Meet the Mixologist: Hee Chung
It’s officially #GarnishWeek! All this week, I’ll be sharing ideas and inspiration about all things GARNISH. Head over to Instagram to join in and follow along!
We can’t talk garnishes and cocktails without talking about the King of Garnish, Hee Chung, also known as @onedrinkaday. Since I started my own drinkstagram adventure (like, literally since day one) I’ve followed Hee and been completely amazed by his out of the box garnishes and incredible knife work. The man has mastered all manner of fruit roses, which let me tell you, is no small task. I still cannot manage to make a decent cucumber rose, which is probably why edible flowers have become my friends. In addition to roses, Hee has done some incredible carving work, floral ice cubes, and even created tiny landscapes within his glasses. I’m excited to share this interview with Hee, and get to know more about his background, inspiration, and techniques.
Amy: Your garnish game is amazing. How did you get started crafting such beautiful cocktails and garnishes?
Hee: My background in bartending started when I was 16 years of age. I did a 6 week service training program over the summer holidays because I really wanted to get a job at a bar/restaurant and thought the training would give me an advantage. I wasn’t meant to taste the drinks because I was underage but the trainer let me sneak in a few sips haha. I learnt just the basics of bartending, coffee making, food handling, customers service etc. The training did help me get a job at my local pub/bar but of course I was not allowed to work behind the bar because I was underage! So I waited 2 years before starting and by starting I mean collecting empty glasses. At the same time I was studying at University so working at a bar was perfect. I finally got to the point of serving drinks (basic mixes and set cocktails) but around this time I graduated and so my hospitality days were over (which was sad).
Even though in a professional sense I left the industry I definitely continued my passion for cocktails and food at home. It was 2 years ago that I decided to document everything on Instagram. Given the platform is very visual I combined my love of art, food and drink to create everything you see on One Drink A Day. It really should be renamed One Drink A Day (minimum)
Every day you seem to be coming up with something new and out-of-the-box! What inspires you?
I don’t really know what inspires me. I’m sure there are a heap but if I was to narrow it down I would say other social media pages (cocktail and food based ones), cool patterns that I see e.g. in a painting , and I think I try to translate what ever I see into a garnish e.g. I’ll look at a dress and think about how I can make a dress garnish. Sometimes it’s an epic fail but other times it presents amazingly!
Do you have any favorite tools for garnish-making?
The tools that I used most often are:
A sharp paring knife
Peeler - honestly this peeler is like nothing you’ve used before. Think about the sharpest peeler then multiply the sharpness by 100. Now you have a bit of an insight into the peeler I use. Its perfect for the thin cucumber slices (to create roses) or to peel the rind off citrus fruit.
I also use toothpicks a lot . This helps me with securing certain garnishes (for example cucumber succulents).
Then there are custom cookie cutters that I always look out for on Etsy. You’ll be surprised to find what is actually available . The honey comb apple garnish that I’ve made has become super time efficient thanks to the small hexagon cookie cutters from Etsy.
What’s your favorite garnish you’ve created?
My favourite would have to be the cucumber weave garnish. I believe it was in May of 2017? when I created it. Over time I’ve refined the technique so that bars could potentially see it as a valid garnish. Fast forward to today I’ve definitely seen (on social media) this garnish being served at bars! Also my cucumber weave video that was reposted on LTD is currently sitting at nearly 2.5 million views which I’m super shocked and thankful for.
I love that as gorgeous as your cocktails are, they are simple and never pretentious. The world of craft cocktails can be intimidating, and your creations are accessible and could be enjoyed by anyone - which explains why you have over 130k+ followers on Instagram! What’s next for One Drink a Day?
Thank you! I definitely want to continue to create more innovative garnishes and concepts. I also want to run garnish classes where I can teach people how to create what you see on my page.
I do get a bit of criticism on garnishes that are a bit out there. I want the audience to know that my page is not really a typical cocktail page but rather a creative mood board (to pick ideas from) which you can use to enhance your own craft.
If I can somehow make One Drink A Day really show this in future, people may understand what I actually offer which in turn may lessen the criticisms (or not lol). I realize what I do deviates from the traditional methods but at the same time the mixology is constantly evolving and maybe I can contribute to this progression in some way. At the end of the day I do what I do because it’s a massive passion of mine and I’m so thankful to the community and my audience.
I think it might be wine time now…..I definitely want to do more wine time going forward.
Thank you Amy for allowing me to be a guest blogger here!