– I love the moment when my cocktail turns into a bridge crossed by a stranger, reaching the other shore as a friend, says Taki Li, Head Bartender at Bar Leone, Hong Kong.
She compares her work as a bartender to being the star on stage in an interactive drama. People are watching you, and at the same time you have the chance to communicate and talk to your audience. Getting to know your guests taste preferences, their personalities, their expectations and talk about life might be the key that unlocks your creativity and makes you deliver the very best cocktail they’ve ever had. Moments like this are when a stranger might become a friend.
This is also what Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards is all about. Exploring tastes with people from all over the world and building friendship. In 2023 year’s competition, international bartenders were also building bridges of taste between continents, using one ingredient each that they had brought with them from home.
Plum powder to unite a taste of Hong Kong with different tastes of Dala.
Salted plum powder from Hong Kong was the personal ingredient that Taki chose to bring with her to Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards.
– Before the competition I did some research on what I could possibly find foraging in Dala. I went to the local market to source for an ingredient that could represent Hong Kong and at the same time could be a link to the different tastes that I would find in the Swedish forest, Taki tells.
Taki had never been foraging before and had limited knowledge about the ingredients she found and how to prepare them.
– The biggest challenge during the competition was to create the flavour profile, to manage to find a balance the flavours with limited ingredients, she remembers.
– A challenge that also became a success factor was the excitement and nervousness of the unknown. The unsureness made my mind dance with curiosity, like a hidden treasure awaiting discovery, she adds.
Childhood memories popped up picking up a fallen apple.
Walking on the road close to the distillery in heavy rain early in the morning, Taki sensed the scent of coriander growing in the wild and started to think that she might use fresh coriander in her cocktail.
– By the end of the hike I passed an apple tree and picked some fallen apples. A memory from childhood suddenly popped up in my mind and I came up with the idea that I should re-create the sweet apple fruit soup that my mother used to serve when I was a little girl, Taki shares.
Creating her winning cocktail Ringo, named after the apple variety with the same name, she combined the apple and coriander with a touch of honey and salted plum powder from Hong Kong with some water. She let it all cook for around 15 minutes to extract the flavours from the ingredients.
– The freshness and sweetness of the soup match very well with Hernö High Coast Terroir Gin 2023 used for the competition. The final touch were the wild blueberries that I picked in the forest. Its amazing colour was perfect as a top layer on the cocktail, she says.
New memories to cherish created in Dala.
Enjoying the beautiful nature and exploring tastes together with initial strangers that became friends during Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards, that’s how Taki will remember her days in Dala and Härnösand.
– The nature and the people is amazing. I can’t wait to go back again to see more in Dala and
Härnösand. I got a feeling of tasting the nature and the freshness, and that’s something that is not easy to experience in Hong Kong, Taki says.
– All the people I met were so nice and helped out through the hike and the foraging. I am filled with gratitude for all the things that happened during Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards, she ends.
What’s your advice to everybody that are thinking about to take part in next years Hernö Gin Cocktail Awards?
– Do some research on the internet about what you will find in the forest. But do not only count on that, since the best thing about this competition is the beauty of anticipation, embracing the mystery and to the joy of the unknown.
Three things you have to do before going to Sweden?
• Drink less Irish Coffee, because you will have a hot shot better than that.
• Plan a trip to countryside to really enjoy the nature.
• Know how to ride a bicycle.
Three things you recommend not to do in Sweden?
• Excessive drinking. Drink less, drink better, the Hernö Gin way.
• Do not taste all berries in forest, since some of them are poisonous.
• Do not ride a bicycle in busy hours if you are not good at it.
Hernö Gin är världens ledande producent av hantverksmässigt framställt gin. Stolta pionjärer som startade Sveriges första gindestilleri 2011. Allt började med en passion för den ädla spritdrycken med dominerande smak av enbär och drömmen om att skapa gin. En resa som tog Hernö Gins grundare Jon Hillgren till platser och gindestillerier världen över i sitt sökande efter kunskap och ginspiration. Till sist bosatte han sig i den lilla byn Dala nära Härnösand i Höga Kusten, Sverige. Hernö Gin skapar världens mest prisbelönta gin med naturliga och ekologiska örter och kryddor i de handslagna kopparpannorna Kierstin, Marit och Yvonne. Måna om hantverket, transparens i alla led och med fokus på kvalitet, har Hernö Gin siktet inställt på att föra premiumginkulturen in i allas vardagsrum.