In town for one night only, world-renowned bartender Philip Bischoff wowed the crowd during his takeover of Lowey Jakarta, with his impressive skills behind the bar and his imaginative cocktails. Notably known for being the manager for the Manhattan Bar in Singapore, Philip this year has led his bar to a second consecutive title as Asia’s best bar at the Asia’s 50 Best Bar Awards 2018. Having achieved such heights, we were curious to know what he had in store for the future.
Born and raised in Germany, Philip first discovered his interest in hospitality during his early years, in ironically a most unexpected place: a hospital. Spending his social service year of school working in one, planted a seed, that would eventually grow into his passion for the industry. After that year, he continued his studies, taking health administration and working part-time as a host. His experience in the latter was the first of many stepping stones in the food & beverage industry, that would lead him to his prestigious status.
Getting his first serious job in 2004 as a bartender at the Phoenix Club in Berlin, Philip worked there for two years before moving to Switzerland looking for more experience. After his stint in Switzerland, he realised that his future was in the food & beverage industry and decided to pursue it wholeheartedly. He continued his career in Frankfurt and Hamburg, picking up his skills and techniques along the way. In 2009 he eventually returned to Berlin to work at the Amano Hotel bar, which would, in the span of his 5 years there, change the landscape of hotel bars in Germany.
“When we opened in 2009, (the Amano Hotel bar) would then change the landscape for hotel bars… opened up the modern era of hotel bars in Germany"
Upon resigning from the Amano in 2014, Philip was handed many offers from around Europe and Asia. However, it was the prospect of building up the Manhattan Bar in Singapore and the allure of the city that caught his interest. An American style cocktail bar, the Manhattan Bar, located in the Regent Hotel Singapore, has reached tremendous heights in recent years. Under the management of Philip, the bar was named best bar in Asia’s 50 Best Bars for the first time in 2017. Holding onto the title for a consecutive year, the Manhattan also earned a 7th place spot in the World's 50 Best Bar list, amongst industry greats like the American Bar in London and the Nomad in New York.
“First time I heard about it (Singapore), it was a futuristic or avant-garde, very secure city… Those were the things that fascinated me.”
Having set the bar very high for him and his team this year, he looks forward to the future of the Manhattan. He states that him and his team are focused on keeping consistent with the service that they provide and create new drink experiences for the customers. The Manhattan is also working on their American whiskey collection, that is on track to being one of the largest collections in this part of the world. The collection also will have a goal to provide and education about the whiskey, which will add to the customer’s experience.
“We do what we do. We of course try to never rest. Be consistent with the service we provide. We create new drinks and new drink experiences.”
After 14 years in the business, Philip believes that education for bartenders is a key foundation for a successful bar. Quality training will breed confident bartenders who in turn will be passionate about their work. He also finds that for bartenders to have the opportunity to experience other countries and their bars, will make a great difference in their growth. He also adds that the cooperation and support from owners go a long way in bringing the best out of the staff. Mutual respect and good communication between owners and staff keeps a good environment that allows each other to thrive.
“Providing education is a key thing. Because the more you know, the more confident you are. And the more confident you are, the more passion you have. Because if I know what I’m doing, and if I learn everyday, I’m happy and I’m proud.”
When asked about what skills are essential to bartenders outside of bartending, he states that communication skills is most important. Bartenders serve the customer beyond just serving them drinks, they can share conversation which enhances the overall experience at the bar.
“Communication skills is one of the biggest assets of a bartender. A bartender is a host.”
Philip ends the interview with a last bit of advice for any bartender in the industry: “Be passionate, do it because you want to do it.” With the upcoming list for Asia’s 50 Best Bars still waiting to be announced, the Manhattan Bar will be one to continue watching.
Note: the article has been edited