My Kemang: Tongkol, Bartender at 86

Long before drinking outdoors became trendy, the bar Lapan Anem (“86”) was already serving cold beer in the rain. Tongkol is a veteran bartender there. You wouldn’t guess that he’s pushing 40, but he puts his youthfulness down to his balance of work and pleasure. Tongkol sat at the bar with us and shared his stories, favorite drinks and his views on living and working in Kemang.

How long have you been a bartender at Lapan Anem?
I’ve been working here since they opened in 2003. At first, I was a bar back, just helping out the bartenders.

Where do you learn how to bartend?
I taught myself by watching the bartenders over the years. Learning, while drinking, because after all, I have to know the taste, right? (Laughs)

What’s your favorite drink?
I enjoy drinking beer, especially Bintang. For mixed drinks, I just like the simple and classic like Jack and Coke.

Do you have your own specialty drink?
Yeah, I call it Absolut “Tinggal” (Leaving). It’s a combination of Absolut vodka, triple sec, Midori, Cointreau, gin, tequila; pretty much everything! As you can imagine, it’s very strong, so after the drink you’re leaving consciousness. (Laughs)

Where are you from originally and where do you live?
I was born and raised in South Jakarta. Now I live in Wijaya. I’ve been living there forever, and rarely pass the south border.

What else do you do for fun, besides bartending?
I raise Bangkok chicken, and I go fishing.

Do you eat the chickens?
No, it’s for cock fighting.

What do you like about Kemang ?
There are many places to hang out, especially for nightlife. It’s been happening since I remember. Even before I worked at the bar, I would already spend most of my time in this area.

What are the changes that you’ve seen?
There are more bars and restaurants opening. The garden and outdoor concept is the new trend, it’s everywhere now. Places like Beer Garden, Bremer, Rooftop and many more, but we were the first outdoor bar, even before the new part, Splash, was renovated.

This place is like a second home to you. Why are you comfortable here?
We are all friends and my boss is very laid back, so I don’t have to go anywhere else. All of us have been working here for a long time.

Is it hard to handle drunken people?
Well, it’s always fun to take care of our customers. They do stupid things all the time. But it’s difficult to handle fights. I mean, it always happens when alcohol is involved, but we try to keep the peace.

Do you want your own bar someday?
It never crossed my mind. I just want to have a small warung by my house selling snacks and soda. That’s enough for me.

What do you think about the high-rise and construction around the area?
It’s very high; I can see it from here. (Laughs.) But I guess it’s good for the expats and tourists who’ll be staying there; after all, Kemang is their area.

What do you think about Kemang’s problems?
Well, traffic is always a problem everywhere, especially here. I would like to see them expanding the streets, if it’s possible. The roads around here are very small, while entertainment places grow.

How busy is Splash?
It’s consistent, always packed. It’s a good place to listen to music. We have a stage that we share with other outlets in here. On weekdays, you find the locals such as young professionals and students. Then over the weekend, it’s a mixed crowd, but there are many kids from international schools.

Do you guys check ID cards?
We do, but sometimes they come with their parents and they buy the kids drinks. I guess it’s a different culture than us.

What’s the drinking age in Indonesia?
I think it’s 18 (pause) or 21. Who knows? (Laughs) In here it doesn’t matter really.

How do you compete with other bars?
Well, we compete in a good way. There’s always a brotherhood among people that work at the bars, we know each other. Sometimes when the other bar is running out of liquor or beer, they come here to borrow our stock. If we have it, we will give it to them, and help them out if they are busy. And they will do the same for us.

Tongkol was talking to Iwan Putuhena

Original interview was published in Kemang Buzz

My Kemang: Tongkol, Bartender at 86

Picture by Iwan Putuhena

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