All Mixed Up: Tom Egerton, Business Development for Iron Fairies Group
January 06, 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.
Soft-spoken cocktail mixer Tom Egerton has led a two-decade story of involvement in kitchens and bars across all four corners of the world, beginning ripe at the age of 13 in home nation of New Zealand.
Now based in Hong Kong with Boutique Bar Company, Tom heads business development and mixes drinks locally for Iron Fairies, Mixing Room, and Dragonfly, whilst charting the expansion of Hong Kong’s beloved concepts regionally.
Married to fellow drinks writer, wife Holly Graham, Tom has called Hong Kong home for the past six years, carrying with him a CV packed with destinations such as Dubai, Sydney, Belfast, New York, and Paris. The Beat Asia nabbed him for a chat one morning to get to know Hong Kong’s smiley bartender and what 2023 has in store for him.
Deep Underground (HK$150) made by Tom Egerton at Iron Fairies, Central
- Tomato-infused Vodka
- Aperitivo Cappelletti
- Chita Grain Whisky
- Clarified tomato water
- Beetroot foam
- Parmesan cheese
Dust the edges of a glass with dehydrated tomato powder. In a shaking tin mix the vodka, sherry, Cappelletti, whisky, and tomato water in. Shake, and strain. Add a bit of texture with the beetroot foam, and grate in a bit of parmesan for a little savoury taste.
Hi Tom, great we can finally chat. For those who don’t know your story, who are you?
I’m Tom Egerton, I’ve been in the food and beverage industry since I was 13 years old, so for more than 20 years. I have worked in the United States, Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Middle East, now based in Hong Kong with the Iron Fairies Group.
How did you find your way into the world of alcohol?
At a job in Wellington, New Zealand, I worked at a sizeable venue that encompassed a dining hall, tavern, and cocktail space with a menu of expressions roughly inspired by Asian flavours. There, I was able to engage and interact with customers and understand the complexity and craft of mixing.
I’ve bartended in Dubai, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland and Paris and worked on guest lectures and mixings in Cuba, state-side and Japan.
After travelling worldwide to mix, what drew you to Hong Kong to create cocktails here?
Following work in the U.S., Ireland, and France, freelancing and consulting for hotels and venues in the Middle East, I sought to return to the corner of the world [to] Sydney at Eau de Vie bar where I worked until 2017.
After resigning looking for other opportunities, I was pitched by a friend who said they knew someone looking for [a] bar manager to run their operation in Hong Kong, at Potato Head. I jumped at the chance!
What attracted you to the role of bar operations manager for the Potato Head Group in Singapore, Bali, and Hong Kong?
With Potato Head, it is all encompassing in Singapore. They have the hotel, cocktail bar, event space, fine dining restaurant, casual restaurant catered to varied moods and times. [We pushed] high-volume cocktail output, fancy cocktails in daytime service, also mixing at night. It was interesting to get that holistic view, as well as sample the retail and guest experience as well.
Working as bar manager at Hong Kong’s Potato Head, the experience was pared back, but the rotation of drinks menus and courses allowed us to provide different experiences throughout the day.
Following your departure from Potato Head, what brought you to your work with Proof & Company in 2019?
It was an opportunity to work with a brand that I held a lot of value for, creativity, with their work internationally before. It was a very interesting getting to work on the other side as sort of a full-fledged consultant, working with brands like Four Seasons, Marriott Group, St. Regis Hotels, as well with all the brand partners we had.
At the end of my three years, I was approached by a contact when Jay Borofsky bar shut down to bring in an international bar to take over the space. Sadly, that fell through. However, this opened for a new chapter for the Boutique Bar Company, which encompasses Iron Fairies, the Mixing Room, and Dragonfly, with more bars in Hong Kong opening early next year.
Why did you decide to join the Boutique Bar Company?
The team needed a position to handle the business development arm, opening, training, and development of each of the venues. So, I said yes, and I’ve been working with them since early 2022!
With the reported expansion of the group in Hong Kong and beyond in neighbouring cities, how will Boutique Bar Company fair regionally this year?
The expansion will encompass [newly opening] venues designed by Australian designer Ashley Sutton, who’s in charge [over] concepts and design in venues such as Iron Fairies and Dragonfly. We want to carry that strong visual identity and take ownership of the concepts [in] international cities and create a space suitable for each market and guest experience. You will see more of us locally, Singapore, and beyond!
Most importantly, what will Hong Kong bring you in the year to come?
I’m currently in the process of creating a boutique importing company, working on importing a vegan cocktail foam replacing egg whites, growing into an advisory for importation into Hong Kong.
You’ve been here for six years, with one more year left to attain permanent residency in the city. What still attracts you to the bar scene in Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has an incredibly tight, collaborative, and supportive bar industry, which I really don't see anywhere else in the world. Everyone is supportive, they come out to help each other where possible.
While it's been very tough few years for the industry, I've seen the people that have remained have grown closer together in support of each other. That's why we'd like to live here, to be part of the industry. Our goal is to continue supporting the industry to get back to the strengths it [had] and continuing to be one of the best cities in the world for cocktails.
Cheers for chatting, Tom. Pleasure to learn your story.
All mine too, Rubin.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Enjoyed this article? Check out our previous All Mixed Up profiles here
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