Raising the BarJesse Vida, Head Bartender, ATLAS Bar Singapore.
Published: 9th May 2020
Making it onto The World’s 50 Best Bars list is an achievement for any bar. To make it into the top 10 list is remarkable. ATLAS Bar in Singapore, currently ranked the 8th best bar in the world and 5th best bar in Asia’s 50 Best Bars, is one of only a handful of establishments since it opened its doors in 2017 to make the top 50 list in its first year of opening.
Housed in Singapore’s iconic Parkview Square building, ATLAS Bar is a mecca for gin connoisseurs and those looking for a masterclass in the finest hospitality. The interior harks back to the classic Art Deco movement of the 1920’s. Opulent and glamorous, the bar’s centre piece is the gin tower. Housing close to 1,400 gins in a bespoke gin tower, the carefully curated gin collection features gins from all four corners of the globe, including an impressive number of gins from Scotland.
With the world on lockdown, ATLAS Bar have continued to push things forward with a number of innovative ways of sharing their hospitality and love of mixology including their The Juniper Society Experience at Home. We recently caught up Head Bartender Jesse Vida to learn more about his journey into the world of bartending and what makes ATLAS Bar so special.
What’s your name and what do you do?
My name is Jesse Vida, and I am the Head Bartender at ATLAS.
How did you get into the world of bartending?
I got into the world of bartending by accident, as have many career bartenders. I was working in a shopping mall during college to earn money, and my cousin talked me into applying for a bar backing job in 2007. As they say, the rest is history, 13 years and three cities later, here I am.
What makes ATLAS unique?
There are so many aspects of ATLAS that makes it unique. Starting with the obvious, we have the world’s largest gin collection currently sitting slightly below 1,400 different options. The beauty and detail in the design of the grand lobby in which ATLAS resides. We have hundreds of vintage Champagnes and Whiskies, our drinking options are around 2,300 different items in total. We have amazing original artwork throughout the lobby, building, and courtyard. Most importantly, we offer a warm and engaging service, and Martinis are served with a smile. =)
Scotland is famous for its whisky, but are there any Scottish Gins that you’ve heard of that you would like to try?
Scotland is certainly famous for whisky, but you are making a lot of noise in the gin category as well. I believe we have around 110 Scottish gins at ATLAS. I have not been able to try all of the new Hendrick’s expressions, but I am looking forward to those make their way over to Singapore.
You serve an array of amazing cocktails and drinks, does your clientele have a favourite cocktail?
We do serve a great variety of drinks at ATLAS. The ATLAS Martini and ATLAS G&T have been staples of the bar since the beginning. Some of the more recent additions from our current menu are quickly becoming house favourites as well, such as the ATLAS French 75 and ATLAS Orange Gin & Tonic, among others.
It currently feels like gin has never been more popular. Have you seen a gin renaissance over the last few years?
Gin is definitely trending big time, and it is seemingly the category of spirit in the world that has seen a lot of growth over the past few years. Working at one of the world’s great gin bars, I can tell you there’s no shortage of Gin fans, we have people making their way to Singapore with ATLAS as their top destination because they love gin. Also, given how many new gins are out there every day, there must be a demand for it!
What’s the best part of your job?
I love it when guests walk into ATLAS for the first time, and they are always so blown away by the space itself. Being creative through the story telling and execution of the cocktails is something I really enjoy. Mostly, I love working with the team behind the bar, they are great people to work with and it’s awesome to see how much so many of them have grown.
Are there any other bars on your list to visit?
There are so many great cocktail bars in Singapore; we’re spoiled over here. I can’t name them all, but we have no shortage of options, that’s for sure.
Who are your bartending heroes?
My list of bartending heroes is a long one. RIP to some of the recent legends who have left us, such as Dick Bradsell, Sasha Petraske, and Gary Regan. All of them have created the path that so many of us walk down today, and of course, we’re still making all of their cocktails on a daily basis.
What are the essential ingredients for running a successful bar?
One of the essential ingredients to running a successful bar is creating the right ambiance. Lighting and music are paramount, warm service with attention to detail is important, telling the story and, of course, presenting a good product for guests to consume.
I can promise you that if any bar/restaurant owner remembers that there are two most important things above all else, their chances for success are high. Firstly, take care of the guests that come in and spend their hard-earned money, and secondly, to take care of your hard-working staff that make your bar experience what it is, and the rest will follow.
What Scottish Gins do you currently have behind the bar?
Scotland is well represented at ALTAS with one of the largest collections of all countries, and this was recently helped by our International Scottish Gin Day celebrations, where we welcomed more than 25 new Scottish Gins into our permanent collection.
How important is provenance to you and does this influence the spirits brands that you keep behind the bar?
I would say that it’s important for us to feel strong about the products we carry. Not only in the quality of the liquid, but also in the integrity of the brand and the people behind it.
This interview was conducted before the Covid-19 Lockdown. Interior images: ©EK Yap and ATLAS | Bottle, drinks and Jesse Vida images: ©Benjamin Sim