Ken Alonso is used to long drives, having spent most of his adult life shuttling between the city and the sea. A little past the Patapat Viaduct, in the coastal town of Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte, is where Alonso has his roots planted some months in a year; running a secluded beachside inn called Pannzian. This is something Alonso has been doing for more than a decade now, switching paces between fast and slow, depending on the place he finds himself in. Because of this arrangement, his appreciation for local craftsmanship has always been sincere.
During one of his stays up north, he found himself at a celebration in Kiangan, Ifugao, where local liquor was being passed around generously, in repurposed gin bottles. With one person to a bottle, Alonso saw the next day’s headache looming, only to wake up to a buzz without the assaulting hangover. Some ideas are formed at the end of a drink, and in the case of Alonso, a lightbulb went off through this drink called the tapuey.
Just up the mountain from Pannzian is the town of Adams, where Alonso met Nanay Ernanie, a midwife that would make her own tapuey from rice she would farm herself. It isn’t difficult to see how tapuey is the local counterpart of Japanese sake(given its foundation of rice), but this variant in particular has layers of sweetness that mingle with pockets of tang, much like sherry. At the time that she and Alonso met in 2014, she had a steady supply of around 20 bottles of this drink, strictly for home consumption or for celebrations. Recognizing the quality of her product, he proposed the idea of introducing her tapuey to people in Manila. She was skeptical at first, insisting it wasn’t good enough because it was a provincial product, but this was exactly why Alonso took a liking to it—because it was a noteworthy product from the province.
Nanay Ernanie’s tapuey was introduced at a bazaar, alongside a bugnay wine from the same town, made from tropical wild berries. The products were so well-received that they had sold out on their first day. His then-girlfriend(now, fiancé) Maina Hechanova casually mentioned then how he beams at being“proudlypromdi,” and the name stuck.
Alonso established local beverage brand Proudly Promdi following that, which highlights the depth of local spirits, particularly the tapuey and bugnay. This endeavor cemented their staunch support in fair trade, in order to not only keep the community’s craft alive, but to further it.
While Promdi products could initially only be purchased by the bottle, Alonso’s interest in cocktails led to him dabble in bartending, using either of the two spirits as a base. Promdi branched out with a pop-up bar of sorts, which allowed curious drinkers to try these liquors in palatable amounts. Then a one-man team, Alonso would set up his bar kit at events, and build tapuey cocktails. First at bazaars, Promdi’s reach then scattered out to birthday parties, corporate functions, and weddings.
The success of this venture brought him to polish the idea for this pop-up bar further. A far departure from the mobile bars whose sickly sweet drinks colored college parties of the aughts, the Promdi team was inspired by the mobility of sorbetes carts, which move at a steady pace but covered ample ground. TheTraveling Promdi Bar was imagined into being, outfitted by sturdy panels with solihiya details, and functional wooden carriage wheels. There’s an existing list of drinks to choose from for events, though Alonso and his team enjoy working closely with those that wish to customize their selection of cocktails. As with the first permutation of the bar, this one can accommodate small groups or big parties. For as long as the wheels on this cart keep turning, be it in the fast life or slow, there will be a place for these thoughtfully crafted, proudly promdi, drinks to be made.
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