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Photo for: Ashish Sharma of Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur on how to run a successful bar


Ashish Sharma of Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur on how to run a successful bar

Meet Ashish Sharma, head bartender of the prestigious Trigona bar at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Can you tell us about your background and how you first got into drinks?

I started working with Four Seasons in Mumbai after my studies in 2014 and I have since had the chance to work in different Four Seasons properties around the world. I was selected to be part of the opening team for its Manhattan bar and that's where my journey as a bartender started.

Why did you want to work in the bar sector?

When I first started working in Manhattan it was so different to working in restaurants. The hustle, fun and craziness are some of the factors that make a bar a much more interesting place to work. Talking to people, sharing stories and making people happy is what I like to do and that is the biggest reason for wanting to have a career working in bars.

How did you progress into your current role?

I started as a banquet server in 2008 and then moved into restaurants, where I was promoted to restaurant supervisor. That’s when I had the chance to go to Manhattan as a bar supervisor where I developed my bartending skills and developed to become a head bartender. In 2016 I moved back to Mumbai as beverage manager and in 2018 I helped with the opening of Bar Trigona in Kuala Lumpur.

Bar Trigona Kuala Lumpur inside view

Bar Trigona Kuala Lumpur inside view

What is involved in your current role and your main tasks?

Developing people, training, menu development, bar profitability, marketing, and brand relations.

If you were given a bar programme and asked to grow sales where would you start and what steps would you to take?

Staff training and development, for me, is the most important. People are the biggest factor and reason for any successful business. The sales growth can be achieved very easily if you have knowledgeable and confident staff. Creating an individual development programme for each member of staff helps us focus on their development.

The other key factors to get right are brands support, menu engineering and creating an innovative list.

What questions would you ask of the owner to know what sort of drinks list to create?

The drinks menu should reflect the concept of the venue, there should always be a story behind everything you do. Remember "Story Selling" is a strong way to connect with your consumers and it helps to sell drinks more easily.

What do you most look for and want from drinks suppliers to help drive sales?

Any help they can give us in educating our staff and consumers is key. This is an area where some brands don’t get things right. Some are very industry-focused and others are more consumer-focused. We are looking for help with masterclasses and working with our guests. Brands should really spend their time and money on education.

Can you think of any good examples of partnerships with suppliers and drinks you have listed as a result? 

In Trigona we work with lots of brands and most of them are always supportive to all our initiatives like the ‘Adopt a Beehive’ or ‘Tree-volution programme’ where we pay a certain amount from each cocktail sold to local farmers to help their local communities.

Brands like Michter's, Diplomatico, Mancino, Eco Spirits & Bacardi always support us through better pricing, masterclasses, guest shifts or farm trips.

What does success look like for you from a drinks programme - what are the key ways to show success? 

Success for me is to have happy and motivated staff, profitability and awards come later. Our menu changes every six months with new drinks and ideas, and it is always better than the last one. Keeping the same guests coming back to Trigona and seeing lots of new ones also shows that we are on the right path. 

How have you devised the drinks programme in your venue - what are the key factors about the list that help the bottom line?

The Trigona cocktail menu is focused on local Malaysian products and educating ourselves and consumers about food waste. By using common everyday fruits or herbs we can create a drinks menu which shows our guests how they can also reduce their food waste when they are at home.

Then there are all the stories and inspiration that has gone into creating each drink on the menu. That is key to sell our drinks. We are able to provide and share lots of information about where the product comes from and who grows it. 

What do you focus on to be good in your role?

To be a good role model, a person who is connected with all their staff, and works hard to keep them motivated, listens to their problems and helps build them as individuals and team members. I also work hard to have good local business connections, to have good relationships with drinks brands and have a good understanding of our business needs.

What do you see as being the key skills and talents needed to be a good bartender? 

To be always open and willing to learn and never stop improving ourselves. Our job is all about constant learning.

International and Domestic Submission deadline is February 22. If you are looking to grow your brand in 2024, looking for product feedback, or looking to get in front of real trade buyers. It's time to enter your brands in the London Competitions. Here's how to enter, costs and benefits.

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