Words By Shefali Pasricha

Alison Christ

Independant Sommelier

The world celebrates women’s day every year on March 8th . This year to mark the occasion, Fab! Luxe speaks to two women fronting male-dominated professions. They are bold and very beautiful and have carved out a niche for themselves in these unconventional professions. They are definitely setting and raising the bar (no puns intended).

Alison Christ, an independent sommelier is a firebrand when it comes to talking about wine. A spirited New Yorker, who grew up in Long Island, has always loved the culture of food and wine. She moved to Hong Kong in 2012 because of her desire to discover and explore Asia. That got her to move next door to Kuala Lumpur almost 4 years back.

Christ curates wine lists from the most extensive to the most exclusive which people experienced while she held the position of wine director at Troika Sky Dining. She has moved on to doing more independent projects like online blind tastings and private events. She is extremely modest when you ask her about her certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers. “Yes, that was a proud moment and I am sure there must have been champagne around to celebrate,” reveals Christ. 

Interesting less than 15 percent of master sommeliers are women and Christ is among that niche percentage to have carved a name to reckon with. How does she feel about breaking that barrier in this industry that is predominantly male dominated? “I am lucky to have not experienced anything even though I must admit that it can get intimidating sometimes. I am glad that I accomplished what I set out to achieve,” adds Christ. 

It’s definitely a challenging profession but she ensures she keeps herself up to date with new technicalities of being in this business. In her opinion, one of the most overrated wines are the ones from Bordeaux, due to its snob value, especially in Asia. Ask her, which ones are underrated and pat comes the reply, “Definitely the ones from the Piedmont region”. 

Christ was packed and set to move to Portugal before the pandemic hit. While that’s still on her radar, she is embracing all that Malaysia has to offer. Womanly words of wisdom and Christ advices, “start as soon as possible, just do it!” before she signs off. That’s the daily dose of inspiration we need. Here’s hoping she holds the keys to prestigious cellars around the world.

Shirmy Chan

Diva Of The Bartending Scene

She best describes herself as a “potion pharmacist” behind the bar. “I can diagnose customers emotion of the day and make a drink to enlighten their mood. In return, they share with me their stories, or secret.,” explains Chan. It was her stint with Shangri-la Hotel, when she discovered bartending could be a profession. 

She recalls, how Amanda Wan, Malaysia’s first award winning bartender, was a great inspiration and mentor who passed on the fundamental techniques to her. Besides Wan, she got immense motivation from her father, a fisherman, who spent most of his time on the sea. “Yes following his footsteps, I decided to dive into the sea, and the sea of spirits too”. says Chan.  Clearly, boasting with courage, skill and personality, Chan, first shook up a storm when she started work with Omasake + Appreciate, the first proper speakeasy cocktail bar in Malaysia. In 2019, she took home the Bartender of the year KL Award.

There has been no looking back for Chan, as she made her way up the ranks in bars. How difficult was it for her to do that in an industry where men have run the show? “I am not a feminist but male ego is a challenge in any industry, but we (female professionals) should not be let down by this. Action speaks louder than words. I earned the respect and reputation by my skills. The more I interact with customers, the more they can understand my role and appreciate me as a bartender, not just a girl working behind the bar,” admits Chan.

She has managed to smash old stereotypes and her advice to women looking to explore an unconventional profession, would be to believe in themselves. “Miles to go and keep going. It takes a few steps to explore an unconventional profession but it’s a long journey to make it a profession that help you gain respect and confidence, explains Chan. 

And where is she headed next? Oh there will be no-where-next. It is an idea of Shirmy is here! She clearly has arrived!

Here’s toasting to a strong drink and even stronger women!

Favourite cocktail

Fisherman’s Blue
This cocktail is dedicated to my father. The gold dust reflects upon the catches from the sea, and as the ice melting into blue water, represents the golden times my father dedicated to the sea and to my family.

20ml  Sake
30ml Gin
5ml Giffard Blue Curacao
10ml Giffard Grapefruit Syrup
1nos  Fresh Lime Wedge