A Christmas Miracle In A Glass: Try Mixologist Shelley Tai’s Festive ‘Winter Spiced G&T’

For mixologist Shelley Tai’s family, one libation always makes an appearance at Christmas: “Mulled wine is something we have to make every year. Even when I was a kid, we had a non-alcoholic version that we made with Ribena [a blackcurrant-flavored soft drink],” laughs Tai.

The appeal of a beautifully crafted drink left its mark on Tai. Today, the 32-year-old is a rising star in Asia’s bar scene, having worked for not one but two of the world’s best bars. And in 2019, the Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau competition crowned her “Bartender of the Year”.

“I don’t really have a formula,” says Tai, when asked about how she’s managed to find success in such a hyper-competitive industry. “My inspiration is all around me – what I see, eat, and feel.”

How To Winter Spiced G&T By: Shelley Tai (@kankantai)

The Hong Kong native got her start in the hospitality industry in 2010 as a food runner, eventually gravitating behind the bar as a bartender’s assistant. Over the years, she earned her stripes on the city’s F&B scene, landing bartender roles at respected establishments, such as Nordic fine-dining restaurant FINDS and late-night party lounge Drop. However, it wasn’t until she joined Quinary – an award-winning bar known for its molecular mixology – in 2017 that the rookie bartender came into her own.

“The team at Quinary helped to shape the style that I’ve developed today,” asserts Tai. “It’s recognized as one of the 50 Best Bars in the world. I learned so much about technique and flavor in my three years there.”

Working alongside master mixologist Antonio Lai – the 2015 Diageo World Class Hong Kong & Macau Champion – Tai crafted multisensory experiences by harnessing next-generation culinary techniques like rotary evaporation, centrifugation, freeze-dehydration, and sous vide. She learned to hone her senses and draw from personal experience to develop new recipes.

Case in point: On a trip to Tennessee, Tai took a tour of a bourbon distillery that inspired one of her first creations for Quinary. “I noticed that they stored the whiskey in a cask that had been used to age Tabasco, and I just loved the flavors together,” she explains. “So I went back to Hong Kong and came up with a drink using whiskey and distilled hot sauce”

Named “Big Spice in Little China”, the heady mix featured Michter’s bourbon, Fernet, milk, and a specially prepared Tabasco syrup, sweetened with a dash of Ovaltine for balance. Ambitious, memorable, and – most critically – delicious, the drink can still be found on Quinary’s regular menu.

In 2020, Tai reached a new professional milestone when she relocated to Singapore to head up Nutmeg & Clove, an artisanal cocktail lounge and kitchen that’s also ranked among the 50 Best Bars in Asia and the world. These days, she’s kept busy researching and developing new recipes inspired by Singaporean culture and history. But no matter how content she feels in the Lion City, Tai says there’s no place like home for the holidays – particularly in her family.

“My mom’s birthday is actually on Christmas Eve, so we really like celebrating! We put up decorations, get a tree, have a big feast, and just veg out the whole holiday season,” says Tai.

As a self-described Christmas fanatic, Tai reaches for winter spices – think nutmeg, star anise and cloves – and berries when making seasonal cocktails. She’s also picky about what she serves her libations in, too.

“I think glassware is extremely important; it changes the vibe of a drink entirely,” says Tai, adding that BOMSHBEE Chandelier Glassware collection fits the bill when it comes to elegant, festive presentations. “It has this very Christmas-y feel to it; it’s elegant, and holds just the right amount for a generous scoop of holiday punch.”

Looking for something irresistible to dish out to guests this Christmas? Try this recipe for a Winter Spiced G&T, a seasonal favorite of Tai’s (after mulled Ribena, that is.)

Winter Spiced G&T


Spiced G&T

  • 45ml London dry gin
  • 20ml spiced syrup
  • 20ml pink grapefruit juice
  • 10ml lemon juice
  • Tonic water

Spiced Syrup

  • 200ml water
  • 200g sugar
  • 2-3 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole cloves


To make spiced syrup:

  1. In a saucepan, bring all ingredients except sugar to a light simmer until spices release their aromas.
  2. Add sugar and stir to dissolve.
  3. Set aside and let cool.

To make spiced G&T:

  1. Add gin, syrup, lemon juice, pink grapefruit juice and ice into a shaker.
  2. Mix well, then strain into a BOMSHBEE Chandelier Kalos glass.
  3. Top with tonic water, and garnish with berries.

Baking On The Rise: Celebrity Pastry Chef Vinesh Johny Shares His Go-To Babka Recipe

When Bangalore, India, went into lockdown in 2020, Vinesh Johny was grateful for the break at first.

Johny is the co-founder of Lavonne Academy of Baking Science & Pastry Arts, India’s first specialized international baking institute. As the school’s executive pastry chef and one of Asia’s most recognized talents, his hectic schedule is usually jam-packed with classes, meetings and engagements.

He used the downtime to run kitchen experiments with his wife, Joonie, who is also a professional baker. As the weeks dragged on, however, he began to worry.  “That’s when it started to get a little scary,” he admits. “We still had to pay the bills, so we had to think about how we would move forward during the pandemic. That’s when we started to explore live online baking workshops.”

Since it was Lavonne Academy’s first-ever virtual class, Johny expected only a handful of people to join. He was shocked by the explosion of inquiries: “We had over a thousand people inquiring about 20 seats. We heard from students from across India as well as people willing to wake up in the middle of the night in places like the United States, Canada and Australia just to be part of our baking classes.”

In hindsight, he’s not surprised. Baking spread like wildfire during the pandemic and, in many places, basic ingredients like flour and yeast flew off the shelves. The sudden enthusiasm makes sense, says Johny.

“As humans, we love eating and feeding others,” he explains. “With no work or social life, no dining out or partying, no sport or extracurriculars… we all looked for ways to nourish ourselves, whether it was through a creative pursuit or just eating more sugar and butter!”

In the next four months, Lavonne Academy trained over 14,000 students online and Johny released a new cookbook, New-School Sweets: Old-School Pastries with an Insanely Delicious Twist, with American pastry chef Andres Lara earlier this year. 

“We conceptualized the book as a modern-day cafe, with aspirational desserts for amateur bakers. We wanted to help people level up their baking game.”

For anyone keen to improve their home baking repertoire, Johny says that one of his favorite – and deceptively simple – recipes is babka, a sweet braided bread that originated in Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

“Although it looks very technical and difficult to bake, it’s actually quite easy,” he says. “Follow my recipe to the T, and you can’t go wrong with it!”

The Recipe: Caramel Babka
Dinnerware: BOMSHBEE’s Tinge Clay



  • 2 cups + 1¼ tbsp (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp + 2½ teaspoons (25 g) granulated sugar
  • 1½ tbsp (13.5 g) fresh yeast
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) butter
  • 1 egg, whole
  • ½ cup + 2 tsp (130 g) water
  • 1 tsp (7 g) salt

Milk Chocolate Caramel

  • ¼ cup (55 g) granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp (10 g) honey
  • ⅓ cup + 1½ tbsp (100 g) heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp (30 g) butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup + 1 tbsp (60 g) milk chocolate
  • ½ tsp (2.5 g) sea salt

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • ½ cup + 1 ½ tbsp (90 g) dark chocolate 
  • ⅓ cup + 1 ½ tbsp (90 g) heavy cream              
  • ¾ tsp (5 g) corn syrup
  • 2 tsp (10 g) butter                                    

Topping (optional)      

⅓ cup (30 g) almond flakes


The Dough

  1. Mix the dough ingredients in a stand mixer or bowl. Knead dough for 8 minutes at medium speed, or until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl.
  2. Perform a “window-pane” test. Take a small, flattened piece of dough, and gently spread it apart. If the dough forms a thin, translucent membrane without tearing, then the gluten is perfectly developed. If a clear “window” doesn’t form, keep for another minute or two and check again. Make sure that the dough temperature stays between 68-75ºF for optimal flavor and rise.
  3. Once ready, remove the dough and shape into a smooth mound.
  4. Place in a bowl dusted with flour, cover with cling wrap, and rest at room temperature for one hour.
  5. Once the dough has risen, firmly press or punch the dough to distribute air bubbles.
  6. Place dough on a flour-dusted surface. Roll into a 8 x 6 in rectangle, about 2/5 inch thick.
  7. Transfer to a tray, cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate for later.

The Caremel

  1. For the caramel, start by combining honey and cream in a saucepan.
  2. In a separate saucepan, heat sugar and stir continuously until it caramelizes to a deep amber color. Add softened butter to help deglaze.
  3. Add the warmed honey-cream mixture to the caramelized sugar, and stir until combined.
  4. Pour caramel mixture into a bowl with chopped milk chocolate so they melt.
  5. Add sea salt, then mix using a hand blender, if possible, to create a smooth emulsion.
  6. Refrigerate for 2 hours for best consistency.

The Ganache

  1. For the ganache, bring corn syrup and cream to a simmer in a saucepan.
  2. Pour into a bowl with chopped dark chocolate, so that it melts.
  3. Mix well and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Add remaining butter, and use a hand blender if available to produce a smooth ganache.

Put it all together

  1. To assemble, spread a layer of ganache onto the dough, leaving about an inch from the edges.
  2. Pour caramel into a piping bag, then drizzle all over the ganache.
  3. Roll the dough along its longer side into a log. Wrap in cling wrap and freeze for an hour so that the dough is firmer.
  4. Use a small, sharp knife to cut along the centre of the log lengthwise, so we get two long halves with the layers exposed.
  5. Twist the halves together to form a braid, and place into a loaf tin greased with butter.
  6. To proof the dough (which activates the yeast), leave in a bread fermentation box at 80°F and 60% humidity, or place in a switched-off oven with a bowl of hot water for about 2 hours. You’ll know it’s just right when the dough has doubled in size.
  7. As an optional add-on, soak some almond flakes in a bowl of water to prep for baking.
  8. Once the dough has been proofed, brush a layer of milk over the surface and sprinkle with moist almond flakes.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 392°F for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown.
  10. Serve warm or at room temperature.