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Ray Swayy: Elevating the Classics

by Jorge Gonzalez / September 10 2015

In the land of cheap alcohol and blacked out people, a bartender emerges.

C oming from a family of heavy drinkers, I’ve found myself plenty of times contemplating my life choices, while I pray to the porcelain god. My grandfather used to say that if you didn’t throw up, the party wasn’t good at all. Horrible saying. Koreans take drinking to a whole new level. Every day when the sun goes down, they resource to the anesthetic qualities of Soju. A few shots are enough to forget about their monotonous hierarchical jobs, and give in to the night, they literally give in. For around one dollar, the absurdly cheap drink guarantees to get you drunk and give you the worst hangover you could ever fathom. In the land of cheap alcohol and blacked out people, a bartender emerges.

Ray Swayy is part of the Korean American wave that is shaping Seoul’s nightlife. He and his enviable mustache have designed the cocktail menus for the trendiest bars in Seoul. Originally from L.A., Ray Swayy has become a trademark name in the alleys of Itaewon. His refreshing take on classic cocktails and inspiring inventiveness on originals, is aiming to get AA out of business. With a background behind and in front of the cameras, Ray sees the Brick Yard as his stage, where he performs 6 days a week. His eccentric take on drinks is only matched by the extravagant persona he charismatically plays each night.

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When I was 8 years old, I readthat the parent of the opposite gender child has a higher risk of depression due to the fact that they feel they aren’t passing down their knowledge. I went directly to the kitchen and told my mom that I wanted her to teach me how to cook because I didn’t want her to be depressed, she agreed with tears in her eyes. From that moment on, I was always in the kitchen with her. ”

- Ray Swayy

Ray feels his life is surrounded by duality. As he grew up, he and his brother were the only Asian kids in the neighborhood and at school. It was extremely hard for him to find an identity and to get in contact with his roots. Kids were often mean to him and didn’t want to go to his house because it was an Asian house and those “smell funny”. His mom made sure there was always an apple pie in the oven to prove them wrong. As he grew up, Ray got into the service industry and quickly climbed up the ranks. His take on cocktails is unique, he departs from classic mixology and brings in a culinary approach which is heavily influenced by his mother. Ray has made the Brick Yard a seasonal bar, it changes and evolves throughout the year. He is always experimenting  with new ingredients and techniques. Watching him craft your drink, is a complete delight.

Three years ago Ray broke his skull into five pieces in a skate boarding accident, it was a wake up call. He spent a month in the hospital recovering and learning the painful process of how to walk again. Intoxicated with impotence, Ray found himself repeatedly depressed, tears ran down over his face every time he hopelessly tried to walk. Providentially, Ray was able to pick himself up and rise again from the ashes. The near death experience taught Ray a lesson he desperately wants to share with world. “We are the music makers and the makers of dreams” the tattoo on his chest reads. Ray is constantly looking for new ways to inspire people, as he feels it is his mission. Being so close to death made him reevaluate all of his life choices, he has being trying to right all of his wrongs ever since, and he fiercely tries to become a beacon of positive change and inspiration for others. 

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