From chef to barista to guest shift bartender, Tim definitely knows what’s good when it comes to eating and drinking.
BY TIGGER CHATURABUL
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Feature photo by Suhyeon Choi for Unsplash
Tim Lam, the 2019 World Coffee In Good Spirits Championship first runner-up from Hong Kong, began his career in the kitchen at Cupping Room Coffee Roasters, learning about coffee on the side from icons and world stage veterans like Kapo Chiu and Dawn Chan. Now a barista at Omotesando Koffee’s exclusive Koffee Mameya bar, Tim also gets to share his love for coffee and mixology with special guest shifts and events around the city.
Tigger Chaturabul: How did you go from culinary school to one of the world’s top five coffee and spirits mixologists?
Tim Lam: I’ve been interested in bartending since I was young, but since bartenders work such extreme hours, I changed my focus to coffee instead. That’s why I applied to Cupping Room Coffee Roasters, but when they saw my culinary school background, they invited me to be a chef instead at first. While I was working there and learning from Kapo and Dawn, I would always watch competition videos from the World Coffee In Good Spirits Championships, and when the competition was finally held in Hong Kong in 2018, I gave it a try.
I really worked on my bartending technique, designed my performance with a clean, Japanese-style bar setting, and spent ages practicing how to stir my signature drink. The first year I placed fourth in the national competition, but in the second year, I had a better expectation of what the judges were looking for and upgraded my performance.
I was recently invited to my first-ever guest shift with Mr Black Roasters and Distillers this past Mid Autumn Festival alongside Arlene Wong. We trained together in preparation for the national CIGS competition and I learned a lot from her professional bartending. It’s a really special experience for me to achieve my younger self’s goal of becoming a bartender and it makes me even more passionate about what I get to do.
What comes first when designing a drink? The coffee or the spirit?
The first time I competed, I prepared a cocktail with a natural Brazil coffee and Iron Balls gin from Thailand, using simple ingredients to create a complex drink, but was completely thrown off by the surprise requirement to use cognac from one of our sponsors. In the second year, I had a better idea of what to expect, and went with my gut feeling that the key spirit would be gin. I had a really nice washed Ethiopia with floral, peach, and citrus notes that would easily match with any kind of gin, so I knew I had to compete with these beans. Then at the competition briefing, they really did choose gin as the spirit.
One of the challenges for competing in WCIGS is finding a balance between the ingredients that doesn’t overpower the coffee because in the end, it is a coffee competition. But when you’re at the bar in a real-life setting, you need to make sure your drinks have a strong spirit element to meet your customers’ expectations. So it really depends on who’s drinking it. It’s a really creative experience because you’re building up a drink from zero.
Here are the recipes for five of Tim’s favorite coffee cocktails:
Tim’s Seattle Sour
20 grams (g) medium roasted washed Ethiopian espresso
5 g vodka
45 g gin
15 g filtered lime and ginger juice
10 g filtered pineapple juice
15 g champagne syrup
1 egg white or vegan foamer
Filter the espresso through a Clever dripper and add the vodka to reduce the coffee’s density. Add the egg white into a mixing cup and add in the lime and ginger juice, pineapple juice, champagne syrup, and gin into a cocktail shaker. Dry shake then hard shake with ice. Strain into glass then float the espresso vodka mixture. Spritz port wine on top for the garnish and aroma.
Tim’s Irish Coffee
180 g medium-dark-roasted natural Ethiopian filter coffee
30 g Teeling single-grain Irish whiskey
10 g Jameson triple-distilled Irish whiskey
20 g demerara syrup
You can brew the filter coffee directly on top of a server filled with the whiskey and syrup to simultaneously heat up the spirits as the coffee drips down. Mix the ingredients together and serve in a glass, topped with the whipped cream.
40 g Omotesando house blend espresso
30 g vodka
15 g Mr Black Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
15 g champagne syrup
Cascara for garnish
Combine espresso, vodka, coffee liqueur, and champagne syrup in a shaker and add ice. Shake well and strain before serving in a glass, garnished with a few pieces of cascara.
Tim’s Cold Brew Old Fashioned
20 g dark-roasted cold brew
50 g bourbon whiskey
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 bar spoon cascara syrup
This recipe can be easily mixed up at home with your favorite dark-roast beans. Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir together. Pour into a serving glass to enjoy.
Tim’s Sunset, a reverse take on cold Irish Coffee designed in collaboration with Arlene Wong
30 g medium-dark-roasted cold brew
15 g Mr Black Coffee Amaro
20 g clarified yogurt
30 g Irish whiskey
First pour the clarified yogurt into the glass to create an inverted Irish Coffee with the “cream” on the bottom. Then mix the cold brew, Mr Black Coffee Amaro, and whiskey with ice. Strain and pour slowly at the top of the glass to create layers reminiscent of a sunset. You can enjoy the cocktail in its different layers, or mix them together for a sweet-and-sour flavor.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tigger Chaturabul tried to be a barista for two years until she realized she was better suited behind the business than behind the bar. She now runs her own copywriting and design studio, Curious Typhoon Studio, that serves F&B and other small businesses in Hong Kong. Her free-range creative lifestyle allows her to spend all her time in coffee shops everywhere.