jay khan

Jay Khan: Agave Activist

06 July, 2021

Jay Khan is hot property in Asia’s bar scene right now. His agave-focused bar, Coa, is number one in Asia’s 50 Best Bars and he was voted Bartenders’ Bartender in 2020. But a humble job on the  floor of Hong Kong’s Hard Rock Cafe was where Khan’s career in hospitality began.

“I joined because my school friends said the tips were good, but I couldn’t believe how hard it was. I was given a manual to study and I had to memorise all the food and drink on the menu, I was clueless,” says Khan.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Khan’s Pakistani heritage gave him a point of difference which landed him a role in a karaoke bar, and a er working a few other bar jobs Khan was becoming capable.

He then took a risk and spent a year in Melbourne, working in some more advanced venues, one of which sat directly opposite former 50 Best Bar Black Pearl.

“I used to go over a er my shift and observe how the bartenders interacted with their guests and ask about the drinks they were making. It changed my perception a lot.”

After returning to Hong Kong, Khan got a big break as a member of the opening team for Lily & Bloom, one of the first speakeasies in the city.

“It was so new and exciting to see people coming in just to drink cocktails and I’d say Lily & Bloom is a pioneer for the craft cocktail scene in Hong Kong.”

At that time Khan was into whisky and was head hunted to work in a new Macallan Bar in a big casino in Macau.

“I was young so I didn’t hesitate because I wanted to explore as much as I could. Working in Macau changed me a lot because it taught me all about working in management, but I turned down a role as beverage manager because a er two years I realised I was just getting further away from making drinks behind the bar.” 

It was during his time at Lily & Bloom that Khan first tried mezcal and tequila, because it wasn’t widely available in Hong Kong at the time.

“I remember being blown away by mezcal because it was like no other spirit I had ever tasted and a er returning from Macau I needed my next challenge, I was just so hungry to learn more. I was doing a lot of research into tequila and mezcal because I found it so interesting, but one day I decided to do it properly and just go to Mexico.”

Each time Khan returned he would be planning his next trip to Mexico and wherever he worked he would have his own line of agave spirits behind the bar. However, during a brand ambassadorial role with Rémy Cointreau he had time to get serious about opening his own place.

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