Inga Tantisalidchai started in the service industry at the age of 18 and as soon as she turned 21 she found her way behind the bar. Starting at a time when “craft cocktails” did not exist yet, Inga learned and grew with the bar industry as it evolved into what it is today. She loves challenging herself by entering multiple competitions every year. She has made regional finals for Bacardi Legacy, Woodford’s Manhattan Experience, and Espolon Tequila’s Cocktail Fights (twice). Inga won her first competition last year with Licor43’s How Do You Carajillo Competition, and for her most recent accomplishment, she was listed as one of the top 100 for World Class Bartender 2020, in addition to making it to the regional finals for Woodford’s Manhattan Experience again this year. She is a part time rum runner for Papas Pilar rum and is the lead bartender at OLEA in Newport Beach. Utilizing her skills from all her competitions, Inga has created her own side program at OLEA, where she features a premium spirit for a month and designs a cocktail that is inspired by a story that she shares and prints out for guests to collect. She has also worked closely with event coordinators at Five Points to consult and create themed cocktail menus for their events. Inga has been featured in articles by OC Weekly, The Voice of OC, Dine Newport Beach, and numerous cocktail blogs and podcasts. Her passion for cocktails has led to her most exciting collaboration with DRNXMYTH, a company that works with mixologists in creating and bottling cocktails available for delivery throughout the state of California.
What first inspired you to be creative? What inspires you to be creative today?
My first time entering a cocktail competition I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought all I had to do was make a tasty drink. Little did I know how important the story was behind the cocktail. After my first competition experience, I found a creative spark inside me to push my skills to the limits and not only create a tasty libation, but also create a beautiful story to go with it. Inspiration for my creations can range from the season, a song, or a unique dish from around the world.
Why and how do you utilize the materials you incorporate into your artwork?
When designing a cocktail, every element that is incorporated into the cocktail must also play a significance in the story behind the cocktail. Therefore, each element contributes to the overall cocktail not only in balance and flavor, but also in telling the story.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
The best piece of advice I was given was to step out of comfort zone and put myself out there and enter competitions. I was always afraid of competing because I was afraid of being criticized for my work. I am fortunate enough to have a great support system of friends and family who believe in my talent and continue to push me forward.
What advice do you have for others who are chasing their dreams?
My advice to those that are chasing their dreams is….. there is always something to learn, grow and gain from every set back, which also pushes us forward and closer to our dreams.
Is this what you imagined yourself doing?
Growing up in a traditional Asian household, working in the service industry was never considered a career. I started in this industry because of the flexible hours and tips. Little did I know that I would find my love for crafting staying in this industry and being successful at it as well.