Mixologist Jason Grey shows us how to raise the bar.
When the sun’s beating down, sometimes, a spot of alcohol is the only solution. (Corny science joke: check.) There’s just something refreshing about a nice cocktail in warm weather. Couple that with some excellent bar chow, and you’re pretty much set. After all, it’s only when you’ve knocked back a few that you realize how demanding your palate actually is. Basically, your most drunken state is when your inner Gordon Ramsay shows up.
When thinking of a place that ticks off all these boxes, consider the new Toast Asian Kitchen & Tasting Room at Ayala Malls The 30th. First check is their unique taste on Asian food combinations: gyozig (gyoza + sisig), salted egg creme brulée, and their longganisa pasta — fusilli pasta spirals and Vigan longganisa. When we came over to visit, we got to try dishes inspired by a host of Asian culinary staples: wagyu yakitori, blaksa, and twice cooked pork belly with salted egg fried rice, just to name a few.
And while the food is certainly worth dropping by for, Toast’s slew of drinks won’t disappoint. Singapore-based mixologist Jason Grey was brought in to create and curate a drink list that’ll satiate any thirst. Some of their most notable concoctions include cocktails with the most intriguing names like Seoul Searcher, Summer in the City, and Jack Sparrow. (Johnny Depp sold separately.)
Of course, while bar staples like your favorite mojitos and amaretto sours are still on the menu, we wanted to know more about what makes Toast’s drink list so damn cool. We caught up with Jason to ask him his favorite tipple, his ideal cocktail in warm weather, and why no drinker will ever feel left out with his drinks menu.
YOUNG STAR: You use a host of different ingredients for the lineup you made for Toast. What elements would you say bring them together?
JASON GREY: The ingredients used are mostly reflective of different styles of Asian cuisine that I have tried during my travels across Southeast Asia. Brought together via a more modern style of crafting cocktails, they are all also based on using quality produce and products. Freshness and quality are incredibly important when making cocktails. For the consumer, it is very easy to tell when you are being served cheap or poor quality products as brands like ours are working very hard to educate both the on-trade and off-trade. That’s also why the tasting room at Toast is very important. It gives everyone an opportunity to try before they buy, and expose themselves to products they might not have seen before.
Do you have any personal favorites from the Toast lineup? If so, what makes that particular drink stand out?
My favorite is probably the Pomelo Sour (PS); I’ve always really enjoyed fresh and herbaceous cocktails and the PS is just that. Thai Basil is also a firm favorite of mine as that natural anise flavor mixed with the pomelo and white pepper really stands out. The menu itself is full of a wide variety of cocktails so that no one is alienated or deterred by the drinks selection. We want people to feel comfortable ordering from the menu a few times, then our bar team will help push them into cocktails that they might not ordinarily try. An example is the Sumo in a Sidecar, which can seem intimidating at first sight.
You spend a lot of time in warm weather — both in Singapore and Manila. What drink would you recommend on a hot summer day?
If I were ordering from the Toast menu I would most definitely be ordering the Tokyo Fog Cutter. It’s long and refreshing with the green apple and sake really cleansing your palate. Warm weather cocktails for me always tend to find their origins in Tiki Culture, the traditional Fog Cutter being one of my favorites in that style. There’s something about tropical drinks — when made well — that just makes them very moreish (making you want to have more). They’re quite non-traditional in spirit selection with whisky and umeshu being the main characters, but you still get a fresh and refreshing vibe.
Are there any dishes at Toast that you think go really well with the drinks you made?
When I had the Kong Bak Pau dish with Toast’s Seoul Searcher cocktail, the flavors really opened up and the fresh ginger and capsicum soda were mellowed by the rich pork in the dish. While the cocktails aren’t made for pairing with individual dishes, they do complement them very well. When I think about people enjoying the menu I see them starting at the bar with friends and getting the night going with one or two cocktails. They’re sitting down for dinner and possibly ordering one more before the meals arrive. They then enjoy wine and craft beers with their meal, and then back to the cocktails after. It’s more like an influence to bring people together.
You must meet a lot of different people in your job. Do you have any memorable bartender stories?
Too many! And not enough that I could mention to the media. (Laughs) In our line of work there is always something new happening around the corner, but discretion is key.
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You can find Toast Asian Kitchen & Tasting Room at Ayala Malls The 30th at 30th Meralco Avenue, Pasig City. Follow them @toastkitchenph on Instagram and Facebook.