All Mixed Up: Mirko Amin, Area Bar Manager, Zuma Hong Kong & Thailand
April 05, 2023
Our continent loves a good drink. To cool off from our temperate weather and hot food, you can find us huddled in an airconned bar, sipping on something cool, sexy, and clean. To celebrate our boozing culture, All Mixed Up explores the stories behind Asia’s famed mixologists, bartenders, and cupbearers that make our tipples and what makes them tick.
Meet the warm Mirko Ghapour Amin, the current Area Bar Manager for Zuma Hong Kong and Thailand. Born in Italy, his love for the hospitality industry sprouted at a young age, born into his family’s Italian eatery, dictating a career-long passion for service.
Holding an urge to connect with people beyond his Italian and Egyptian roots, Mirko ventured to London, where his Zuma story began in 2010, starting as a barback and rising through the ranks to eventually become the bar manager before his current role.
Mirko has been recognised for his contributions to the hospitality industry, seeing the industry legend preach his teachings in Zuma’s London, Dubai, Bangkok, Hong Kong and Phuket bars. He sits down with The Beat Asia to recount the ups and downs of his 13 years with the hospitality family.
What first brought you into the world of F&B, and why did mixology attract you as a career?
When I moved to London in 2010, I was looking for a job to improve my English. The only job that could improve my skills was working as a barback. My family has a background in F&B, managing restaurants, and I was inspired to enter the industry from where I saw my mom and dad’s dedication to providing great service to their guests.
I spent my first three weeks in London distributing my CV to bars, but I wrote my phone number wrong. So I was applying to jobs in the morning, afternoon, and every day for three weeks with no calls. My flatmate luckily put me in touch with his friend, the bar manager of Zuma London.
It was destiny that brought me to work with Zuma and a life-long career of mixology that I could never imagine.
Why did you venture to London for professional bartending work?
I fell in love with London! I come from a little town in-between Florence and Pisa in Tuscany, Italy. I wanted a big city; I loved the vibe! My work with Zuma attracted me to the world of mixology, with the brand’s focus on creating cocktails with quality ingredients and employing innovative techniques to envision great drinks and great food!
I wanted to meet new people in my line of work, especially Londoners, who are strong-minded and wear their hearts on their chests. A career in F&B means a career in meeting all types of work and creating connections.
When you became promoted to Bar Manager at Zuma Dubai, did you feel impassioned to travel with the world and spread your knowledge with your new ‘family’?
After I left London, I joined Zuma Dubai as the Bar Manager, and began growing a lot with the company, working with mixologist Jimmy Barrett and the team in Dubai.
Dubai was four times the size of Zuma in London. It was high volume and with a high consistency for the cocktail bar. As a challenge to open the world’s best bar in the Middle East, the region had nothing. It was great to be the first to be awarded the best bar, ranking 17 in World’s 50 Best Bars.
With my experience, I began to support teams around the world. Istanbul, Marmaris, Ibiza, London, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and now Phuket. I moved to Hong Kong in September 2022 to support the growth of these teams.
One experience at Zuma cannot be copied from one city to another. How do you create a local style at Hong Kong and Thailand’s bars?
Approximately half the Zuma bar menu is core to all locations, the other half is given to the local teams to create unique drinks for their market.
We have to maintain consistency. We want our regulars to have the same cocktails across the world. I explore local spirits and local flavours with the Hong Kong, Bangkok and Phuket team to create drinks that relate.
What is the challenge with opening the Zuma location in Phuket?
In comparison with Bangkok, Zuma Phuket is seasonal. I am in constant communication with the Bangkok bar team regarding consistency and operation.
What does it mean to you spending thirteen years with Zuma?
It’s a long run and a lot of hard work. Rainer Becker, the creator and co-founder of Zuma, is very clear that Zuma is about consistency, and I am dedicated to ensuring this is carried through in every bar I manage.
He is dedicated to delivering omotenashi, Japanese hospitality, delivering a service that is from the bottom of our hearts and very genuine.
What are your 2023 plans for driving innovation in cocktails and mixology in Hong Kong?
We will be working and releasing a new menu shortly for Zuma Hong Kong, a big project for us. I am in contact with international bartenders to bring them into Hong Kong for monthly guest shifts.
Thanks for speaking with us.
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