Luke Whearty: “Bartenders dedicate their lives to making other people happy”

Luke Whearty: “Bartenders dedicate their lives to making other people happy”

Luke Whearty: “Bartenders dedicate their lives to making other people happy”

Luke Whearty: “Bartenders dedicate their lives to making other people happy”

Luke Whearty is a co-owner and chef-bartender of the Operation Dagger bar in Singapore. His bar is one of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2016 and the most creative cocktail bar according to the Best Bar Awards Singapore 2016.

In 1956, the Singapore Police carried out ‘Operation Dagger’ to eradicate secret societies in China Town. Today this is a name of a speakeasy bar with raw concrete walls and neon lights, a huge bar counter and an art installation made from a light fixture suspended over the bar with thousands of overhanging bulbs that look a little bit like a cloud. Luke grows himself some of the ingredients for cocktails. Here, receipts are recycled into bottle labels, hollowed out vanilla beans replace straws and cucumber skins are powdered into a drink flavor. We asked Luke some weird questions and got some brilliant answers.

How many glasses a day do you usually serve (on a busy Friday)?

Around 300-400 cocktails.

How many glasses a day do you usually drink?

I try to limit the number of drinks I have during my working week as I have found in the past it’s not very productive or very healthy. If I do drink during the week it’s usually just a glass of wine during dinner. There is always a new product to try or drinks in development to test so any other drinking I try to moderate as much as possible to keep a healthy work/life balance.

How much ice do you use in the bar per Friday night?

Around 20 kg of mixing ice, 5 kg of crushed ice and 30 kg of blocked ice.

What is the funniest cocktail name you ever heard/invented yourself?

We once had a drink on the menu called ‘Something Sweet and Fruity with Vodka’ This was something that was constantly being ordered at the bar so we decided to create a cocktail with this name. The best thing was there was actually no recipe for this drink and basically, the only rule was that whenever we got an order for the one you made any drink that didn’t have vodka in it. It was just a bit of fun we had together as a bar team. I don’t think any customers really understood it though (laughter).

What is the most popular cocktail in your bar now?

We have a drink that’s been on the menu since opening called Hot and Cold and is basically a tequila Pina Colada served at 2 different temperatures. It’s actually not on the menu anymore, but we still get hundreds of orders for them every week.

What is the most unpopular (underestimated) cocktail these days?

Depends on what part of the world you are in and what bar. In Singapore, I find that dry Martinis are very seldom ordered. That and mint juleps. I’m not sure why, but compared to other parts of the world this is what I’ve found.

Have you ever heard a really weird/scary story from your guest? If yes, please tell us about it.

I once had a guest make a reservation 1 year in advance and traveled from the other side of the world to come to the bar. At first, I found this very flattering, but when I asked him how long he was in town for and he told me he was flying back the very next night and came only to come to have a drink that night and was also staying across the road from the bar, that was a little scary  (laughter).

Could you name a spirit of the future (nearest or far)?

I would like to see different spirits made from native ingredients to create indigenous spirits that are unique to that particular place.

What was the weirdest cocktail you ever made/tried/saw in your life?

I’m currently working on a blood and sand idea, which has pigs blood and is aged in a concrete egg.

What is your ideal guest? What would he order?

I think the ideal guest is someone that comes in with an open mind and simply leaves it up to you to create a new experience for them.

What would you like to invent?

A time machine.

What’s your favorite spirit? Why?

Mescal is my favorite spirit as it gives a real sense of where and how its made and is a very raw expression of agave.

What is a spirit/cocktail you could never make yourself drink? Why?

I don’t think there’s anything that I wouldn’t drink as long as it’s made properly.

What is the best part about bartending for you?

You learn something every day. Whether it’s about working with people or creating drinks, I find there’s something new to learn every time you step behind the bar.

What did your job teach you?

Patience and how to manage people and different group dynamics.

What’s a bad habit you have?

I change my mind constantly.

What superpower would you like to have the most? Or if you already have one, then what is it?

I’d love to be invisible!

What was the last picture you took with your phone?

Some street art in Melbourne (Luke and his business partner Aki Nishikura have another project in Melbourne).

What music do you listen now?

Right now I’m listening to Kendrick Lamar’s new album Damn.

When you’re having a bad day, what do you do shift your mood?

Go for a surf or just jump in the ocean.

What kind of a tattoo would you like to have? Or tell us about tattoos you already have.

I have a crown on my right arm that is a tribute to my favorite artist Jean Michel Basquiat. (This crown is also a logo and a symbol of Operation Dagger). I then also have my nickname ‘wookie’ written in an Indian dialect that was done by a good friend that I used to work with.

If you could trend lives with one person for a day who would it be?

Kelly Slater (an American professional surfer who is a record-breaking 11-time World Surf League Champion).

What is so special about bartenders?

They dedicate their lives to making other people happy.

Is there a life on Mars?

I just asked Siri and she avoided the question which makes me think she knows more than she is telling me. Conspiracy?

By Kateryna Mykhailenko