This International Women’s Day, we present a special edition of Fashioning the Future, where we turn the spotlight on inspiring individuals who are forging their own paths in male-dominated environments and find out what keeps them going.

South Korean mixologist, Bannie Kang, counts winning the Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year in 2019 as her biggest achievement. Then head bartender at Anti:dote at Fairmont Singapore, Kang worked alongside her husband and head chef Tryson Quek to create mixologist-centric crafted drinks with a Korean spin and modern tapas with Asian influences.

Shortly after, the dynamic duo went on to open Mu, a fine dining restaurant with a speakeasy bar, in Taipei in March 2020. There, they received various nominations and awards, including a Michelin Plate distinction; Kang also bagged the Mancino Bartenders’ Bartender Award at Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2021. Following internal issues and a change in their business partners’ vision and direction, the couple made the decision to discontinue their business and moved back to Singapore in September last year. Side Door, their own private dining concept, was born two months later.

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IWD Bannie Kang
Sweater, Loro Piana. Sneakers, Fila. Jeans; ring, Kang’s own.

Here, Kang chats with us about her humble beginnings and how she got into bartending, Side Door, as well as what inspires her.

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I’m Bannie Kang, an award-winning bartender and co-founder of Side Door, a private dining concept. I’m originally from South Korea.

How did you discover your passion for bartending and what do you love about it?

I moved to Singapore in June 2010 after graduating in 2009; I wanted to practice my English and gain some valuable overseas experience. I worked behind the scenes at Swissôtel The Stamford, wiping down and cleaning cutlery, and one day the department bar manager offered to transfer me to City Space bar (now SKAI bar). Most of the women bartenders there were a similar age to me, so I felt really comfortable. The opportunity to improve my English and learn some bartending skills changed my life.

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How did your home dining concept Side Door come about? What does the name ‘Side Door’ mean?

Side Door is a place to celebrate everything my husband and I hold dear. It’s where great food, great company and great stories are taken to another level of sophistication. Curated cocktails paired with comfort food not only bring people together, but it’s also inspired the very essence of Side Door—a venue to share meals and stories around a table with friends and family. Side Door’s name also means a chance to get what is not right back on track.

In your opinion, what key qualities are important in succeeding as a woman in bartending?

A bartending career will never be easy, but it’s important to stay focused, positive, and humble. Never stop moving, even if in the wrong direction. Key qualities are self-awareness, self-improvement, and self-motivation.

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IWD Bannie Kang
Blazer, Longchamp. T-shirt, stylist’s own. Ear cuff; necklace; ring, Kang’s own.

How does your work positively impact Singaporean women and/or women of the world?

I strongly believe that bartending is a craft. As long as I stay passionate about this craft it will impact others. There’s hope and future in bartending; I would love to help the next generation of bartenders.

What inspires you?

I’m always inspired by this quote “less thinking and more doing”.

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If you could have dinner with three inspirational women, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Mother Teresa, Florence Nightingale, and Oprah Winfrey. These women never stopped helping, giving and encouraging people.

Photographer: Wee Khim
Stylist: Gracia Phang
Digital Editor: Gloria Tso
Digital Content Manager: Navin Pillay
Producer: Cindy Ow
Video Camera Operator: Lawrence Teo
Hair: Karol Soh using Keune Haircosmetics
Makeup: Manisa Tan using YSL Beauty
Stylist’s Assistant: Isabella Low