indonesian herbal drink which is served hot, so the cocktail was a hot cocktail which was blended with whiskey. With the right proportion of ingredients, we ensured the whiskey did not reduce the authentic characters of the Sekoteng itself. It was a great experience!
Sekoteng Cocktail is really impressive! How was the feedback?
We received great feedback. Our guests loved it. They were surprised with the akin taste yet it was something intoxicating. I remember some of them said, “Why is it I’m drinking Sekoteng, but I’m getting tipsy as time passes?”
What are the challenging facts in being a bartender?
Other than the fact that we have to come up with new drinks, we also need to be able to educate guests, not in the sense that we’re lecturing them, but sharing. Cocktail these days isn’t about getting drunk, but more of a lifestyle. So the challenge lies in educating guests to break the stereotypical perception of alcoholic beverages with the facts such as cocktails are drinks that can be made at home, and can be paired with food in the bar. So we’re not only knocking guests out so they can come the next day to get knocked out again, but we help explain the rich history of cocktails, why it has to be this way, why this cannot go with that, and many more.
What is your most unforgettable experience throughout your career as a bartender?
Well, it is participating in a competition and being granted with rewards. Apart from that, it is the network built with bartenders across the globe. There are actually many things here, even meeting guests is an interesting experience here.