Sufian Mahmoud - Head Bartender
“At first the Chefs were saying, ‘What are you doing in my space?’ But now they’re asking, ‘What are you making?’ and we’re sharing ideas for cocktail-pairing menus.”
After completing National Service in his native Singapore, Sufian spent five years as a firefighter. He thought it would help him transition from being a “playful guy” to a responsible adult. But his playful side won out and he made a dramatic career change to indulge his fascination with mixology.
A critical moment in this decision was when he saw a bartender friend making flaming cocktails. Sufian was “blown away” not only by the creative use of fire but by the scent of different ingredients, interaction with guests, the music and fun, buzzing ambience. Fast-forward 10 years and Sufian is now head bartender at Sundara, having moved to Bali with his wife and learned to balance his playful and responsible sides as a father of two.
Taking a unique culinary-approach to cocktail-making, his ethos is ‘minimum waste, maximum flavour’. For Sufian, sustainability is not just banning plastic straws – which has been in place at Four Seasons Resorts Bali for years as part of an extensive conservation program. He goes back to ground zero and begins with how ingredients are sourced, packaged, stored and used.
He hand-picks botanicals, herbs and fruits from the resort gardens, works with like-minded partners and has introduced new standard operating procedures for the bar team at Sundara to reduce wastage – even minimising ice cubes for shaken-style cocktails. He has created a dozen ‘Zero Waste’ cocktails for Sundara’s menu such as Made’s Margarita which uses every part of a local Kintamani orange. Any rind, flesh or juice left over goes to the kitchen where Sufian spends hours each week personally cooking and perfecting ingredients for his cocktails.
Beyond Sundara, Sufian has taken a leading role in Bali’s beverage industry, sharing his sustainable bartending guidelines with peers from other hotels, bars and restaurants at industry events such as the ‘Say Yes To Less’ workshop in 2019.
Above all, he loves getting to know guests and describes his signature style as creating something on a whim, a bespoke drink personalised for a guest. “I like it when guests say, ‘Surprise me’”, he says. “I enjoy the challenge and interaction.”