MONIN SPOTLIGHT: Karl Too

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Former Diageo Reserve World Class’ Southeast Asian competitor, Karl Too, is already well-known as the co-owner and bartender of Kuala Lumpur’s award-winning speakeasy, Omakase + Appreciate. His latest venture, in collaboration with the cafe VCR, is a cafe bar named Happy Stan. Nestled in a colonial building-turned-restaurant haven located in Damansara Heights, Malaysia, Happy Stan hit the ground running by swiftly earning a nomination for the 2020 Spirited Awards’ Best New International Cocktail Bar. Specialising in coffee cocktails, its namesake is a tribute to travel writer Stanton Delaplane, known for introducing Irish Coffee to the United States.

As Happy Stan’s owner, creative director, and bartender, Too’s favourite part of the job is meeting new people, despite his introverted nature: “I’m driven by challenge, and my profession makes demands on my introversion.” With 13 years’ worth of experience under his belt, Too’s bartending philosophy is fuelled by his innate and constant curiosity – which drives him to learn, do, and be more. Hospitality and humility are his core principles, and this is clearly evidenced through his proudest achievement: “Honestly, I’m proudest when I’m able to make my customers happy.”

 

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and how did you overcome them?

One of the challenges for me was garnering customer loyalty, but I managed to overcome it by being hospitable in the way I serve and treat my guests.

 

How did you come up with the idea behind Omakase + Appreciate?

In the beginning, Shawn [Choong] – the co-founder of Omakase + Appreciate – and I just wanted a space to create cocktails and spread our love for them. We started it in hopes of getting people to appreciate cocktails more. We figured: what better way to do so than through fusing bartending skills from Eastern and Western philosophies? 

 

What’s the concept behind Happy Stan, and why choose Irish coffee in particular as a focal drink?

Happy Stan was started based on the original concept of a cafe bar. Irish coffee was our drink of choice because, like our establishment, it seamlessly bridges the gap between coffee and spirits. To me, it’s a concept that can be channelled into a platform to encourage both baristas and bartenders to learn from one another, explore ways to collaborate, and appreciate each other’s professions.

 

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How did you feel winning the Bar Manager of the Year 2019?

Pretty good. I like winning stuff. Didn’t even pay off any of the judges.

Tell us a little bit about Bulletin Place.
Bulletin Place is a tiny little bar opened by three best mates – Tim, Rob and Adi – who pooled their life savings into opening one of the greatest bars the world has ever seen. Initially, it was an enunciation of what these owners loved about bars: great service, nice ice, cold glasses, fresh produce – without the fluff, so you’re made to feel like a guest in someone’s home. Now in 2020, Bulletin Place is the most creative bar in the country. From changing its menu everyday to working directly with growers, it champions everything that makes Australia great.