Mixing & Shaking at Batu Batu with 1880's Head Bartender Rusty Cerven
Rusty Cerven has one of the best jobs in the world, traveling around the globe with his beautiful wife Zuzana working in the world’s best bars. He has been at the forefront of London’s thriving cocktail scene for more than 10 years, was the former senior mixologist at the Connaught in London, bar manager at The Gibson Bar in London and current Head Bartender at 1880 Singapore, a private members club (who we would like say a big thank to for giving Rusty time out so that he could visit us).
To coincide with our bar renovations at the Main Bar and Restaurant last year, Rusty was guest bar tending, training our team and revamping our cocktail menus with a focus on local ingredients. Rusty advocates a more organic approach to bartending, using less plastic and exploring more sustainable sources to help preserve our environment, so he was the perfect person to train our bar team.
Environmental sustainability may not be at the forefront of your mind when you think of the hospitality industry, but a new focus on sourcing and local ingredients and growing concern for the environment has brought a sustainable revolution in the cocktail industry. What an amazing marriage of minds – a sustainably-minded mixologist and a sustainably-minded island ; )
Thank you Rusty and Zuzana – we loved having you with us at Batu Batu!
We had a chance, in between cocktails, to discuss this with Rusty and his thoughts on hospitality.
As you have traveled all over the world have you found that environmental issues are a priority in places of work?
Many places try to implement new procedures towards greener workplace and sustainable programs However, despite a lot of effort, very few places managed to execute it to the end. To make sure this is ongoing, we need every staff member to understand the aim of our work and motivate them to improve those steps on a daily basis.
Reducing the usage of surplus or one-off-use disposable plastic items is one of the largest benefits we can employ, especially at the service level. Our industry has been avoiding this topic for many years and only starts to realize just now, how big an impact we can have, when we stop using plastic straws behind the bar. Although, many initiatives and programs to avoid plastic are ongoing around the world, it’s still a very long run to change the mentality of people in less developed countries towards environmental awareness. It is not just about straws, but plastic bags, cups with lids or plastic bottles too. People use it, bin it or just drop it creating long lasting damage to nature.
We are proud to be joining the #refusethestraw revolution to help the ocean and millions of animals that are killed each year by plastic. Have you been able to introduce any other initiatives to reduce our footprint?
Another initiative I support and try to spread is the focus on sustainable production to reduce food waste. I grew up in country where we didn’t have easy access to many products so our parents were growing their own fruit and vegetables and making their own products, like jams, pickles or compotes. There was no need for unnecessary packages, GMOs and preservatives. We made that effort to plant it, to take care of it and process it once it was ripe. I have encouraged growing your own products on the island to reduce the need for increased deliveries from the main land and maintaining high quality produce.
Have you discovered any unusual local ingredients for our cocktails that excite you? And what can we look forward to seeing on the new bar menu?
I always look out for ingredients from local surroundings. Local people don’t see it the same way, they see it as uninteresting and honestly, I was the same a few years ago. I was always inspired with strange flavours from the other side of the world and had forgotten what was growing in my backyard. Everything changed when I moved to another country and started to appreciate what we have at home. Since then I focus on ingredients of the places I visit and try to implement it to the cocktails. Batu Batu is the island of coconuts. I don’t think I need to say more about this, they’re just everywhere and they are healthy and very tasty. Among this you can find there hibiscus, jasmine or pandan. All of them are a great flavour adjustment to the menu.
You have worked in some of the world’s best bars, What do you look for in a perfect bar?
Hospitality. It means more to me than creativity and great cocktails. Yes, drink selection is very important to achieve a certain level of success but without ultimate service and welcoming atmosphere, it has no meaning to run the bar.
Your biggest piece of advice for bartenders
Bartending is not just a job, you have to take it as lifestyle, way of life completely devoted to it. There are no working hours, because it takes more than make just few drinks. I want to see people happy, I want to see them coming back. As one of my great friends and ex-colleague says: Always mix with the style and don’t forget to smile ☺
You spent 2 weeks living at Batu Batu – how can you describe this experience and what were your most memorable moments with us?
Natural. Simple. Beautiful.
These words pretty much sum up this unspoiled paradise island where we spent three weeks helping with the beverage program for the resort. Beside some work we had a chance to experience spectacular diving, snorkelling, kayaking, paddle boarding or jungle trekking. We were mesmerised by its beauty from the first moment we got off the boat. Be ready for very warm welcome. As we were walking towards the reception, we quickly realized we ended up on paradise island. Steep jungle clad slopes embracing the powdery white beach from behind while land meets water in smooth ripple of soft sand and gently lapping waves. When we spent the first few nights in ocean villa, the view from the balcony just took our breath away. All the villas are made in natural rustic style what creates very unique atmosphere in this island. We couldn’t believe we were just 3 hours drive from Singapore.
We enjoyed every moment and felt privileged to share our passion for hospitality with Batu Batu Team. The staff are friendly and always happy to learn something new, there is no better feeling than being able to motivate people. Creating a more complex food and beverage program can be challenging due to relying on supplies from the main land but that is part of island life and the staff deal with it with a smile on their faces.
The clear blue ocean, white sandy beaches and beautiful offshore coral reefs meant we were happy for the whole visit. One of the highlights was the sunset at the beach bar. We went every evening to see it. The atmosphere of "cocktail hour" with the most beautiful view is purely priceless. Even after dark, a night stroll around the jetty gave us the chance to spot turtles, hunting squids and a white tip shark. When we looked up, we saw the most amazing stargazing milky way. Ah, and I forgot to mention the amount of fresh coconuts all around us. Someone would climb the tree everyday to get some for us :)
You can follow Rusty and Zuzana’s story at www.theliquidjourney.com and on Facebook and Instagram @theliquidjourney