Competitive Bartender Pours Father's Wisdom Into Signature Drink : The Salt Bartender Ran Duan will represent the U.S. in a Bacardi international cocktail competition. His specialty? "Father's Advice," a stirred-not-shaken cocktail that's a testament to his hardworking dad.
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Competitive Bartender Pours Father's Wisdom Into Signature Drink

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Competitive Bartender Pours Father's Wisdom Into Signature Drink

Competitive Bartender Pours Father's Wisdom Into Signature Drink

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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We're going to end this hour with a drink made by a national champion.

RAN DUAN: Just a touch of creme de banane. A quarter-ounce is needed here. And now we just add ice and stir.

SIEGEL: The United States Bartenders' Guild has sent Ran Duan to represent the U.S. this week in an international cocktail competition in Sydney, Australia, the Bacardi Legacy Competition. Then he'll compete for world's most imaginative bartender later on in Europe. Ran Duan is from Woburn, Mass., where people line up outside of his family's Chinese restaurant to get a taste of his spirited concoctions. We caught up with him at Sichuan Garden restaurant at The Baldwin before he left for Sydney. Welcome to the program.

DUAN: How's it going, everybody? Thanks for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: OK. And the drink that you are presenting to the judges in Sydney is called Father's Advice. Why is it called that?

DUAN: It's called Father's Advice because I had a boy recently named Maxwell, and my father give me some advice. He said, the greatness of a man is not measured by his wealth, but by his integrity to love and his abilities to put someone else's needs before his. He then continued to say, this is why I've worked so hard for 28 years, to love someone unconditionally, to want to provide, to want the best for them. That is what fatherhood is about. That is what the American dream is about. So I kind of pretty much took that philosophy into the cocktail.

SIEGEL: (Laughter) That advice inspired the cocktail. What's in it?

DUAN: So we start off with one-and-a-half ounce of Bacardi Gold. Then we have Cardamaro, which is a cardoon-based amaro, which is a half-ounce. There's also a little Punt e Mes, which is a bittersweet vermouth - a half-ounce of that as well, followed by Amontillado sherry. Now, Amontillado sherry is a briny sherry, so this adds, depth, umami and savoriness to this cocktail. And then we finally just finish off with a touch of banana cordial, and all we do is just stir. Voila, there you go (laughter).

SIEGEL: My colleagues here have actually prepared a Father's Advice for me. They've served it with a toothpick with a - I guess it's a maraschino cherry and a little bit of...

DUAN: Orange.

SIEGEL: ...Orange peel, yeah. Well, I'm going to try, so cheers. Well, it's very good, and there's a lot of banana flavor in there.

DUAN: So I'm not sure how you guys mixed this. Just that touch of banana is really supposed to accentuate the rum, and that's the whole style of this cocktail. It's Italian amaro. It's a Puerto Rican rum. It has Italian fortified wines. So the whole point is it's a melting pot of spirits and modifiers from all around the world, kind of just like America, symbolizing unity.

SIEGEL: Well, as for how it was mixed it here, I can assure you that the intern who prepared this cocktail has been mixing drinks since two o'clock this afternoon. I mean, she's...

DUAN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: ...She's very experienced at it. She's done a good job. You know, Ran, your drink is stirred, not shaken and...

DUAN: It's stirred, yes.

SIEGEL: I'm wondering whether, in a drink mixing competition, whether that's the harder thing to do, because it's so much more dramatic and musical to be shaking a drink. You'd think that the visuals would work on the side of those.

DUAN: If you come to my bar, and you want Father's Advice shaken, I will shake it for you.


DUAN: But I personally prefer it stirred.


DUAN: But, you know, we could get in a whole conversation about technique and why we shake and stir. I don't want to bore (laughter) the audience with that, but I could ramble about it for hours (laughter).

SIEGEL: Everyone actually wants to know. When you said - everyone now here wants to know why - what the merits of stirring are as opposed to shaking.

DUAN: So typically in a bar, you only shake anything with citrus in it. The reason why is because it's to incorporates the acid and you aerate it, whereas the reason why you stir a Manhattan or a martini is because you want it kind of velvet, and you don't want to aerate it too much because you want it kind of silky. So if you shake versus if you stir, you really change the mouthfeel of the spirit. You can also bruise spirit. As well, it's easier to control dilution if you stir versus shake it.

SIEGEL: And you have to actually make this for the judges? Is that what happens during the competition?

DUAN: Yes. I will have nine minutes to present my cocktail, tell the story behind it, as well as execute and perform. Every day I've rehearsed, it's timed out to be about a four-minute speech, and then I end it with a little spiel about the American dream.

SIEGEL: Yeah, the American dream - your father, as I understand it, brought the family over. Was it from China or from Taiwan?

DUAN: From China, sir, from Sichuan province.

SIEGEL: From Sichuan province. And his ambitions were not to open a Chinese restaurant initially.

DUAN: Yes. His ambition was actually to sing opera. He actually had a scholarship to Louisiana State University for opera singing. And obviously it didn't really pan out, so we ended up moving to Boston. And we kind of did the stereotypical thing by opening a Chinese restaurant.

SIEGEL: Is your dad proud to be the inspiration for this drink?

DUAN: I think he is proud. I mean, I'm certainly proud of my dad. And, you know, most importantly, this cocktail really represents our family and our struggle. And I think that me being my age right now kind of - 28. I used to be a little more rebellious - turning the leaf and realizing that everything he's done for my family, I think - well, I hope I'm making him proud. That's all I care about right now, so - making our family proud.

SIEGEL: Well, listen, Ran, thanks, first of all, for the excuse for my having a cocktail in the middle of the afternoon.

DUAN: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: It's really great.

DUAN: Thanks for having me. This is amazing and I appreciate you guys having me on the show and letting me tell my story. It means a lot to me.

SIEGEL: Good luck in Sydney at the competition.

DUAN: Thank you so much.

SIEGEL: That's Ran Duan of the Baldwin Bar at Sichuan Garden in Woburn, Mass. And tomorrow he will represent the United States in the International Bacardi Legacy Competition in Sydney. His entry is called Father's Advice, and you can find the recipe at


So, Robert, did you pick up any mixing skills on this assignment?

SIEGEL: I had that answer about the theoretical basis for stirring or shaking.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

SIEGEL: I've been at this for decades, waiting to find out why one does that.

CORNISH: Well, when I go to your house, I'm going to want my drink shaken, not stirred.

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