To some, bartending is a career. To Sasha Wijidessa, it is a calling. The third of four children, Sasha bucked her parents’ expectations of a career in the pharmaceutical industry, choosing instead the rigours and joys of bartending.
Formerly a waitress at Oxwell and Co, she was headhunted by her mentor—Luke Whearty—founder of award-winning cocktail bar, Operation Dagger. The young talent turned her innate artistry—and her diploma in pharmaceutical science—towards her newfound passion, creating a menu of natural wines through her knowledge of distillation.
Now a veteran of the craft, Sasha dreams of having her own space to create cocktails that fuel new connections, and straddle the boundaries of art and science.
Despite her talent, Sasha’s growth as a bartender was hard-earned. “I would wake up at 7.30 in the morning, intern at a dental clinic until 6.30pm, and then head to Dagger where work would end at 3am,” she shares. “I was a bar back for nine months because I was really shy.”
To Sasha, these rigours pay off in a heady blend of creativity and connection. “I’ve a few regular customers who’ve become friends of my own, and I feel like we’ve been on a journey. Being able to put inspiration into a drink, and then sharing that with someone from the States, or Europe, or China? It’s indescribable.”
From buzzing nightlife spaces to bars serving up exquisitely-crafted cocktails, Sasha invites you on a journey that merges the rigours of craft with the joys of newly-forged connections.
More than just a buzzing nightlife district, Ann Siang Hill is home to Operation Dagger and Oxwell & Co, bars where Sasha first learned her craft. “The bartenders I look up to have always been the ones I’ve worked with. Luke, his wife Aki [founders of Operation Dagger] and Yi Jun will always be my mentors, no matter what paths we take down the road.”
Inspired by the literature of Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man is a bar along Keong Saik Road that serves Sasha’s favourite cocktail. “Death in the Afternoon is both classic and very easy drinking. It’s not just the drink you make but the service you give, and The Old Man delivers both.”
When it comes to cocktail ideas, Sasha is inspired by the new and nostalgic dishes at The Coconut Club, from fusion fare to the nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk, served with an array of side dishes) and chendol (shaved ice dessert). “The Coconut Club is very traditional,” she says. “Their dishes are what you’d find in hawker centres, which are unique to Singapore.”
Besides bars, Singapore is also home to a wealth of dance clubs. “Kilo Lounge is cool because of its music, iconic graffiti and good vibes,” Sasha shares. “It’s gritty, raw and has tons of energy on the dance floor, with some of the best music acts in town.”
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