A New Highballer in Town: Kino Soh, Founder of Highball

A local entrepreneur, DIAGEO World Class Finalist of 2016 and owner of Highball Singapore, keep your eyes on the new highballer in town – Kino Soh. Highball serves up to 40 varieties of Highball (a cocktail with a base spirit to a larger part of mixer in a highball glass) and is lead by a strong united team of female bartenders. 

Kino came a long way from being a local female bartender to having her own bar, managed by a team of amazing female only team. In her line of work –  traditionally dominated by men – LadyBoss is giving her a shoutout for the recognition in her work.

Let’s hear her take on how she came about bartending and now starting up Highball. Well if you do hit it off with her at the bar, you might be lucky enough to try her off the menu drinks.

If it is a customer’s request like, make me something that taste like pizza then it will be a spur of the moment creation from my idea of what a pizza should taste like. You know, Thyme, cheese, tomatoes. It’s really fun.

Q: What were you doing before entrepreneurship? Tell us about your background and how it helps you with what you are doing now? 

I started bartending 7 years ago. The passion in bartending got ignited when I was bartending part time as a student. I started in a small bar serving  up beer and frozen margaritas but wanted to learn more so I moved on to a restaurant bar with an open kitchen and great cocktails.

Along the way I also met many mentor figures who were absolutely keen in sharing their knowledge. Another 3 years in Barstories (a no menu cocktail bar at Haji Lane) really brushed up my skills and gave me affirmation that this was what I wanted to do.

Then I met like minded friends and opened up my first pop up bar and one thing led to another. Now I run my own bar with an all female crew with the skills that I have picked up over the years.

Q: For those that may be unfamiliar, enlighten us what is ‘highball’?

A highball is a cocktail that consist of a base spirit and a larger part of mixer and is served in a glass by the same name.

Gin and Tonics, Rum and coke and even Bloody Marys are all examples of highball.

Q: Tell us about your bar, Highball. How long you’ve been doing it, and who your customers are? 

Highball is 5 months old now.

I am glad that we are a watering hole for the neighbourhood. Our guest that stays around the area normally pop in for a drink or two on their way home or after. We also have many guests that come from further away to enjoy a night out with friends or check our bar out after reading articles online.

They are a mix of great people, a very non specific crowd and everyday we look forward to meet new faces and make sure they have a good time in our bar.

After tasting and mixing a good number of drinks over the years, my taste preference went back to basic and its amazing how a simple highball ball can taste so good and fresh.

Q: What’s the idea behind Highball the bar. How did you first come up with the idea?  

Highballs have existed for the longest time. After tasting and mixing a good number of drinks over the years, my taste preference went back to basic and its amazing how a simple highball ball can taste so good and fresh.

I also had a lot of highballs in Japan and I thought to myself this could work in Singapore and since no one was doing a dedicated highball bar. I jumped right in to make it happen.

Q: What sparked your interest in craft cocktails? Tell us more about your inspiration behind your creations.

My second year into bartending, I was exposed to a craft cocktail environment. I didn’t specifically wanted to learn and make craft cocktails because the basics of cocktail is really classics but trends really do shape one’s learning.

The bar I was at and that specific few years, craft cocktails was all the rage. Fresh fruits, fresh juices, homemade syrups and many requested to be surprised by something new and interesting pushed me into improving myself in that aspect. If it’s a twist on classic cocktail, I normally choose ingredients that represented my heritage.

If it is a customer’s request like, make me something that taste like pizza then it will be a spur of the moment creation from my idea of what a pizza should taste like. You know, Thyme, cheese, tomatoes. It’s really fun.

Fruity would be great but it should look good too. After all I am a woman and I know something good looking just makes the experience so much better.

Q: From your observation, what are the favourite/ popular drinks amongst the ladies?

Although more ladies are coming to appreciate dark spirit forward cocktails but generally the trend is still preference for Vodka, Gin and rum.

Fruity would be great but it should look good too. After all I am a woman and I know something good looking just makes the experience so much better. With that I am not talking about ribbons, pegs and over the top garnishes which I occasionally indulge in but simple things but for example, our double frozen 45mm ice balls that makes the highballs look like different coloured lava lamps.

Q: What makes HighBall different from other bars we know?

Every bar is different for sure and will have their own following of guest that like them for who they are. I would say our price point is economical but our service is not compromised.

People run their bars differently and that results in gaining the preference of type of guest but the what I always tell the girls is that. Highball is like our home and we will strive to make a great host to all our guest without being over the top or underwhelming and forgettable.

Q: In terms of sales & marketing, how do you reach your customers, and what works?  

We are sharing content on social media platforms like instagram and facebook. We also try to make sure that we listed on directory platforms so when people search online for new places they will land a hit on us.

Q: Where do you see the future of Highball? Any plans in the near future?
I want Highball to be known and I do hope that we do really good so we can have more outlets and be accessible!

I also want Highball to become a brand that people are confident in because of our consistency and service.

Q: Tell us 1 takeaway from being the finalist in the Diageo World Class 2016. And how do you keep out of your comfort zone?

World Class competitions are very demanding and requires a lot of focus and commitment. Going that far in the competition gave me more confidence and taught me that results are a reflection of your efforts. 100%.

That’s why Highball is a all-girl crew. We want to make some noise and let the females know that there are avenues to get there.

Q: What do you have to say to females who are in or interested in this male-dominated industry?

First of all, Singapore’s bartending community is tight knit and really lovely. I believe that as a female bartender in Singapore, you won’t face a discrimination issue but if you do not try out this job you will never know the joys that you might miss out.

That’s why Highball is a all-girl crew. We want to make some noise and let the females know that there are avenues to get there.

Q: Tell us about your Number 1 business challenge?

Marketing is really not easy. As not all businesses have a huge marketing budget. At Highball, we are doing it ourselves and trying to execute something well while learning it is a challenge.

Q: As an entrepreneur, what motivates you personally?

The support of my family.

I want to succeed because despite years of being asked to find a day job, my mother supports me in the decision I have made. My late nights and lack of sleep still doesn’t roll with her but her Chicken essences, home cook meals just keeps me going.

Everyone in my family has their own lives but they will not hesitate to support me and that is something you cannot let down.

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