Nikka Perfect Serve 2023 Singapore & Malaysia Crowns Erika Danielle Champion

Erika Danielle of Cat Bite Club was crowned the regional champion of the Nikka Perfect Serve for Singapore & Malaysia making her the first contestant from the region to win the prestigious title. The event hosted at Sugarhall by La Maison Du Whisky saw 10 contestants picked from various entries with 5 bartenders from Malaysia and 5 from Singapore selected.

Nikka Perfect Serve Singapore & Malaysia Regional Finals

The Nikka Perfect Serve competition is based on the ichi-go ichi-e principal, where every meeting is a once in a lifetime occurrence and will never be repeated, even with the same people in the same situation, reminding us to be present and live in the moment. Contestants had to make 3 cocktails, with 2 alcoholic and 1 non-alcoholic “Other Half” to be paired with a chaser from the Nikka range. Each contestant was assigned a random number with a random scenario, testing not only their cocktail making prowess, but also their ability to think on their feet with difficult and quirky customers.

“We were pleased with the first edition of the Nikka Perfect Serve Singapore and Malaysia – our first in Asia. Erika perfectly reflected the idea that the perfect serve begins the moment a guest opens the bar door. It’s that concept of ichi-go, ichi-e – one moment, one encounter – that elevated her over the other contestants. Every encounter is unique and can never be repeated, so we must give our very best at all times.” — Daichi Kagawa, Nikka Representative.

Nikka Perfect Serve Singapore & Malaysia Judging Panel

The 3 judges for this competition include veteran bartender Hayden Lambert of Above Board Melbourne, celebrated chef Johanne Siy of Lolla Singapore and food journalist Nicholas Ng of Food For Thought.

Nikka Perfect Serve Singapore & Malaysia Winner: Erika Danielle of Cat Bite Club

For Erika’s omakase round, the judges came in as cat fans who mistakenly went into the bar thinking its a cat cafe, so the drinks ordered were based around this. Erika created a Brandy Alexander inspired Coconaughty and a Berry Highball, with her Other Half cocktail, the Winter in Hokkaido, a barley horchata with lime zest and yoghurt playing a part.

“The ‘Coconaughty’ consisted of 10 millilitres of honey and 20 millilitres of coconut milk, as those were the ingredients available behind the bar. Additionally, a small amount of cream was added to enhance the texture and creaminess of the drink. The inclusion of coffee grounds was intentional, as they contribute a pronounced spiciness, fruity undertones, and subtle notes of vanilla.”

“For my ‘Winter in Hokkaido’ ‘Other Half’, the lady [Johanne Siy] asked for a non-alcoholic drink with alcohol served on the side. I described it as a horchata-based beverage with lime-zested yoghurt and spiced apple syrup, all of which I prepared at home. This horchata is a bit unique as I opted to use barley instead of the traditional tiger pine nuts utilised by South Americans. My reasoning behind this choice was its compatibility with the Nikka Coffey Malt, which offers a mellow, gentle profile featuring prominent vanilla and prune fruit notes. This flavour profile pairs seamlessly with creaminess, and combining these elements separately created an intriguing mouthfeel experience.”

“The third request was for a long drink so I instantly thought of a highball; it’s such an easy drink. I also considered various ways to add an interesting twist, but my options were quite limited by the available bar ingredients. However, limitations are the essence of the challenge, and that’s what makes it beautiful. I inquired about using berries, and he suggested blackcurrant. I agreed and thought, ‘Okay, cool, we’ll work with blackcurrant. It’s summer, and why not, berry highball with Nikka Days. Nikka Days sounds very summery, even the packaging for it is very bright. So I just want to really highlight how bright this whisky is. So, I put it in that highball.

Nikka Perfect Serve Global Finals

Erika Danielle will now go on to compete against 15 other regional winners for the Nikka Perfect Serve 2023 Global Finals in San Franciso in December. The global winner and runner-up of the competition will receive a grand prize of a trip to Japan to visit the bar scene as well as a tour of Nikka distilleries Yoichi and Miyagikyo.

| PHOTOGRAPHY: LA MAISON DU WHISKY | WEBSITE: NIKKA DISTILLERY |

Nicholas Ng

Nicholas Ng is a restaurant critic and drinks writer and is the editor of independent publication Food For Thought. He has been a freelance journalist for the 15 years and has previously worked as a lawyer and in digital marketing. He currently is the Principal Consultant of A Thought Full Consultancy, a food and beverage marketing consultancy.

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