He may not be the “Dre” you’re familiar with from the hip-hop world, but this one is no less prolific in the world of F&B. Working his way up from dish kid, as is typical to hear when chronicling the journey of a made man in the mixology scene, Dré Masso now has more accolades than he could squeeze onto a bar shelf. From working in London’s lauded F&B institutions including The Atlantic Bar & Grill, Lab Bar and Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen to being “UK Bartender Of The Year” three times and opening two bars of his own, the PTT Family’s Director of Mixology has since found solace on the sun-kissed island of Bali. On a recent visit to Potato Head Folk to promote his second book, Classic Cocktails at Home, Masso gave us a master class on his journey so far.
Hey Dré! How long have you been involved mixology, and what made you want to start?
I started working in bars at the age of 15 collecting glasses and changing ashtrays. Through college, I worked in a cocktail bar, which got me interested in the world of mixology. I went in search of the best cocktail bars in London. A couple of years later I discovered The Atlantic Bar & Grill which changed my life.
What kinds of changes have you seen in the mixology scene since you started?
The Internet is definitely the biggest change. We can now share information around the world without having to move. Bartending is now considered a great career; it wasn’t when I started. There is now an abundance of great cocktail books, but only two when I had started. Customers are more far more cocktail savvy now. The selection of products has improved too.
Having worked in a number of iconic bars around the world, what finally spurred your move to Bali?
Bali is my spiritual home – a magical place. Indonesia has an abundance of fabulous indigenous ingredients and craftsmen. The F&B scene is exploding and I am working for a brilliant company that is a true pioneer in the industry.
Did moving to Bali have an impact on the types of cocktails you felt like creating?
Definitely. We have created a new cocktail category called Indo Exotika. We focus on indigenous flavours and champion the ‘root to flower’ philosophy where we utilise as much of an ingredient as possible to minimise waste. We also pay a lot of attention not only to the ingredients we use, but also the way we serve our drinks. Our cocktails are served in vessels handcrafted by local artisans and the community.
What prompted you to start putting together your book, Classic Cocktails at Home? Did you take a different approach compared to authoring Margarita Rocks?
I wrote Margarita Rocks in 2005, where a third party publishing house managed the project. With Classic Cocktails at Home, I set about writing and publishing the book myself and on my own terms. I also found that lots of friends and guests were asking me for easy-to-do cocktails. I took the photographs with a friend and co-designed the artwork. They are my preferred recipes. The book was printed in the back room of a small house in Bali.
Mixology isn’t something a lot of people feel confident about. Does Classic Cocktails require a steep learning curve, or can anyone start mixing?
Anyone can make these drinks! I made a point of keeping it simple, as it should be.
What’s one cocktail you’d always recommend first-timers try making?
I love the Mojito made in a jam jar. It’s a great starting point for anyone.
You’ve also recently created the mixology hub, Akademi. What inspired you to do that?
Akademi started off as an idea to have a training centre for our bar staff. We decided to turn that concept into a working bar for guests at Katamama hotel. We have a library of 100 cocktail and drink books, and we constantly experiment with and dissect the wonderful ingredients from across the Indonesian archipelago.
Do you feel that the mixology scene has begun to fizzle out at all?
I think the bars and bartending around the world are having a golden moment. South East Asia is now considered the most developing areas for mixed drinks. The Singapore bar scene is also highly respected worldwide.
You’ve been awarded “UK Bartender Of The Year” three times, you’ve got two books under your belt – where do you go from here?
I have opened my own bar (twice now) and that is a big dream for many bartenders. I have also helped to create and launch new spirit brands. I am sure I will write more books, open more of my own bars and help create more spirits if the right opportunities come along. For the next few years I hope to carry on developing concepts and bars with PTT Family. We have just opened Potato Head Hong Kong and will launch two more establishments in Indonesia in the next three months.
Classic Cocktails at Home is available now at all PTT Family outlets, including Potato Head Folk.