Words by: Maggie Beale
Arkadiusz Rybak illustrates the importance of sustainability and consistency in the bar industry.
Before transferring to Hong Kong to set up the contemporary Japanese izakaya on the 6th floor of the Landmark in Central district, Arkadiusz Rybak spent three weeks of intense famiiarization at Zuma in London to perfect his knowledge of the house bar concept and style.
He now trains his award-winning team at Zuma Hong Kong by using the same successful principles. "Each drink has to be made with the same consistency and quality. And we always use a jigger for exact measurements.
"I believe that in whatever industry you're in it's important to be humble, open minded and honest. There will always be both positive and negative feedback, which are great tools to learn from. As a team leader I think it's important to make sure all of my team are involved in all projects, it's good team work and leadership that make great things happen!"
During his many travels prior to settling in Hong Kong, Arkadiusz explored countries across Europe, from Greece and France to the UK, working in fine dining Michelin Star restaurants and five-star hotels. His inspiration also comes from world-renowned chefs.
"I have become further inspired through travel, books, experimentation and exposure to celebrity chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, Adam Simmonds and Richard Phillips. It was they who mentored and taught me how to play around with flavours and kitchen techniques but I prefer working at the bar rather than in the kitchen. I like experimenting with new products, ingredients and techniques.
And consistency is maintained far and wide as the drinks menus also feature nine signature cocktails that are exactly the same in every Zuma in the world. "Whether you are in London, Istanbul, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Miami or New York, these signatures all look and taste the same. And, each city will have its own menu according to product availability. As Zuma is a Japanese restaurant & bar, we offer a wide range of sake, as well as a selection of contemporary cocktails using only premium spirits and liqueurs. We mainly use Japanese fruit and vegetables that are freshly flown in everyday."
"To be distinctive we make all our own infusions, syrups, bitters, pureés and essences including the sprays. Like a gourmet kitchen — we start preparing our mise-en-place at lunchtime and each bartender prepares different mixers.
"Another novel idea is the use of exotic herbs and plants for which we have to do a lot of research through books and the internet. These herbs and plants are already being used by chefs in the kitchen so we use our imagination to experiment and create new drinks for the bar."
Arkadiusz explains how Zuma's cocktail menu is divided into sections: "We have Aisu cocktails made with Japanese whiskeys using filtered ice blocks; Sosaku cocktails with seasonal fruits and herbs; Sake & Shochu cocktails; and Odayaka ni cocktails which use infused spirits that have been resting in glass decanters or oak wood barrels for a minimum of three months allowing them to mellow and gain a smooth, rich taste."
And why keeping up with bartending news from friends and colleagues around the world is essential. "With more interest in quality cocktails worldwide, we need to keep up with the changes, not only in product production but also the drinking styles and fashions of the customers. So, each week (at Zuma) we will learn about classic cocktails as well as focusing on one brand or product each time. This provides the team with more knowledge and also encourages them to come up with new ideas for new creations. Each month, we also have a knowledge and practical test so they really do need to research and learn through study and practice."
Arkadiusz also revealed his immediate plans. "I have recently become an ambassador of HK EnvironMentalists, we work to promote a change towards sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in the Hong Kong bartending industry. At Zuma Hong Kong, we have removed plastic entirely from the bar, using only 100% biodegradable potato starch and paper straws, and introducing drinks that utilise spare ingredients from the Zuma kitchen. I am proud of my contributions to make the bartending industry more environmentally friendly.
"For Heering's 200th anniversary, I have chosen the year 1823. As it was in this year that a Polish gentleman, named Hartwig Kantorowicz, started to produce vodka in my hometown of Poznan in Poland. Vodka has been popular in Poland since the 16th century, but the end of the 19th century marked the start of the industrial production of vodka in Poland.
"Cherry Heering brings back memories of summers in my hometown Poznan, in Poland. As a child my friends and I could be found climbing trees and tucking into endless amounts of cherries! The cocktail I would make to reflect this is inspired by my childhood memories of summers in Poznan."
Garnish: Orange zest twist
Method: STIR all ingredioents with chunks of ice and strain over one large cube in an old fashioned glass.