Held two Sundays ago at art event space White Box at Publika, the debut of The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur culminated in a night of cheers, tears, and a good friend of the industry who took off his shirt when the well-loved and well-respected CK Kho (who owns Coley and Pahit) went on stage to collect the award (hint: it was more than once).

The four-day weekend officially kicked off with an opening party at restaurant bar Opium featuring guest bartenders and winners from the Bar Awards’ other cities, including the Singaporean contingent that included Symphony Loo of Neon Pigeon (Singapore’s Rising Star 2017) and Kelly D’Cruz and Malcolm Blake of The Secret Mermaid, and David Quek from Nutmeg & Clove. Friday night bar-hopping from one guest shift to another while Saturday saw the first event in four years of Bar Awards history paying tribute to barbacks.

Ahmed Al Imran “Bossman” at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

The Barback challenge – an obstacle course of sorts where participants have to take inventory and make lime cordial, amongst other tasks – was won by Junglebird’s Ahmed Al Imran “Bossman”, which saw him taking home the Barback of the Year award, presented by Tequila Ocho, at the party on Sunday.

In other words, it was worth my six-hour drive up, and here are the full results, ranked in the order of the Top 10.

The Rising Star, presented by Perrier

Jason Julian at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

Young bartenders born before 1 January 1989 qualify for the The Rising Star award. And having turned 27 this year and already Head Bartender at Hyde at 53M, Jason Julian is a great role model for new blood joining the industry.

  1. Jason Julian, Hyde
  2. Janice Lau, The Pawn Room
  3. Osmond Bernard, Ikki
  4. Catzeno Clitus, Junglebird
  5. Joe Ngui, Omakase + Appreciate
  6. Giri Pancha, Botak: Liquor Bar
  7. Suruj Babu, PS150
  8. Alvin Yong, formerly of Birch
  9. Mitchell Raymond Soh Andu, 61 Monarchy
  10. Nik Izatul Syafiz, The Locker & Loft

Best Restaurant Bar, presented by East Imperial

Mr. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar & Restaurant

Located at the top of WOLO Hotel in Bukit Bintang, Mr. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar & Restaurant dishes out cocktails with the same inventiveness in the execution of their food menu. The view and the Manhattan loft meets Art Deco aesthetic probably don’t hurt either.

  1. Mr. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar & Restaurant
  2. Fuego
  3. Ril’s (Bangsar)
  4. Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar
  5. Bait (Bangsar)
  6. Pinchos Tapas Bar
  7. Souled Out (all locations)
  8. Marini’s on 57
  9. Shelley Yu’s
  10. Taps Beer Bar (Changkat)

Best Beer Bar, presented by Heineken

Taps Beer Bar at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

Taps is a craft beer institution in KL started by a group of cousins who keenly felt the need for a bar dedicated to craft brews in the city. With a friendly space, live bands playing three nights a week, and a good 14 taps (not even counting the bottles), we’d say they’ve achieved their goal.

  1. Taps Beer Bar (Changkat)
  2. The Great Beer Bar
  3. Ales & Lagers
  4. Sid’s Pubs (all locations)
  5. Bricks & Barrel
  6. The Sticky Wicket
  7. Tom, Dick & Harry’s
  8. Paus
  9. Brussels Beer Café (all locations)
  10. The Beer Factory (all locations)

Best Culinary Team, presented by Mancino Vermouth

Meaning fire in Spanish, Fuego is the tapas restaurant bar concept at Troika Sky Dining. The restaurant is consistently popular – and no wonder, with five types of guacamole on the menu – with two seatings for dinner every night.

  1. Fuego, Troika Sky Dining
  2. El Cerdo
  3. Bonfire Restaurant & Bar
  4. Bistro A Table
  5. Ril’s (Bangsar)
  6. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
  7. The Locker & Loft
  8. Cantaloupe
  9. Taps Beer Bar (Changkat)
  10. Shelley Yu’s

Best Hospitality Team, presented by Gekkeikan Sake

Coley at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

Named after Ada Coleman, who became head bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London in 1903 and now an inspiring figure in bartending history, Coley‘s team is the best in the city when it comes to making barflies feel at home.

  1. Coley
  2. Junglebird
  3. PS150
  4. The Locker & Loft
  5. Hyde
  6. Naughty Nuri’s (Desa Sir Hartamas)
  7. Souled Out (all locations)
  8. Jack Rose
  9. Omakase + Appreciate
  10. The Beer Factory (all locations)

Most Creative Cocktail Bar, presented by Cointreau

Omakase + Appreciate at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

Having won regional recognition by being the only Malaysian bar on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2017, we’re glad that Omakase + Appreciate founders Shawn Chong and Karl Too have also felt the love (in a more tangible manner) from their local bar community.

  1. Omakase + Appreciate
  2. Coley
  3. PS150
  4. Coppersmith
  5. Hyde
  6. Pahit
  7. Junglebird
  8. Jack Rose
  9. Birch
  10. The Pawn Room

Best New Cocktail Bar, presented by Campari

Junglebird

Out of all the bars I visited in KL, Junglebird is one that seems to be able to whisk people from a metropolis to a tiki bar on some tropical island – until the smoking starts (yes, you cans still smoke indoors in KL). With more than 100 rums behind the bar and tasty cocktails, we’re convinced it’s a deserving win.

  1. Junglebird
  2. Pahit
  3. Jack Rose
  4. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
  5. Suzie Wong
  6. The Rum Bar
  7. Shelley Yu’s
  8. Botak: Liquor Bar
  9. Birch
  10. Bonfire Restaurant & Bar

The Ada Coleman Award, presented by Havana Club

Angel Ng at The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur 2017

The same Ada Coleman inspired The Bar Awards team to name the award recognising female contribution to the industry. Not only is Singaporean Angel Ng is the co-founder and head bartender of PS150, where she shakes up cocktails with Southeast Asian flavours in Chinatown, she’s also one of the founders of community organisation MY Bartender Handshake.

  1. Angel Ng, PS150
  2. Kim Choong, Thirst Magazine
  3. Shareen Yew, Single & Available
  4. Michelle Loh, TWE
  5. Eiling Lim
  6. Shirmy Chan, 61 Monarchy
  7. Trudy Ho, Werner’s Group
  8. Isadora Chai, Bistro A Table)
  9. Monica Tindall, The Yum List)
  10. Mili Lim, Taps Beer Bar

Bartender of the Year, presented by Jameson Irish Whiskey

Whether it was because of or in spite of 14 years spent in the bartending industry, it was obvious at the Bar Awards party that CK is a well-respected and well-loved member of the bar community in KL!

  1. Chee Kheong “CK” Kho (Coley and Pahit)
  2. Shawn Chong (Omakase + Appreciate)
  3. Angel Ng (PS150)
  4. Rizal Junior Johari (Marini’s on 57)
  5. Josh Ivanovich (Junglebird)
  6. Arsenio “Ash” Mariano Jr. (The Vault)
  7. Andrew Tan (Hyde and 61 Monarchy)
  8. Karl Too (Omakase + Appreciate)
  9. Alvin “Loco” Nimal George (Coley)
  10. Mohd Erik Fiza bin Zulkife (formerly of Suzie Wong)

Best Cocktail Bar, presented by The Botanist Gin

CK’s Coley has managed to charm the industry and consumers alike over the last year and the half it was open. We chalk it down to the unpretentious space, friendly team, and a ‘koktel’ menu (featuring tipples inspired by drinks you find a in kopitiam) on top of a cocktail menu.

  1. Coley
  2. Omakase + Appreciate
  3. PS150
  4. Junglebird
  5. Pahit
  6. Hyde
  7. The Bar Kinugawa
  8. Coppersmith
  9. The Locker & Loft
  10. The Pawn Room

The Kuala Lumpur cocktail scene might not be as sophisticated as the likes of Singapore, Hong Kong, or Bangkok, but we’re definitely keeping tabs on the drinking scene in this city now.