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Filipino bartender introduces Bicol Express-inspired cocktail in KL

Exhilarating brew is spiced up with siling labuyo

Mark Defensor, bartender of The Spirits Library, Benilde Hospitality Management alumnus, and Monin Cup 2022 champion. (Photo from Moninjpg)

Filipino bartender and Monin Cup 2022 champion Mark Defensor introduces his award-winning Bicol Express-inspired drink to Kuala Lumpur’s burgeoning cocktail culture.

Dubbed as Bicol Speedster, the exhilarating brew is a fusion of coconut milk, Monin Ginger Syrup, Tanduay Asian Gold Rum, pork fat-wash and Habanero Lime Liqueur, spiced up with siling labuyo (chili pepper) and black pepper.

Bicol Express-inspired cocktail

Mark Defensor, Monin Cup 2022 champion (Photo from Moninjpg)

Defensor was the champion of the Monin Cup Philippines 2022, a leading bartending competition organized by Monin, the world’s leading producer of fine flavored syrups, gourmet sauces, fruit smoothies and cocktail mixes.

Bicol Express-inspired cocktail

Ralph Allen Santos (left), mentor and dean of The Spirit Library, and Mark Defensor (Photo from Moninjpg)

Spirits Library dean and mentor Ralph Allen Santos represented the Philippines at the Monin Tour in Rawang, Selangor.

“The trip to KL courtesy of Monin was somewhat of a homecoming for me because I actually went to high school in Malaysia. It was nice to be back and it was great to see how the bar scene has grown since I was last there,” Defensor said.

Bicol Express-inspired cocktail

Mark Defensor and Ralph Allen Santos with the Coley Team. (Photo from Ralph Allen Santos)

The four-day hosted excursion included guest shifts in some of the top speakeasies in Kuala Lumpur, such as Pahit and Coley, which were both included in Tatler Asia’s 50 Best Bars. The Vault KL had a heartwarming welcome by the Filipino staff. In these sessions, Bicol Speedster served as menu highlight.

Pahit was my first guest shift ever; I was nervous but started to get into the groove of things,” he recalled. “What made it easier was the fact that some of my high school friends came to see me.”

During his session at Coley, Defensor celebrated his first bartending anniversary with his family, who drove all the way from Singapore to support him. “It was a pleasant surprise,” he beamed.

Bicol Express-inspired cocktail

Mark Defensor with Monin Cup Malaysia champion Charles Lee at the Monin Tour

The duo also met Monin Cup Malaysia Champion Charles Lee and the rest of the Monin Malaysia Team.

“This trip could not have happened without the support from Monin, my team at Spirits Library and of course, my mentor Ralph Allen Santos,” he expressed. “Thanks to them, I was able to experience an unforgettable trip to a country that I have missed so dearly.”

Defensor majored in Hospitality Management at the School of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management (SHRIM) of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB). He expressed his gratitude to his professors, Gioseppe Angelo Racelis, Jerwin Pineda and Karl John, for introducing and immersing him in the world of competitive bartending.

“After getting a taste of it in college, I knew I wanted to head down the path to become a bartender,” he beamed. “I will continue being a bartender and that’s for sure. When the time is right, I plan on competing more.”

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