After five grueling challenges over two days of competition, Jay Khan, owner of COA in Hong Kong, is crowned the first ultimate Bartender of the Year by the Restaurant, Pub and Bar Asia Bartender Invitational 2018.

Singapore, 25 July 2018 – The inaugural Restaurant, Pub and Bar Asia Bartender Invitational came to a close last week and Hong Kong’s Jay Khan was crowned the ultimate Bartender of the Year 2018. The winner of Bartender of the Year award during the recent The Bar Awards Hong Kong, Jay competed against his peers from Kuala Lumpur, Macau and Singapore to come out top.

The RPB Bartender Invitational is organised by event company Fun Size, the same people behind The Bar Awards across Asia. This inaugural event brought bartenders together for unity, friendship and inspiration in friendly competition under the values of bartending and hospitality. “We’re very proud of all of our competitors. The best thing for us is the new friendships that was made during the week,” commented Tron Young, Operations Director of Fun Size. “Seeing all the judges and bartenders go out after the competition and becoming close friends, it is what we wanted to achieve.”


The four winners of The Bar Awards Bartender of the Year title were invited to come to Singapore and compete over five challenges. Each of these bartenders are allowed to pick one team mate as their “barback” from their home city. These barbacks or their establishments have also won an award during The Bar Awards in their city.


Team Hong Kong

  • Jay Khan of COA and Hong Kong’s Bartender of the Year 2018
  • Lam Ka Tsun “KT” of Zuma, winners of the Best Restaurant Bar award in 2018

Team Kuala Lumpur

  • Kho Chee Kheong “CK” of Coley and Pahit and Kuala Lumpur’s Bartender of the Year in 2017
  • Joshua Ivanovic of JungleBird, the winner of the Best New Bar award in 2017

Team Macau

  • Nikita Matveev of Vida Rica, Mandarin Oriental Macau and Macau’s Bartender of the Year in 2018
  • Koco Widyatno of The Ritz-Carlton Bar and Lounge, Macau’s Bar of the Year 2018

Team Singapore

  • Vijay Mudaliar of Native and Singapore’s Bartender of the Year winner in 2017
  • Steve Schneider of Employees Only Singapore, the winner of the Best Hospitality Team award in 2017


Part of the RPB Bartender Invitational’s mission is to be as objective as possible, thus each city is also represented on the judging panel.

Kuala Lumpur

  • Alvin Lim, a member of The Panel for The Bar Awards Kuala Lumpur and owner of Taps Beer Bar across Kuala Lumpur


  • Natasha Hong, a member of the Lead Panel for The Bar Awards Singapore and a freelance hospitality writer


  • Bruno Santos, a member of The Panel for The Bar Awards Macau and owner of Antica Trattoria

Hong Kong

  • Tomi Ho, a member of the Lead Panel for The Bar Awards Hong Kong and owner of Journey Concepts


The five challenges that would highlight the different aspects of being the ultimate Bartender of the Year are…

  • Bar Theory Challenge
  • Classic Cocktail Challenge
  • Pop Up Challenge
  • Masterclass Challenge
  • Cocktail Party Challenge


Each bartender had to sit a written exam at 9am on the first day of the competition. This exam was made up for 50 questions to tally to 100 points. The bartenders were scored on their results and also lost points if they were late to the exam.

The Bar Theory Challenge is designed to test their responsibility as well as their general knowledge for the hospitality and f&b industry.


During the Classic Cocktail Challenge, each team had to make three cocktails randomly chosen by the judges. The judges would then assess each team based on everything they can see and taste. Each team also needs to submit their recipes for the classic cocktail to the other teams to verify the correct ingredients and proportions.

This challenge is designed to test their knowledge of classic drinks, interaction with the judges and their teammate, and making cocktails under pressure.


The teams are tasked with organising and managing their own pop up event or guest shift at a bar in Singapore. The judges will then visit each team and once again assessing everything they can see (eg. hospitality towards guests, interaction with the host venue, drink making and such). The venue hosts will also assess them before, during and after their shift based on their entire experience with the teams (eg. marketing, organisation, preparation, business sense and such).

This is one of the real time challenges where each team gets to interact with real guests and meet or exceed that expectation.


Each of the Bartender of the Year competitors are tasked to give a masterclass or demonstration to the audience at RPB. Each judge would evaluate them on their passing of knowledge and also their showmanship. Barbacks are also asked to assess each masterclass.

This challenge tests their ability to teach, pass knowledge, and to inspire others.


All four teams are behind the bar in one venue and guests are invited to join in the cocktail party. Much like the pop up challenge each team must manage their own bar and liaise with the venue. Also like the pop up, the judges and host venue assesses them. The consumers also have a chance to vote for their favourite team.

This is a challenge designed to test every single aspect of being a great bartender – the skills to keep up with the demand, hospitality, responsibility, and teamwork.


Bar Theory Award presented by Nusa Cana

Winner – Kuala Lumpur

Classic Cocktail Award presented by Hendrick’s Gin

Winner – Hong Kong

Pop Up Award presented by The Botanist

Winner – Singapore

Masterclass Award presented by Beluga

Winner – Hong Kong

Cocktail Party Award presented by Monin

Winner – Singapore

Best Barback presented by Monin

Winner – Joshua Ivanovic (Kuala Lumpur)

Best Bar Team presented by Mount Gay

Winner – Singapore

Bartender of the Year presented by RPB

Winner – Jay Khan (Hong Kong)