Top bartender, 29, serves up her favourite summer food pairings with wine

Australia’s top bartender Millie Tang has served up her ultimate guide to alcohol – including wine pairing with food and the secret ingredients she uses to make the perfect cocktail every time.

The 29-year-old Australian-Taiwanese woman – who was crowned 2019 bartender of the year – has been serving beer, wine and spirits in Brisbane for seven years.

And so she has a few surprising tricks up her sleeve that she uses to boost the flavours of cocktails.

‘There’s a lot of inside jokes among bartenders about this – a couple of dashes of saline solution. It might sound unusual but it’s definitely nothing new within the industry and has been used widely for years,’ Millie told Daily Mail Australia.

Australia's top bartender Millie Tang (pictured) has served up her ultimate guide to alcohol

Australia's top bartender Millie Tang (pictured) has served up her ultimate guide to alcohol

Australia’s top bartender Millie Tang (pictured) has served up her ultimate guide to alcohol

‘A tiny bit of salt added to any cocktail can do a myriad of wonders; intensify certain flavours, brighten citrus, enhance sweetness, tone down bitterness and modify texture.

The 29-year-old Australian-Taiwanese woman - who was crowned 2019 bartender of the year - has been serving beer, wine and spirits in Brisbane for seven years

The 29-year-old Australian-Taiwanese woman - who was crowned 2019 bartender of the year - has been serving beer, wine and spirits in Brisbane for seven years

The 29-year-old Australian-Taiwanese woman – who was crowned 2019 bartender of the year – has been serving beer, wine and spirits in Brisbane for seven years

‘One of my favourite combinations is olives with Aperol, the saltiness of the brines plays down the bitterness in the Aperol, enhancing it’s fruitiness and sweetness.

‘It makes sense that salt affects flavours in drinks as it does in cooking, but if you decide to experiment, ensure you batch a fairly diluted solution and add only a tiny bit at a time.’

In terms of pairing, Millie said the biggest misconception is people making assumptions red wine only goes with dark meats and dainty whites should couple with light dishes.

‘With the stunning array of wines available and our ever changing and constantly expanding culinary landscape, I’d say don’t be limited to “hard and fast rules” you may have heard of,’ she said.

‘Ten years ago in my first hospitality job, the advice given to me was to match light wines with light dishes – summer style foods like seafood, fruits, salads and chicken with white wines and some light reds like a fruity Pinot Noir or Gamay – and to match heavier dishes like steak, lamb, rich pasta dishes and sharp cheeses with full-bodied reds like a Cabernet Sauvignon or Shiraz.’

Millie’s favourite summer food pairings with wine

Raw or lightly grilled seafood dishes like natural oysters, grilled scallops with citrus and white fish paired with floral, dessert notes – coconut, honey, violet and rose or a dry fruity Pet Nat (natural wine)

Seared salmon with bitter watercress and a big, fruity Pinot Noir

Salty snacks or antipasto with a classic Aperol Spritz – briny marinated olives and Aperol are one of my favourite combinations

Light pasta dishes like pesto or spicy marinara with a savoury style gin and soda, Gin Mare or Patient Wolf Summer Thyme Gin are excellent for these

Coffee and tonic. For example, tiramisu and a Fino and tonic

In terms of pairing, Millie said the biggest misconception is people making assumptions red wine only goes with dark meats and dainty whites should couple with light dishes

In terms of pairing, Millie said the biggest misconception is people making assumptions red wine only goes with dark meats and dainty whites should couple with light dishes

In terms of pairing, Millie said the biggest misconception is people making assumptions red wine only goes with dark meats and dainty whites should couple with light dishes

'With the stunning array of wines available and our ever changing and constantly expanding culinary landscape, I'd say don't be limited to "hard and fast rules" you may have heard of,' she said

'With the stunning array of wines available and our ever changing and constantly expanding culinary landscape, I'd say don't be limited to "hard and fast rules" you may have heard of,' she said

‘With the stunning array of wines available and our ever changing and constantly expanding culinary landscape, I’d say don’t be limited to “hard and fast rules” you may have heard of,’ she said

She said you are much better off pairing flavours and even textures, rather than colours, to get the most out of your culinary experience.

‘Today it can be so much more exciting and complex. Flavour profile, acidity, sweetness and weight of the wine are all factors to consider as is the richness of the food and how salty, sweet, bitter or dense the dish is,’ she said.

‘There’s texture and mouthfeel to take in to account not to mention aroma. Even just the presentation and appearance of what we’re eating and drinking can alter how we perceive the taste.

‘My advice would be to research a reputable restaurant with a degustation with wine pairing near you and treat yourself to a sitting. Don’t be afraid to ask sommelier or chef questions. 

‘Professionally prepared pairings will help to set parameters of what you prefer and start you off with some excellent examples to inspire you in your own efforts later.’  

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art.

Her right arm has a full Japanese sleeve by Damon Stokes, while her left features different designs from multiple artists.

Her hands are covered with ornamental designs by Helen Hitori while she has a snake on her left leg designed by Tom Bartley.

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

Besides taking home awards as a top bartender, Millie has attracted more than 10,000 Instagram followers for her amazing tattooed body art

‘Australia is incredibly open minded when it comes to tattoos in the workforce, in saying that I think it’s fair to say that I get to enjoy relative freedom with my appearance working in the hospitality and creative industry,’ she said. 

‘There’s still a lot of policies in place in terms of corporate work places as well as tattoo policies at bars, clubs and entertainment venues.

‘As I travel more I’m sure there’ll come such a time depending on country, culture or community where it may be an issue, but I’m pretty content to just take it as it comes. There’s always turtlenecks, long sleeves and gloves.’

For anyone who’s keen to get permanently inked, Millie said: ‘Take your time deciding what you want.

‘Find artists whose work you love. If you think you’ve decided on a piece or idea, imagine it on your body, every day, for your forever. 

‘Also, spend the money. You pay for what you get. And don’t expect to go unchallenged or not be judged or unbothered. Just because people don’t have the right doesn’t mean they don’t also have the ability.’