Filipino bartender and Monin Cup 2022 champion Mark Defensor introduces his award-winning Bicol Express-inspired drink to Kuala Lumpur’s burgeoning cocktail culture.
Dubbed as Bicol Speedster, the exhilarating brew is a fusion of Coconut Milk, Monin Ginger Syrup, Tanduay Asian Gold Rum, Pork Fat-Wash, and Habanero Lime Liqueur, made extra exciting with a dash of siling labuyo (chili pepper) and black pepper.
Defensor was the Champion of the Monin Cup Philippines 2022, a distinguished bartending competition organized by Monin, the world’s leading producer of the finest flavored syrups, gourmet sauces, fruit smoothies, and cocktail mixes.
Together with Spirits Library Dean and mentor Ralph Allen Santos, they represented the Philippines at the Monin Tour in Rawang, Selangor.
“The trip to KL courtesy of Monin was somewhat of a homecoming for me because I actually went to high school in Malaysia. It was nice to be back and it was great to see how the bar scene has grown since I was last there,” Defensor shared.
The four-day hosted excursion included guest shifts at some of the top speakeasies in Kuala Lumpur, to include Pahit and Coley, which were both included on Tatler Asia’s 50 Best Bars. The Vault KL had a heartwarming welcome from a number of Filipino staff. In these sessions, Bicol Speedster served as the highlight of the menu.
“Pahit was my first guest shift ever; I was nervous but started to get into the groove of things,” he recalled. “What made it easier was the fact that some of my high school friends came to see me.”
During his session in Coley, Defensor had the chance to celebrate his first bartending anniversary in the presence of his family, who drove all the way from Singapore to support him. “It was a pleasant surprise,” he beamed.
The duo likewise met Monin Cup Malaysia Champion Charles Lee and the rest of the Monin Malaysia Team.
“This trip could not have happened without the support from Monin, my team at Spirits Library and of course my mentor Ralph Allen Santos,” he expressed. “Thanks to them, I was able to experience an unforgettable trip to a country that I have missed so dearly.”
Defensor majored in Hospitality Management at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management (SHRIM) of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB). He expressed his gratitude to his professors, Gioseppe Angelo Racelis, Jerwin Pineda, and Karl John, for introducing and immersing him in the world of competitive bartending.
“After getting a taste of it in college, I knew I wanted to head down the path to become a bartender,” he beamed. “I will continue being a bartender and that’s for sure. When the time is right, I plan on competing more.”