In the six years since he arrived in Beijing, bartender and manager Zhang Quanwei considers himself as much of a witness of China's cocktail scene as a participant. Zhang, a native of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, is a people person and loves talking with customers, especially foreigners, about the world's most exotic cocktails.
He learned bartending in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning province and spent 10 years working at several bars in Shenyang and Shenzhen but the 32-year-old finally settled down after landing the coveted job of bar manager at the Red Moon club in Sanlitun, where he gives his unique "B-52 Shooter" performance every Sunday night. Zhang has transformed himself from coffee bar assistant to what might be called a master "mixologist", an alcoholic's chemist, the creator of all good things.
Before coming to Beijing, Zhang worked as a traditionally British-style bartender at True Look, a well-known nightclub in Shenzhen. Adding a touch of flair to bar jobs started becoming fashionable in China the young man cast off his gentle demeanor to become a dazzling entertainer.
He practiced Tin palm spin, bottles thumb roll, tin flips, shadow passes, from simply throwing an ice cube in the air and catching it in a glass to juggling several bottles of spirits. Zhang made his mark at a Shenzhen bartender competition in 2003, where he met some masters of the craft.
"Bartenders from Shenyang learned tricks fast, because they had fun throwing sandbags at a young age and that pretty much paved the way for their working flair," says Zhang. "So most China's top bartenders are from Shenyang and they usually excel in flair competitions."
There are two things you have to remember as a bartender: making the drinks and talking to people. Obviously, the quality of the drink and how it is made are important.
"But I think talking to customers is the most important part of this job," says Zhang. "Every time someone comes into your bar, they become the focus. If people don't come, you don't have a bar any more."
(China Daily November 22, 2008)