Community Spotlight –Cyan Wong
By Wesley Emmott
Cyan Wong is a London-based bartender and drinks consultant. Having originally gone to art school, she instead found herself passionate about drinks. She has worked in bars around the world, as well as opening some herself. Cyan currently works with different brands, including Madre Mezcal.
Wesley: What does a typical day look like for you?
Cyan: It depends on what projects are going on. Half the time I am doing training, organising events, creating drinks and developing the brand. The other half of the time I’m looking after the business I started consulting with. At the minute I’m looking into moving into the Winter drinks menus. I’ll also be doing some consultancy for non-alcoholic brands or non-alcoholic spirits. It doesn’t have to be spirit-forward or spirit-based, just interesting drinks with good flavours.
W: As a drinks consultant, what sort of places do you work with?
C: I think the great thing about being an independent consultant is choosing the projects and people to work with, so every enterprise is a little different. The first restaurant I helped open after lockdown was a stand alone, it had a small team so everything was kind of from scratch and the second one was part of a bigger group and they have systems in place for training a larger team and making things work smoothly. They all have their own bonuses and their own challenges. Working for brands is a similar concept; you just have to be flexible in your outlook on what the client wants, achieve it to the best of your ability and make things interesting.
W: Is there any part of your work in art school that you feel like you brought over into bartending or consultancy?
C: I think for everybody no matter their background, skills are transferable. There’s always something you bring with you. Being creative doesn’t mean you have to be able to make a website or replicate a photograph. It’s just about problem-solving and trying to think of new angles and ways of doing things. So personally yes, going to art college, studying the basis of an idea and the relevance of having a strong foundation from which to grow your ideas was super important. When you talk about hospitality and venues you’re not just making a drink and it’s done there, you’re creating a whole environment. Is it a brunch place? Is it an afternoon spot? Is it early evening? What settings are the lights at? Every tiny detail needs to be thought about, and you’re welcoming guests into your projection of an ideal environment for them so yeah, massive crossover.
W: What’s your favourite thing about your work?
C: I love bringing new experiences back to the palette of the everyday. I love how food and drink are such great levellers and how it forms a culture that speaks across boundaries. People always come back from a trip or an adventure with souvenirs, photos or videos to show the joy and excitement they felt to others but if you manage to translate that into a dining or drinking setting you can share that experience with them and invite them to conjure with their own memories. The favourite thing for me is to spread that joy, hopefully inspire a bit of a story I’ve experienced and let people create their own stories from it. What I would like to achieve is to bring people a sense of comfort and peace from a sip of a drink.
W: How do you relax?
C: I like going climbing, so I started doing that since climbing centres have reopened. It’s a great sport, you’re not in competition with anybody but yourself and most climbers are just really chill people. You can do that in any city there’ll be an indoor climbing centre so it doesn’t matter where you travel to. You can do that solo or with people and I find it quite calming. Yeah, and also your muscles feel sore so it’s like “yes I’ve done a workout” you feel like you’ve achieved something like “this must be good for me”.
W: Have you ever had a mentor in or out of hospitality?
C: I think everybody that you’ve been in contact with that are good at what they do in some way becomes a mentor directly or indirectly, so I’ve worked with some brilliant, eccentric people in my past. Also, the closest people to me, my best friends, always act as inspiration. Super-talented, ridiculously wonderful, open-minded and generous people, those are the best mentors, people that know you better than you know yourself, and can always encourage you to do better or just do you and for you to be happy with that.