All Mixed Up MNL: Arkadiusz Rybak, HK Mixology Veteran Residing in Pampanga
May 04, 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 MNL explores the stories behind the city’s famed mixologists, bartenders, and cupbearers that make our tipples and what makes them tick.
People who have been based somewhere and have been doing something there for a decade often don’t start anew elsewhere. To most people, it’s too much to leave behind. To most people.
Then, there are mixologists like Arkadiusz Rybak who has made a career of being comfortable anywhere and learning new things at every turn. He was educated in his native Poland before moving all over Europe, from Greece to France to the United Kingdom, and then, made Hong Kong his home for 10 years where he achieved everything a mixologist can achieve.
His tenure at Zuma and DarkSide at Rosewood was particularly special. As Bar Development Manager at Zuma, and Director of Bars at Rosewood, he guided these two watering holes to a Murderers Row of accolades while winning a couple of seriously prestigious medals for himself, including Foodie Forks’ “Master of Mixology Award” back in 2014 and The Bar Awards’ “Best Bartender” in 2016. He even had the time to set up Hong Kong EnvironMentalists, a community of bartenders dedicated to advance sustainability and wasteless practices in mixology.
Even after all that, he’s settled in Pampanga with his wife, Jennifer Pepito, where they established Good Vibes Only Consultancy. It’s a new challenge, even for an F&B veteran like Arkadiusz. For now, though, he sat down with The Beat Manila for a chat about all things bartending.
Can you tell us a little about you and your history in bartending?
My bartending career started in Greece when I was a management trainee for my university in a big resort on an island called Corfu. That was my first full exposure as a full-time bartender. However, where I began to have a huge interest in the industry was in London where I was working closely with well-known chefs such as Adam Simons at the Dansfield Hotel, Richard Philips at the Thackeray Restaurant, and Ashley Palmer at the Fat Duck Restaurant. They were my inspiration [when it came to] flavors and pairing, the use of different techniques to execute the flavors, [and] focusing on the purpose of each ingredient on the plate… I adapted the same philosophy into the world of beverage.
Witnessing how the chefs prepare the mis-en-place and provide the consistency, that’s where I understood that those are the key elements to success in product execution.
What do you think about the bar scene in Metro Manila/the Philippines?
The Metro Manila bar scene is indeed very dynamic, concentrated in an area where people around the neighborhood can easily access. It is filled with young talents, ambitious to learn and strive for the next stage of the F&B scene.
However, I personally think that not only Metro Manila has potential and that should not be the only city or province that should represent the Philippines. Cebu, Boracay, and Siargao also have a lot to offer. The country has a lot of provinces filled with [their] own roots of history and culinary offering either tradition or modern.
Like Pampanga, where I am currently residing with my family, I see a bar community willing to be heard. They have the talent. The region itself has so much culinary history and natural sources of food that can be explored to be part of the beverage world. As a community, we need to communicate and educate about these things.
I also noticed that the Philippines is lacking cocktail bar variety as the majority is speakeasy concepts. I hope to see more categories of bars so that the country can offer its guests different experiences, like my very good friend Adam and Isa who own MANU in Siargao. Their beverage concept is based on Tiki Filipino, a local drinking hole inspired by Tiki bar concept. It has a story to tell. We need to have more bars like this that can represent its own DNA and to show locals that we can create our own identity in mixology.
Can you share what you think makes a successful bar?
Concept: DNA, teamwork, investing in the development of people, innovation, consistency.
In your personal profile, you wrote that you draw inspiration in using "unexpected substitutes" when making cocktails. Is there a particular cocktail using exotic ingredients that you're particularly proud of?
Nekuta - Drink was based on coconut rum, clarified mango, and yuzu juice, served in a pitcher plant to replace a typical glassware. The concept behind this drink was to imitate the plant itself where [the natural nectar is produced]; same philosophy but introducing it as a cocktail that offers a very tropical mouth-feel filled with sweet, acidic, and floral flavor.
Umami martini - Drink was based on re-distilled vodka with Gyokuro green tea that can offer the most umami profile from the beverage, Mancino Secco Vermouth and Plankton tinctures.
The concept behind this drink is to introduce the most umami flavor to our guests through classic martini. The star of the drink is the Plankton tinctures where it married the Gyokuro vodka to highlight and enhance the flavor of umami.
Since Poland is one of the premier European beermakers, and the Philippines is a big beer drinking country, what’s one Polish beer do you think will do well here?
Lech Poznan Pilsner is the beer I would confidently say would work here. First, it is from my city so I am very proud of it! But on the tasting note, it is light body, slightly sweet, grainy, floral. It is a good option for weather like in the Philippines.
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