Know your bartender: Keith Motsi at Equis

The UK native talks his most hated drink and where he heads when off-duty

Expert mixologist and UK native Keith Motsi has been crafting cocktails of the finest kind since 2007. For the last couple years he’s called Beijing home, serving as head bartender at the Four Seasons' signature bar Equis, recently named Best Hotel Bar in China 2018 by Drink Magazine Asia. Now leaving Beijing to head up Charles H at Four Seasons Seoul, we caught up with the rising star to find out exactly where he likes to drink when he’s off-duty – as well as his most hated drink.

How did you get into bartending?
Like most of us in the UK, it started out simply as a weekend pastime and way to earn my own pocket money. The more time I spent in bars, however, the more I fell in love with providing the very best hospitality to every guest I encountered.

What's the hardest thing about crafting a new cocktail?
Crafting becomes easier the more research you do, so always know your product. It’s only tricky when you’re in a new environment without the product or ingredients you’re accustomed to, particularly as palates differ from person to person and place to place.

What’s one bit of advice you’d give to cocktail newbies when ordering cocktails?
Know your palate. Bartenders aren’t psychics; if you don’t know what you like – whether it’s sour, sweet, strong, fruity etc – then we definitely won’t have a clue either. When you’re paying good money for a cocktail, don’t leave anything to chance. Classic cocktails are just that for a reason, so I always suggest start there – you can instantly tell how good a bar is by how well they execute their classics. Some places will have their house signatures as the main focus, but for me, classics should always be executed to the highest of standards.

In regards to service and hospitality, as a general rule of thumb how the host (whether it’s the bartender or service staff) in any venue welcomes you has an impact on your taste buds. We’re there to sell you a service, so that’s one of the first parts of knowing how good your cocktail experience will be. Ambience, hygiene and grooming are all part of the cocktail experience – never trust an establishment that doesn’t pay serious attention to detail to those particular areas.

Besides Equis, where else do you like to drink in Beijing?
Usually, I’ll make a decision depending on the night ahead. Nali Patio is great for enjoying different experiences in one building without having to crawl about too much. Pickering’s, The Black Moth, Moonshine, Janes & Hooch, Scandal, Infusion Room, D Lounge, Atmosphere (always worth going high up to try some of Dicky [Hartono]’s concoctions) and Migas Mercado are all great options. Also, The Vending Machine, which is a very cool and forward-thinking concept, plus Stir, a sweet neighbourhood spot near us. For me, it’s not only about the drinks, it’s about the whole experience.

What’s the one drink you like making the least?
I’m always happy to shake and stir any drinks that come my way. If I had to choose though, probably a Ramos Gin Fizz. I’m not a big fan of dairy-citrus mixes and it always tastes different (terrible) from place to place. Actually, I despise the drink. Feel free to come in and order it – I’ll certainly make sure it’s made to the utmost of my abilities – but you will have to do an OFTD [Plantation rum] shot on the side.

Equis

An extraordinary playground for the rich and vibrant

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48 Liangmaqiao Lu (Chaoyang, Chaoyang)

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