[INTERVIEW] Häagen-Dazs Scoop of the Summer Special Surprise Cocktail By Mixologist Ben Ng
Last week, we had a blast at Häagen-Dazs’ Scoop Of the Summer Pool Party at Luna Bar, Kuala Lumpur whereby its latest delectable summer flavour, Mango & Raspberry, was unveiled. Aside from a fun photobooth and entertainment, guests also got to taste one of the two limited edition creations, the “Tropical Passion”, and two special surprise cocktails put together for that memorable evening.
For the creation of these two handcrafted cocktails, Häagen-Dazs engaged with Ben Ng, the founder and mixologist of Fluid Alchemy, who is an expert at the art of mixing and exudes great passion for what he does. Of course, we had to sit down with him and have a little chat about these two one-of-a-kind cocktails, working with Häagen-Dazs ice cream and his job. Find out what went down!
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your job?
Well, I drink for a living [laughs]. I do bartending and I guess it’s one of those professions that is not seen as a big thing in Malaysia but I’ve been bartending for the last 13 years. However, I don’t spend as much time at the bar anymore. I do when I go back to my bar in Penang. I’ve recently opened up a place in Penang called Mish Mash. Basically, I also have a training consultancy company in KL which does a lot of training programs and consultancy work for all the drinks companies in KL. So, we do that and hold a lot of events as well. I’ve been working on my own for the last five years. Our training programs are for bartenders, mainly for cocktails, spirits and beers as well. I actually have a place whereby we prepare all our R&D stuff and it’s also functioning as a bar school for us as well. We have fun there and we also train there. That’s what Fluid Alchemy does basically.
2. Have you worked with Häagen-Dazs before?
Yes, in the past for House of Häagen-Dazs in September last year. It was quite cool because it was my first time working with Häagen-Dazs and I think we did quite a range of cocktails back then. It was sort of new for us as well, working with so many different dairy products and ice creams. It’s one of those things that we don’t do as much when it comes to cocktails but it was a good challenge for us and we had really good fun that night.
3. For the surprise cocktails for the Scoop of the Summer party, what can we expect?
There’s two varieties today. I’m not going to spoil the surprise by telling you exactly what the cocktails are, but one of them will be very tropical. It will be a spin off of a classic Daiquiri. We wanted that to be associated with fun, beach side or pool kind of tropical environment. So, a Daiquiri automatically relates you to that environment because you’ve got the taste of rum and something that’s sweet and sour, also now you have the Mango and Raspberry ice cream in there. That’s the Summer Secret. On the other hand, there’s the Pink Discovery. Anyway, the Mango and Raspberry ice cream is the focus today. We just want to show that when we use the same ice cream, the versatility of it is there. It can be used for so many different flavours.
4. Do you usually make your cocktails with ice cream?
Sometimes. Not all the time. Diary is the one of those products that we don’t work with as much. It’s a little hard to work with because you really need to make sure that the ice cream is kept at the right temperature and you really need to make sure everything is washed clean. If not, the taste will be messed up.
5. Out of all the Häagen-Dazs flavours, if you could choose one flavour to work with all the time, what would you pick?
As girly as it may sound, I like ice cream so this is hard. Well, I wouldn’t say that this is my favourite but I find it very interesting to work with. The last time, we had a challenge and everyone was telling us to get the Raspberry and Meringue at the House of Häagen-Dazs. The Raspberry and Meringue is challenging to work with because it has bits and pieces in there and it was tough to think about how to actually get all that flavour around it. So, that is the one that I ended up finding very unique. It’s not too sweet and I actually ate so much of that ice cream because I was really trying to understand that flavour.
6. What kind of liquor did you pair with that ice cream?
Okay, the Raspberry Meringue ice cream is actually quite nice with a bit of gin. We also paired it with absinthe and that was also quite nice. When you become a bartender, it’s not all about working with flavours that are easy. Sometimes it’s also about working with things that are more challenging or that seem impossible. For the reason that the Raspberry and Meringue ice cream is sweet, we paired it with some gin and dehydrated grapefruit as it is a bit bitter, so that actually balances out the flavour.
6. If you were a cocktail, what would your name be and what would be the main ingredients?
If I were a cocktail, I will name myself Take Me Home, that’s all. It will have the strongest thing in the bar, so it will be very convincing to order it and take it home. That would really be thinking from a bar perspective because if I seriously were a cocktail, you got to have a name like that so that it stands out. Well, if I were to say what spirit would be in there, it would have to be Scotch whiskey because I have a great love for Scotch. But, to name a drink Take Me Home and put Scotch whiskey in there, it probably wouldn’t work out. Well, a drink with that name would probably go very well with gin. I think it has a lot of feminine appeal to it because of the flavour. I would also make the drink pink or red so that the guys will stay away from it. Ladies make the bar go round anyway.