Discover the finest contemporary silver and jewellery from over 300 designer-makers. www.thegoldsmithsdirectory.co.uk
Cocktail set: Martyn Pugh
THIS ISSUE IS ALL ABOUT
Like it or not, we’ve all been through it over the past few months. Some of it has been good – we’ve had less time to be wrapped up in being ‘busy’ and could actually focus on well-earned rest and repair. Some of it has been bad – the uncertainty, the isolation, the fear. And some of it has been downright creative – hands up who’s used lockdown to learn a new skill? Mostly though, it’s been a time for solid reflection. Everything we do has had to be re-evaluated. From the way we work to the way we work out, from who we can see to how we can interact, keeping socially distanced instead of socialising – it’s been tough going. And while things will no doubt continue to be different going forward – for the immediate future at least – this time of change is a time for growth. In this issue we speak to the movers and shakers from several bars around the world about how they’re adapting to the challenges brought on by Covid-19. Has it been tough? Damn straight it has; in fact, it’s been the mother of all roller-coasters. But they’re all holding on tight, making the necessary adjustments and braving out the ride. Read the In My Experience stories from Indra Kantono, Julie Reiner, Iain McPherson, Ram Yadav, Barney Toy, Lelos Georgopoulos and Luke Whearty and you’ll be inspired by their honest accounts. Elsewhere, Steve Schneider announces the big change that he’s made in the past few months, we look at what we all did when we had to swap going out with staying in (clue: either make cocktails at home or dial up for them to be delivered), and we check in with bartenders and brands about their lockdown initiatives. Deano Moncrieffe talks about his plans to tackle racism in the industry, we hear from UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls on how the union she heads up has made a difference in times of need, and Rick Gent, one of our readers, shares the space where he’s been enjoying a cocktail instead of going out to the bar. Yes, 2020 has been challenging – but please, let’s not focus on the negative. As you will read on the following pages, there are plenty of wonderful, creative businesses out there that really need our support. Let’s all drink to their health and very prosperous future. Be mindful. Be supportive. Be safe.
Ms S & Mr G thecocktaillovers.com
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7. IN-the know
25 reasons to be a cocktail lover this season
Acting our shoe size, supporting the cause and sinking the pink – things we’re looking forward to doing now that lockdown is over
13. IN-the know The drink
In praise of the cocktail of the past few months
15. IN-the know The etiquette
How distilleries are helping us clean up our act
17. IN-the know The bottle
When we couldn’t get to the bars, the bars came to us by way of a new, elevated selection of bottled cocktails
18. IN-the spotlight A force for change
We talk to Kate Nicholls, CEO of UKHospitality, to find out how the coronavirus pandemic has affected the hospitality industry and how she has pushed for change
IN-my experience First-hand accounts from bar owners, operators and managers on the impact Covid-19 has had on their bars
20. Indira Kantono, Jigger & Pony, Singapore 24. Julie Reiner, Clover Club, NYC 32. Iain McPherson, Panda & Sons, Edinburgh 36. Luke Whearty, BYRDI, Melbourne 49. Lelos Georgopolous, The Clumsies, Athens 50. Ram Yadav, Nyte – Drinkery & Kitchen, Bangalore 61. Yolanda Evans, Professional cocktail drinker 65. Barney Toy, Clipper, Auckland
26. IN-the spotlight New rules of engagement
Virginia Miller checks in to nine bars around the world to find out their plans for the future
34. IN-the spotlight Black to basics
Deano Moncrieffe shares his experience of racism in the drinks industry and how he intends to change it
38. IN-the mix Cupboard love
How the pros switched the back bar for the pantry to create lockdown cocktails at home
Kitchen kit to the rescue
Rethink the need for expensive bar kit and reach for your kitchen tools instead
42. IN-focus This one is personal
Steve Schneider has made the transition from swashbuckling bad boy to sharp-minded business brain. We check in to hear about his latest adventure
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Editors: Sandrae Lawrence Gary Sharpen
Home is where the bar is
Reader Rick Gent extols the virtues of drinking in his home bar
Bartenders take the initiative
Kate Malczewski highlights a few of the bright ideas bartenders have instigated while they haven’t been able to work
52. IN-focus In good company
Clinton Cawood finds out how drinks companies have been lending their support
55. IN-focus Lots of bottle
The rise and rise of the pre-mixed cocktail
58. IN-formed Mains & Martinis
Davies and Brook make it nice at Claridge’s hotel in London
62. IN-formed Word up
News, views and reviews from the cocktail front
66. IN-ternational Bella Roma!
Where to go, who to see and what to drink in the Eternal City
The Cocktail Lovers are proud winners of Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication, Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards 2016 and The London Evening Standard Progress 1000 – London’s Most Influential People 2015 and 2017. Also shortlisted for Best Food & Drinks Publication in the British Society of Magazine Editors (BSME) Awards 2019
Office Manager: Tereza Singh Sub-editor: Laura Hill Creative Director: James Cheverton at Burnt Studio burntstudio.com Contributors: Clinton Cawood Yolanda Evans Rick Gent Lelos Georgopoulos Indra Kantono Kate Malczewski Iain McPherson Virginia Miller Julie Reiner Barney Toy Luke Whearty Ram Yadav For all editorial and advertising enquiries, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org T: 020 7242 2546 thecocktaillovers.com Printed by Stephens & George Distributed by Gold Key Media Reproduction in whole or part of any contents of The Cocktail Lovers Magazine without prior permission from the editors is strictly prohibited. The Cocktail Lovers Issue No. 35 Summer 2020
All details of bars featured in this issue were correct at time of going to press. Please see individual websites for up-to-date information.
The Cocktail Lovers magazine is published by The Cocktail Lovers Ltd in London, UK PLEASE DRINK RESPONSIBLY
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Kate is an Ohio-born, London-based writer and editor. She trained in experimental theatre in a sleepy town in Connecticut and edited cookbooks at Food & Wine magazine in New York City before moving to the UK to report on all things drinks for Imbibe. She’s now a full-time freelance journalist with a focus on cocktails, spirits, sake and the bar industry.
Clinton has been writing about drinks since landing in the UK in 2006 from his native South Africa, where he’d already put in more than a few hours on both sides of the bar. He now covers all aspects of the industry for a number of publications, with a particular interest in spirits, cocktails and bars. He’s partial to all things agave, and dependent on good coffee.
In this issue she highlights some of the many bright ideas that bartenders have devised to occupy their time while they were away from work. See page 46.
Drinks brands who came to the rescue of bars, charities and bartenders during the pandemic come under the spotlight in his In Good Company feature. See page 52.
As well as founding The Perfect Spot in 2007, Virginia Miller has also been Zagat San Francisco Editor, San Francisco Guardian Critic and Table8 National Editor. Her work regularly appears in Liquor.com, Where Traveler, Haute Living and Time Out, where she covers dining, spirits and cocktails.
Yolanda Evans is a travel and cocktail writer based in Berlin. Her work has appeared in Zora, Forbes, Punch, Travel + Leisure, Wine Enthusiast, Lonely Planet and Thrillist. She travels the world to drink and seek out obscure booze knowledge. As she says, “It’s a hard life, but someone’s gotta do it.”
Read her feature on the new rules of engagement in nine bars around the world on page 26.
For this issue Yolanda writes about how she feels about venturing back into bars post lockdown. See page 61.
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REASONS TO BE A COCKTAIL LOVER THIS SEASON Zinging up our Negronis, holding our own and taking cover – just a few of the things we’re looking forward to now that we can get out and about
Celebrating creativity It’s been months since we’ve felt confident to travel freely or been able to step into a museum or gallery space, so why not combine the lot in one big cultural hit? ‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ is our pick for this season. With its striking mix of artistry and theatre and delightful blend of classic and contemporary, it’s not too dissimilar to the creativity found in our favourite bars. Toast the reopening of both with something suitably stylish, inspired by Japan. We love the New Humans menu at Drink Kong, Rome. Find out more on page 67.
Kimono Times, Akira Times, 2017. © Akira Times
‘Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk’ is at the V&A from 27 August to 25 October. Post-lockdown rules apply. vam.ac.uk
Zinging up our Negronis
…and speaking of zing: a big shout-out to the World of Zing Craft Cocktail Travel Pack – four 50ml serves of your fave summer sips, including Persian Lime & Nori Margarita. Fruit, spice and a pop of booze – it sure gets the thumbs up from us worldofzing.com
Three words: Jaffa. Cake. Gin. Just saying… Available from masterofmalt.com
Taking cover Summer showers don’t feel half as bad with a Bubbles & Fizz Umbrella. Fact. sophieallport.com
Stopping everything for tea Give the tea-making ritual the respect it deserves with the Float Tea Lantern. More than a thing of great beauty, it keeps your beverage hot for hours while bathing the room with a warming glow. Divine. molodesign.com
Holding our own
Calling in the big guns
If you’ve had to reschedule your big day, make it count in your favour by getting Tyson Buhler from Death & Co., New York to develop a personalised selection of five cocktails in honour of your special day. He’ll provide all the information you and your caterer need to bring the drinks to life, including batching instructions, ingredients and serving details. Fabulous stuff! deathandcompanymarket.com
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Is it a clutch? Is it a flask? Stop with the questions already, the Brümate Holographic Glitter Spirit Flask is both. One for disco divas everywhere. brumate.com
...or there’s the Ember Mug Set the preferred temperature of your favourite hot beverage and the mug will keep it there for up to three hours. Nifty. ember.com
Looking for a new brew for summer? Try Fortnum & Mason’s Bloody Mary Tea. Packed with the flavours of fresh tomato pieces, chilli flakes and black peppercorns, it’s just the ticket for a booze-free brunch. fortnumandmason.com
Acting our shoe size
We know it’s silly but after the tough times we’ve all been through, we deserve a laugh. Bring on the chuckles with this Wasted Bottle Stopper from animicausa.com
Could this be the ideal bedtime companion? Possibly. The Quiet Glass is designed to live up to its name, but we love it because it’s weighted so you can’t knock it over. Clever or what? littlesolves.com
N 15 o
Nervous about drinking from glasses while you’re out? Pack this metal straw and cleaner combo and you’re all set. mollieandfred.co.uk
Mixing up our scents Cocktail-inspired summer fragrance anyone? Choose from a wide selection including White Sangria, Frozen Margarita and Piña Colada. Available from thelibraryoffragrance.eu
Cocktail ice pops are go! Get yours from waveyice.co.uk
TWELVE Seeking glass perfection
…but if you want something more design-ery, allow us to point you in the direction of the Bump collection by Tom Dixon. For when you want to make a statement. tomdixon.net
Supporting the cause If there’s a more poignant message on a can or bottle right now, we’ve yet to see it. Black is Beautiful stout beer, available from more than 600 breweries worldwide. Find out more at blackisbeautiful.beer
Joining the seltzer revolution Everyone’s going bonkers for hard seltzers. The latest in the line-up of fruit-tinged, alcoholinfused sparkling waters is Clean & Press from BrewDog. Weighing in at 90 calories and 5% abv, it’s the lighter way to pack a punch. brewdog.com
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Sipping while we soak
Take your bath-time chill-out up a notch with a tub-friendly tipple holder. The Victoria + Albert Tombolo Bath Rack is the absolute bomb. sanctuary-bathrooms.co.uk
Calling in the big guns Upgrade your soirees in an instant by enlisting the cocktail-making skills of a world-class bartender. Take your pick from the best in the biz based everywhere from the UK to Thailand. globalbartending.com
Indulging in boozy chocs Gin-flavoured truffles anyone? Actually, forget it – these ones aren’t for sharing! Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin Milk Chocolate Truffles, harveynichols.com
Taking cover Old cushion covers out; in their place come these graphic print bottles. Classy and kitsch in one hit. conranshop.co.uk
Rubbing it in We always knew alcohol would come to the rescue. Get your hand sanitiser from an independent distillery such as 58gin.com
Perking up our coffee
What do you get if you add fermented agave wine to 100% Arabica Colombian cold brew coffee? A 12.5% abv taste sensation, that’s what! Not for the faint-hearted. cafeagave.com
We’re aiming to get at least three of our five a day from the fab freshly squeezed non-alcoholic cocktails and fruit boxes from the aptly named The Fruit Don. Follow his moves on Instagram @thefruitdon
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TWENTY FIVE Sinking the pink According to rapper Post Malone, his recently launched Maison No. 9 rosé wine is “for when you want to get a little fancy”. With 50,000 bottles snapped up in the two-day pre-sale, it looks like we all want to get in on the act. maison9wine.com
KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. KEEP SAFE. UK government guidance is that people should remain twometres apart where possible. If not, one-metre plus.
KEEP COVERED. KEEP SAFE. Wearing a face mask or suitable face covering is mandatory in public spaces.
THE DRINK All hail the Quarantini, the cocktail that tout le monde has been mixing up throughout lockdown. Alcohol is a prerequisite, as is some form of citrus (as a nod to immunity-boosting vitamin C, natch). As for the rest of the ingredients? Take your pick from whatever you have to hand â€“ itâ€™s your drink, your way, drunk whilst in isolation. Need more kitchen cocktails inspo? See page 38. Glass by Vinegar & Brown Paper, holly.co
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THE ETIQUETTE Back in the day you’d have thought you were being obsessive; now the constant cleaning of hands is not only being cautious, it’s positively de rigueur. Drinks brands have been turning over their facilities to produce hand sanitisers so we can all keep our mitts clean while we’re on the move. Find out what else they’ve been up to on page 52. Community Spirit Hand Sanitiser, conkerspirit.co.uk
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THE BOTTLE One of the best things to come out of lockdown? The wealth of first-class bottled cocktails, either available online or, joy-oh-joy, delivered to your door. All of our favourite bars have got in on the act. Check page 55 for more details. Tayer + Elementary bottled cocktails, doctoradams.co.uk
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What were the biggest challenges that the industry faced in the first few days of lockdown? There was a huge amount of uncertainty in the opening stages of the lockdown. In fact, there was confusion before the lockdown officially began. In the week beforehand, the government urged customers to stay away from pubs and restaurants, without officially closing them. This meant that, particularly in city centres, venues were opening but customers were staying away. The result was swathes of town centre venues that were open, but empty. This eerie scenario set the tone for the following months. Financial support in the form of the hospitality grant, rates holiday, furlough scheme and business interruption loans were not announced for a week, which meant that a huge chunk of the sector was likely seriously concerned for its survival. What are the biggest challenges that the industry is facing now? We are not out of the woods yet. Firstly, consumer confidence is key and could be one of the decisive factors in a successful reopening. Trading since the reopening appears to have been steady, but slow in many cases. Businesses have been reporting trading at around 40–50% down with relatively low footfall. It would appear that plenty of customers are not yet ready to venture back out. If customers stay away, it is difficult to see how this reopening will be a success. As businesses have reopened, there has also been a significant challenge around managing teams to give them the clarity and certainty they need. There is also the spectre of rent which continues to loom over the sector, even those businesses that have reopened. Businesses have spent three months closed with no revenue coming in. Meanwhile, rent bills have continued to pile up. The majority of landlords have been pragmatic about this and have tried to work with their tenants to find a solution, but a minority have aggressively pursued tenants. The reality is that some of these businesses have no way to pay. We are going to need financial support from the government on this sooner rather than later, otherwise these debts will just mount up. Figures show that only a quarter of businesses think they will break even by the end of this year. After the financial crash, the sector took 18 months to get revenues back to pre-crash levels but a further 18 months for profitability to return. What key changes were you and UKHospitality pushing for the government to act on and why? We pushed the government to extend the furlough scheme and provide business rates relief for the sector, both of which it delivered. More recently, we also pushed for a voucher scheme to boost sales during the reopening, which has also been delivered in the
form of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme. We have also consistently pushed for a reduction in VAT for tourism and hospitality businesses. Are there any that you’re still hoping to see introduced? If so, which and why? We still need action on rents. Financial support is already looking like it will be necessary, as well as a solution, brokered by the government, which is mutually beneficial to all parties. It is important to remember that the hospitality sector does not equal pubs and restaurants, and vice versa. Pubs, restaurants and coffee shops are open again, but there are plenty of other businesses still not able to open. Nightclubs and music venues are still closed, as are conference centres and businesses like bowling alleys. We need much more information on what the future holds for these businesses. A roadmap for their eventual reopening must be published along with any financial support that may be needed if their closures look set to continue for the foreseeable future. We need an extension of the rates holiday to April 2022 and support for part-time working in sectors like nightclubs, which are slower to reopen. This will help to bridge the gap between furlough ending and the job retention scheme bonus kicking in. What have you learnt from this period? This is a resilient sector that can weather the absolute worst that is thrown at it. It is a sector filled with leaders and people passionate about seeing it succeed. What has been your proudest achievement during Covid-19 and why? There have been several successes and they will all play their part in securing the future of the sector. Being singled out by the Chancellor in his statement ranks as a huge victory. It means he understands the importance of hospitality both to the UK’s economy and socially to communities. It also means he has understood the, arguably unparalleled, impact that this crisis has had on our sector. It means our messages are getting through to the very highest levels of government and it’s a vindication of the work we are doing. Which countries do you think have eased out of lockdown well and why? France and Germany both gave clear dates signalled in advance and provided certainty of what was closed and when. In those countries there was a consistent messaging around consumer behaviour, government funding to incentivise demand and a strong message that it was safe to go out and a civic duty to eat out, holiday at home and support the sector. ukhospitality.org.uk
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In my experience Indra Kantono, Jigger & Pony / Caffe Fernet / Humpback / Live Twice / Gibson: Singapore When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bars?
redesigned our menus to best optimise the ingredients we procured, the space we operated out of and what customers come back repeatedly for.
The first tell-tale signs occurred in early March when we saw imported Covid-19 cases in Singapore. Pretty soon, we saw the first waves of community cases, which led to events being cancelled or postponed. Internally, we instituted a travel ban for the team and told nonfrontline employees to work from home. When community cases started to escalate, the authorities ordered the immediate closure of beverage-only venues, bars, clubs, cinemas and other entertainment venues, which was announced on 27 March, ahead of a country-wide lockdown on 7 April.
Our entire team now work in shifts throughout the week. We are fortunate to have a big enough space for us to consolidate all of our concepts to run out of a single kitchen and bar, with our staff managing orders and dispatch in the dining area. Our revenue plunged 85% in the first week of lockdown, but steadily increased when we started offering delivery options; deliveries now make up about 30% of our preCovid-19 revenue.
What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? Our priorities were 1) keep the business going, and 2) ensure all our staff would still be gainfully employed. To remain operational, we had to pivot very quickly to set up takeaways and deliveries of our offerings. We
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On 14 May Jigger & Pony topped the list of Asiaâ€™s 50 Best Bars 2020. Our win definitely boosted delivery orders, and we also saw a rise when we released two limited-edition bottled cocktails: our eighth anniversary celebration bottle, Worker Bees Build the Hive, which pays tribute to our staff, and an Asiaâ€™s 50 Best Bars celebration bottle, which we named The Tree Does Not Grow Straight.
Have you had any financial support? Rent is a big fixed cost for us and it is very difficult to service rent meant for dine-in operations when we are unable to operate as such. We have been in close contact and discussions with our landlords to ensure that our partnership continues for the long term. We also welcome measures by the Singapore government that further support rental rebates for business, as well as wage support for employees. What changes will you have to put in place when you reopen? Singapore has been gradually reopening in stages from 2 June, with food and beverage establishments allowed to offer dine-in for groups of up to five guests while observing safe distancing measures as of 19 June. Our top priority is to ensure the safety of our team and customers, and we will continue to seek input from our ministries on the best practices on social distancing when our reopening is permitted. It is a long road to recovery for the industry. As a group, we will continue to offer takeaway products and deliveries, while frequently reworking our packaging options and re-engineering our menus to excite our customers. Our focus will be less about bringing revenue back to pre-Covid-19 levels and more about rebuilding our businesses given what we have learnt in the past few months. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? Lean on your team. The Jigger & Pony team have been troopers and I am grateful for their drive and tenacity. Many of them have had to switch up their roles in the business and adapted quickly to the ever-changing situation. Initiatives that may have taken months to develop previously are constantly being brought to life in a matter of weeks, or even days. We had to rush into this pivot when the lockdown started, but it is likely that we will continue to keep investing in our e-commerce channels and delivery options as a hedge. We have sent our staff on upskilling courses in e-commerce and digital marketing so that we may improve on our current offerings. And we have kept our social media channels constantly updated so that our customers know what we are doing, even though they can’t be with us at our venues. How can your guests help you and your business going forward? This pandemic has shown us the importance of the relationship economy. In a time when everyone has been starved of a very human need for social interaction, it has reminded us that we yearn for richer
With our venues closed, we want to bring our brand of convivial hospitality into our customers’ homes, and continue staying in touch with guests even while we are apart. The group’s mission is to help our guests find comfort, forge friendship and share happiness – they may not be able to do this physically at one of our bars at this time, but we want to keep this alive for our customers, even while they stay at home. We are tagged a lot on social media (@jiggerandponysg) and receive many appreciative emails about how our food and cocktails have helped customers celebrate special occasions at home, or made a friend’s day through the gift of food and/or cocktails delivered to them. What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? A crisis accelerates emerging trends. In the food and beverage business, we have to quickly embrace digital trends or be left behind. We will increasingly connect with our guests in the digital spaces and even when, eventually, people start returning to restaurants and bars, brands would do well to connect with their guests digitally. This crisis has made us realise the importance of having the cocktail bar community rally together. We’re starting a series of online conversations called ‘Basic Bubbles, Candid Chats’, which will centre on the most pressing topics facing the cocktail bar community today. We are also aiming to organise a ‘Path of Recovery Bootcamp’, to share best practices and analytical frameworks to develop strategies for the post-Covid-19 recovery phase. My wife and cofounder, Guoyi Gan, along with other industry leaders, is also spearheading the launch of a Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA), the nonprofit organisation that champions the city’s craft cocktail industry. In the short term, the SCBA hopes to provide rapid financial support for cocktail bars and bartenders in need during the current crisis; in the medium term, it will strive to aid in the recovery of the Singapore cocktail industry. Ironically, I think restaurants and bars will be more valued than ever before, for being spaces that bring people together. Humans are social creatures who thrive on interaction with others, so our brightest minds will work on vaccines and prevention steps to allow us to become social again. When that happens, I think we will enter a new era of relationship-driven consumption – and that is where social venues like bars and restaurants will play a central role. jiggerandpony.com / caffefernet.sg humpback.sg / livetwice.sg / gibsonbar.sg
interactions and how valuable relationships are during a time of crisis.
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In my experience Julie Reiner, Clover Club: NEW YORK CITY, USA When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bar? My partners and I had a meeting on 10 March to discuss sanitising, and ordering products to keep the bar surfaces clean. Then on 12 March I went to JFK Airport to fly out to San Francisco for the SF World Spirits Competition. It wasn’t until I arrived at the airport that I realised that this was more serious than I had thought – the airport was relatively empty and people just seemed on edge. When I arrived in San Francisco, things felt fairly normal. The bars and restaurants were packed with people, and the public just didn’t seem to be accepting
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the news. I was set to stay until 16 March, but left early when things were starting to get scary in NYC. My partners called to tell me that they thought we would need to close in the coming days, and I wanted to be there to help. How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bar? When I arrived back in NYC on 15 March, I went straight to Clover Club to check in. We were in the middle of our brunch service. It would be our last service pre-closure. The staff all seemed nervous and scared, and they were looking to us for reassurance. The governor of New York hadn’t yet made the call for
restaurants to close – that came two days later – but we felt it was the right thing to do. There had been a noticeable drop-off in business the week leading up to us closing. New Yorkers were very uneasy, and unsure what was in store. What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? It was an emotional roller-coaster. Our whole livelihood revolves around people gathering together to enjoy each other’s company in a close vicinity. Were people ever going to be able to gather again? Would we be able to afford to stay open, pay our rent, hire our staff back? Would the public want to eat and drink at restaurants again? There were so many unknowns, and so much time to think about ‘what ifs’. We were scared that the bars [Clover Club and Leyenda] we had poured our blood sweat and tears into would no longer be places the public felt comfortable going to. How would you describe your bar pre-coronavirus? Clover Club is a neighbourhood cocktail bar and restaurant. We are known globally for our topnotch cocktail programme, but also as a friendly, comfortable spot to meet friends for a hang. Before the virus, Clover Club would host celebrations almost nightly in the parlour for groups of 40-50 guests, and was a real high-volume spot.
really only give us a few tables spaced six feet apart. In the next phase, we will be allowed to have 40-50% capacity inside our venues as long as all goes well with [the number of] Covid-19 cases. The feel of the bar will be very different as our places are high volume, and generally very high energy with lots of guests. That being said, New Yorkers are very excited to get back into restaurants and social settings after the lockdown. We are lucky that we are in a neighbourhood where the residents want to see us survive. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? I have learnt a lot about myself! I realised that I was naive about the threat of a global pandemic. It just never occurred to me that this could happen, and that my career and livelihood could change forever. Being home with my 11-year-old daughter and wife for three months was really hard. Home schooling and the stress of our businesses being closed were a lot to handle. I had days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, and others where I wanted to fight as hard as I could to make sure we kept our bars afloat. I spend a lot of time sitting alone at Clover Club crying, just trying to pull it together so that I could put on a strong face for my daughter, and tell her that everything was going to be ok.
We have had some financial assistance from the government and non-profit restaurant organisations, and started a GoFundMe [crowdfunding campaign] for our staff.
Professionally, I have started looking at other avenues to bring in revenue at the bars. Some of these will be things that we keep going once we are fully open again. I think we will be more creative with how we run our bars in the future, and will hopefully continue with our to-go cocktails.
What changes will you have to put in place when you reopen?
How can guests help you and your business going forward?
We have reopened for to-go cocktails and food. Right now, it is literally the owners and a few key staff members serving drinks in to-go cups off of a table at the door. It’s like event bartending every day. We are trying to grow our to-go food business, but it has never been something that Clover Club has done a lot of. The biggest changes for us so far are the use of masks and gloves, sanitising and social distancing of staff while working. We want to make sure that our staff and guests are safe, but this is a whole new world, and not something that we have had to oversee in the past.
It would be great if guests would follow the government guidelines about wearing masks and social distancing, and not make us police them. It’s enough to try to figure out how to adjust our business without having to babysit the public as well.
Have you had any financial support?
Things are changing daily in the city. We are just trying to make a plan for each phase of opening. On 22 June we will be able to have tables outside of our bars on the sidewalk. This will be great, although it will
What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? I am excited to see what the creative minds of our industry do from here. We are a resilient bunch of people, we will find a way to bring people together for celebrations, even if it looks a little different. cloverclubny.com
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Speak Low Shanghai The Cocktail Lovers - 29
IN-the spotlight IN-my experience
In my experience Iain McPherson, Panda & Sons / Hoot the Redeemer / Nauticus: Edinburgh, Scotland When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bars?
How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bars?
All of my adult life I have been slightly paranoid about new viruses, be it foot and mouth, bird flu, swine flu, SARS, the list goes on. So when Covid-19 came along I wasn’t going to brush it off as not important. I watched the news a few times a day at the beginning. By early February I knew it was going to be really bad, on a global scale – not just for human loss, but because a severely dark financial situation will be awaiting us once the pandemic has subsided. So we had already put in a plan for phasing down the bars by then. Managers were meeting every other day, and information was relayed to the staff on a regular basis.
The mood was quite normal, until a couple of weeks before closing. The reality of the situation took a while to soak in for most of the general public. I guess there was that feeling that, “It could never be that bad in the UK, surely!”
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When did you close your bars? We decided to close on Thursday 19 March. I wasn’t going to wait any longer for the government to make the right call in introducing a lockdown. Money is important, but human life is the most important thing. I knew I was doing what was right; even knowing we would lose out on that weekend’s take, I was never unsure of making the call.
What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? My biggest fear was our beautiful bars never seeing a customer again. That was a really scary thought! I also had regular nightmares about the bars being robbed, or being burnt down for some reason. Not nice. How would you describe your bars pre-coronavirus? Panda & Sons is our world-renowned bar, and preCovid-19 it was a very high-volume cocktail bar. Tourists would flock there seven days a week and we would have a good mix of locals at the weekends. We were always predominantly table service, with superfast efficiency and friendly Scottish service. Hoot the Redeemer is a quirky, one-of-a-kind bar with an emphasis on fun. It was designed around my lucid dreams. More of a locals’ and bartender hangout, it was bustling all week, with a mix of table service and ordering from the bar. Nauticus is a bar with Scotland – and locals – at its heart. We only sell Scottish products where we can, and I’ve never seen a bar with such lovely and devoted regulars. It has a community spirit, unrivalled anywhere I’ve been. What changes will you have to put in place when you reopen? Hygiene has always been so important to us, so it’s more just a case of adding a few new things like hand sanitiser stations, making the menus laminated and keeping ordering and delivering drinks contactless. For all bars, we are looking at PPE [personal protective equipment], and currently debating PPE visors for staff or a PPE guard like you see in supermarkets, but along the whole bar. I think some of our bars will have the guard, and some like Panda & Sons will have the visors. The biggest change will be the capacity and deciding whether to open seven days a week or not. Right now, we are thinking about opening three to four days a week to begin with. Capacity will be reduced to at least 50%, with Hoot the Redeemer being reduced more, unfortunately, due to the layout of the space. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? Personally, to try and enjoy some time off from work. But to be honest that was only really in the first month – now I’m busier than I was pre-lockdown, which is
weird, as it doesn’t bring the same job satisfaction or financial reward. I’ve learnt new skills like tiling too, and lots about plants. Mental strength has surely been tested; setting up a new business during this time and living alone has been extremely hard. But it has been so amazing to see Black Lives Matter gaining momentum. Being a person of colour, I can relate to most of the racism felt out there. It’s made me a lot more comfortable to talk about racism and to no longer accept it, so I’m happy about that. Professionally, I’ve learnt how to do web design and to understand analytics and it’s worth so much more. Most importantly, I’ve learnt that a community can really pull together during hard times and help each other out. Stronger together! How can your guests help you and your business going forward? Keep the valued support going, it means the world! We have set up our own alcohol delivery and collection business (edinburghboozedelivery.com), and I think post lockdown this will enable us and our other participating bars to have another shop window of revenue. So customers who are not willing or aren’t financially able to come back to our bars in the short term, please think about the alternative service we offer. What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? I’d like to think this is an ideal time for the government to review the archaic business rates issue bars have always faced. Our rates are based on turnover (not profit), whilst most other businesses have rates based on the size of their space. This needs to change, and bars should have their rates calculated the same as everyone else. And I am now so much more warm to thinking about diversifying what a bar can offer – be it takeaway drinks, delivering drinks, bartenders at home, or using our bar brand(s) to run bars at events like weddings and birthdays… pandaandsons.com hoottheredeemer.com nauticusbar.co.uk
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Things like…? Like being stopped by the police as many as three times a week; experiencing racist abuse; being attacked by members of the National Front; seeing friends beaten up; being spat on when I was young, out with my mum. When these memories came flooding back, they led me to think about things that happened while I was working at a major drinks company. There’s a real problem within the hospitality industry and not enough is done about it. When you’re working in an environment that is predominately white, it becomes really hard to speak up and have a voice. I want people to know there is an issue. Can you give us some examples of incidents you experienced at work? One that really sticks out for me was when I was in a conference with 100 or so people in the room. Someone on stage was doing a presentation and flipped to a slide. In the corner was a picture of Kanye West. As soon as it came up I heard someone shout out, “Look, it’s Deano!” and everyone started laughing. I’m the only black person in the room, a black person is on the screen and they think it’s funny to shout that out. So you have a situation where you have 99 people laughing at you because of something they think is a joke. That situation would never have happened in reverse. Or there’s the time they were showing slides of a Tough Mudder-type event and a picture comes up of a guy running through mud and someone says, “Look, there’s Deano.” Or the time I was playing pool with some of the team: when it was my turn to take a shot one of the guys says, “Remember Deano, that’s not a spear, it’s a snooker cue.” I hear you. So what’s the overall aim of Equal Measures? The main thing is, I want it to be really positive. So I’ve revisited my original idea and tried to turn it into something that’s engaging for everyone, encouraging everyone to make a change and calling on big companies to be accountable. We’ll also be highlighting some of the amazing black individuals here in the UK who have made a difference. What do you have planned? There are three phases. Phase one will primarily be centred around focus groups where I’ll be getting brand ambassadors, operators, journalists, etc, together and listening to their opinions. The next phase comes in October, during Black History Month. The aim is to have 300 bars participating; they’ll each have one drink on the menu that’s inspired by a person of colour who has made a positive impact on society. What I’d like is for the bars to have a postcard with details about that person, which they give out with each drink, and hopefully customers post about it on social media. That way people understand a little bit more. You always hear about this cocktail being inspired by Churchill or that cocktail inspired by Ernest
Hemingway… you never see any inspired by positive black role models. I hope to change that. Then we go to phase three, which is where we use the learnings from phase one and get into training and outreach. In August I want to call out the big drinks companies and hotel groups by name, asking them to be more transparent about their policies of diversity. I want them to answer questions such as who wrote that policy? Was it a diverse group or someone who sits in an office who doesn’t know anything about inclusion, diversity or ethnicity? I want them to explain how they track their success, how they ensure that people of colour are supported all the way through and can be vocal about any issues they have. I’ll speak to them beforehand to let them know what I’m going to do, but I’m going to tag them on social media and call them out. What difference do you hope Equal Measures will have made in five years? Well, transparency is number one. What steps have any of these companies put in place to ensure that if anyone speaks out about something that’s happened to them, they feel secure enough to talk about it? What facilities do they have in place to help coach them through? Going back to the spear incident: when that happened to me I immediately called the guy out and told him that was completely out of order and everyone was like, “Deano, he didn’t mean it”, making me look like I was being aggressive and overly sensitive. That’s the real challenge: how do you educate your staff if they feel that way? How do you deal with that? What are good things about being the only black person in the room? That’s a really good question. One of the good things for me is knowing that I am the only black person in the room. That means that I’m representing a wider community and that’s a big responsibility, making sure that I’m representing in the best possible way. There have been many people who have said that I’ve been an inspiration to them. Since announcing the launch of Equal Measures I’ve had more than a 100 people contacting me – black and white – saying this is really needed, thanks for stepping up. It’s nice to be the person who can make a positive impact and I’ve always tried to do things the right way. You’ve been in the industry 20-plus years. There can’t have been many black people in it during the early days, as there aren’t that many now… I remember going to awards ceremonies over 15 years ago and thinking that there aren’t any people of colour around. It hasn’t massively changed and that’s really worrying. There are still only a few of us but I think what we do, we do really well. We just need to continue doing it. Find out more by contacting Deano via Instagram at @deanomoncrieffe
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In my experience Luke Whearty, BYRDI: Melbourne, Australia When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bar?
How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bar?
In Australia we saw it happen in other countries around the world first, but it didnâ€™t really sink in that it would affect us until the number of cases started increasing and restrictions started being implemented by the government. First there were restrictions around how many people we were allowed in the venue and social distancing was introduced; over the course of one week things were changing every day, until the inevitable happened and we were forced to close. Although we saw it coming, it still seemed to happen very quickly.
It was such an uncertain period, and as we saw it happening in other countries first we started to prepare ourselves for the worst. Once restrictions started to be put in place it gradually became more and more quiet which was quite eerie. We have some very loyal regulars who showed us amazing support during this period, however when the government forced us to close and the reality sunk in it was a very sobering moment. The day I had to sit my team down and tell them that it could potentially be the last service we did together and I might not have a job for them next week was really tough.
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When did you close your bar? We officially closed on 23 March. The decision to close was due to government regulations. We could have continued to stay open for takeaway, however we decided to close the physical venue and take our operations online. What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? That I wouldn’t be able to reopen on the other side and everything we have worked hard to achieve would be lost. How would you describe your bar pre-coronavirus? BYRDI was still very much in its infancy pre-coronavirus. We had only been open for four full months so it was all still very new for us and we were only just starting to get into a rhythm. What changes did you have to put in place when you reopened? We have treated it like we are opening for the first time all over again. In some ways it’s been beneficial for us to be able to learn from opening the first time and iron out the creases, so to speak. We officially opened up again one week ago as I write this, with government regulations only allowing us to seat 20 people at a time, but so far we’ve had an amazing response from people. We are just taking things one day at a time and realise that there’s a long road ahead of us. The biggest change is staffing and operation hours. Pre-Covid we were open 9am-1am, seven days a week, with a full team of nine staff. We have reopened just five nights a week to begin with (Tuesday to Saturday, 4pm– midnight) and I’m just running this with two of our staff and myself. The biggest thing that’s helping us right now is people making reservations; it really helps me plan ahead and this weekend I was able to bring in two more of my staff as I knew how many people we were going to have in advance, which was great. We have been very grateful for the support we’ve received from the suppliers that we work with, ranging from small farms to bigger spirit companies. I’d love to give recognition here and say thank you in particular to [drinks store] Blackhearts & Sparrows here in Melbourne and [global drinks company] Beam Suntory. Blackhearts helped us massively by selling our bottled cocktails in multiple states around Australia and Beam Suntory helped us film some great online video content that enabled us to keep in the minds of people and stay active during the worst of the pandemic.
What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? I guess just being agile. Having the ability and also the will to change things – and change things quickly – has really saved us. Also building strong relationships is vital. We wouldn’t have been able to get to the position we are in today without the support from the community around us and the relationships we’ve built previously. Both Blackhearts & Sparrows and Beam Suntory are two particular relationships that have really helped us and it definitely won’t be forgotten. And doing things during closure like going out to a wine producer that we work with and making our own wine (that we now have in the bar post-Covid) helped immensely – it kept us busy and we were able to get out into mother nature for a few days as a team to keep our minds off things. How can your guests help you and your business going forward? By understanding that the bar you go to for drinks on the weekend is also someone’s business and livelihood and possibly supports their family. So just to respect that and understand that not turning up to your reservation for four people on a Friday night might not be a big deal to you, but it is to them; little things like having the courtesy to call and cancel ahead of time is greatly appreciated.
We have been very grateful for the support we’ve received from the suppliers that we work with, ranging from small farms to bigger spirit companies What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? I think just a stronger sense of community in general. I’ve been really amazed at how the bar community here in Melbourne has banded together and have seen similar things in other markets around the world. It would be a real shame if we lose sight of this and don’t continue to help each other going forward. byrdi.com.au
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Portrait: Joanna Lin; Bar Emilie Baltz bar photo, Employees Only, pre-Covid-19
This one is personal Steve Schneider has seen some major changes in his life in the past four years, but his latest venture is probably his biggest yet. Here he tells us why. “This is what I’ve always wanted,” says Steve Schneider on announcing that he’s now one of the partners of Employees Only New York. True, the timing could have been better: “I became a partner three weeks before the pandemic took off here in the US, so I look like the dumbest business person in the world right now!” he says laughing. But truthfully, he knows that this is no joke. Au contraire, it’s a very big deal indeed. Employees Only New York is an institution. Anyone who’s been through its doors in its 16-year history will tell you that no other bar in the West Village, or the western world for that matter, has a buzz or energy
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like it. That’s down to the team, many of whom are so inextricably linked to the place that they’ve been there for the past 10 years. “If you count me and a couple of part-timers, there are 20 of us who have been here for a decade, including 10 on the bar side. That’s longer than other places have been open,” he says proudly. “In fact, I met them for brunch early on and told them that I’d acquired partnership. Luckily, they all seemed genuinely pleased.” Why wouldn’t they be? Steve is the living, breathing embodiment of the unique EO brand of magic. Just four years ago he left to set up EO Singapore. Since then
he’s been unstoppable, partnering up on three very different venues: The Strangers Club in Panama, The Odd Couple in Shanghai and Elysian Cafe in Hoboken, New Jersey. Now he’s done a full 360, returning to the mothership, the one that he’s coveted since he was welcomed into the fold as a stocker 13 years ago. He climbed the ranks, working his way to barback, apprentice, principal bartender, then bar manager. “I had a tiny percentage in EO New York as part of the deal when I went to Singapore, but I’ve been in negotiations to have more equity in relation to NY,” he explains. “Over time, I was able to acquire more shares and now, after a year and change of negotiations, I’m a partner.”
are still here, along with Eric Lincoln, a more recent partner. However, their attention is on the operation and administration side of things. I’m going to be the guy who’s in charge of the bar.” Asked whether he’ll be training in the old EO ways or EO Mark II, he doesn’t miss a beat: “It will be a bit of both. This place has always been defined by its staff and I want to keep it that way. I want to honour the fact that we’ve had people here forever but I want to embrace the newer staff, teaching the younger men and women to become better bartenders than me,” he says decisively. “I don’t want to tell people what to do, I don’t want to take a bunch of apprentices and turn them into me, I want to turn them into the best versions of themselves. I’m just going to provide a platform for them to do that.” It might be a little while before you experience their new and improved skills for yourself – the bar has yet to reopen. “We’re a high-volume bar, we’re built to go fast and if we can’t go fast, that’s not our brand.” It hasn’t been an easy decision for him and the partners to make but he’s convinced that it’s the right one. “We don’t want to whimper back into business – we want to come back decisively. For me personally, I want to return to the glory days. I love this place and I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure its long-term survival. When you love something, you’ll do anything for it. Watch this space, we’re going to be back and bad again very soon.” employeesonlynyc.com
He’s chuffed to bits but quick to point out that he won’t be muscling in, changing things. “I want to stay away from words like ‘facelift’ or ‘change’ because what we have going on here is awesome. Instead I want to take the wisdom that I’ve gained and the experiences I’ve learnt in the past few years and incorporate them into our existing product.” How so? “I’m going to leave the older members of the team alone, doing what they do best – they’ve put in the time and know what works.” Instead he’ll be spending much of his time working with the new blood, the younger men and women who have joined the family. “It’s been a few years since there’s been a partner present working on cocktail development, bar training and the stuff EO was built on by the owner/bartenders who started the whole thing off. Having them around taught me so much,” he says, reminiscing of his early days. “Some of them have moved on, but Billy Gilroy and Henry LaFargue
I don’t want to tell people what to do, I don’t want to take a bunch of apprentices and turn them into me, I want to turn them into the best versions of themselves
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A fairly regular punter myself, I like to think ‘Beaky’s Bar’ is an expression of who he is, what he’s done and what he likes. The room is packed full of mementos and knick-knacks: tributes to his job as a firefighter, posters and effigies of his favourite film and music stars, and in the corner his cherished Vespa scooter adorned with chrome and mirrors – a nod to his lifelong love of all things Mod. Beaky likes to think of his bar as a palace of fun. Everything about it is intended to make his guests feel welcome and comfortable. It has an ambience that is certainly assisted by a seemingly endless supply of rum – Beaky’s generosity being as big as his gummy grin – which typically ends up in the bottom of his signature serve: the Cuba Libre. And although I’ve visited countless times, I still fail to note everything that’s on display. Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to extend my home, creating a modest space where I could create ‘Rick’s Bar’. Beaky’s Bar had whetted my appetite and I wanted a place where I would entertain family and friends, display cocktail paraphernalia and deliver masterclasses to those who wouldn’t recognise my errors. Above all, I wanted to indulge myself by playing bartender in my very own bar. Inspired by the aesthetic of colonial-era gentlemen’s clubs and design elements from some of the hotel bars I’ve visited – Blue Bar at The Berkeley, the Beaufort at The Savoy, Duke’s, the Long Bar at Raffles – I’ve tried to bring together classic touches in a unique combination: wood panelling, club chairs, drinks trolley, ceiling fan, and cocktail memorabilia carefully laid out behind a display cabinet. To my guests, it’s now a room where the evening begins with aperitifs, middles with the classics and ends (and invariably extends) with homemade nightcaps. To me, it’s a room that helps me remember the bars I’ve visited and the drinks I’ve tasted.
But since the coronavirus pandemic put us all in isolation, both Beaky and I have discovered new meaning in our respective home bars. With no family or friends visiting, it would be easy to turn off the fridge, finish the vermouth and lock the doors until such time as we’re able to celebrate coming together again. But from being a place reserved for social gatherings, we’ve found the home bar has replaced the kitchen table as the focal point for daily conversations and even quiet reflection with our partners.
It’s a tribute to cocktail culture and history, and each souvenir evokes a memory of a cocktail I ordered Although lacking our closest friends, the bar remains filled with happy memories, making it a perfect place to find solace in these difficult and demanding times. Even just sitting together scrolling our smartphones while contemplating the day’s news, it’s a comforting environment from which to empathise with heartbreak and take joy in good news where we find it. At least twice a day we use modern technology to video call friends and family from the bar, so we can at least ‘get together’ in spirit and raise a toast to everyone’s health. Originally passion projects to accommodate the drinks we love, Beaky and I have found our home bars to be the one place we can lift spirits in more ways than one. When the time comes to settle back into everyday life, we’ll have to flip a coin to decide whether Beaky’s Bar or Rick’s Bar will host first. Whichever wins, we’ll know that while our bars might resume their primary function as social spaces, from now on they will always mean so much more.
It’s a tribute to cocktail culture and history, and each souvenir evokes a memory of a cocktail I ordered, how it was made, how it was served and how it tasted. It is reasonably well-equipped with the tools of the trade, and an ability to take advantage of duty-free shopping has resulted in an above-average stock of spirits – handy for thumbing through the bar’s reprints of vintage cocktail books as I explore and test recipes, though my signature serves remain the Negroni and Manhattan.
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In my experience Lelos Georgopoulos, The Clumsies: Athens, Greece When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bar?
What changes did you have to put in place when you reopened?
In Greece we realised sooner than maybe anyone else in Europe, because we saw the effects in Italy.
Limited seating with social distancing, a smaller menu, fewer preparations, fewer costs – we’ve had almost zero financial help, just a 40% cut on the rent until June. We’ve been open again for 20 days [at the time of writing]. It has been a slow reopening, but we are very excited that we are back, because we’re here with our favourite people, healthy and strong!
How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bar? Here at The Clumsies, like the rest of my places [Odori Vermuteria, Senios and Theory Bar], we are a big family! So health was our ultimate priority from the first moment. We closed one day before closure was made official. Don’t forget we have children at our houses, and old people! What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? My biggest fear was that maybe after reopening I wouldn’t be able to sustain all of my employees. How would you describe your bar pre-coronavirus? Packed with people full of life! And high volume, as always.
What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? Take nothing for granted. How can your guests help you and your business going forward? We need happy regulars! Fear is a bad adviser! What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? Bottled cocktails are a big trend. Also, people need to have fun but concepts will continue to fail. People will always need a nice drink in a nice bar.
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IN-the spotlight IN-my experience
In my experience Ram Yadav, Nyte – Drinkery & Kitchen: Bangalore, India When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bar? We realised the seriousness of the virus in mid February, with the news of it spreading far and wide at an alarming speed. The question of closing had been at the back of our minds since then, and by the end of February we had figured out that we would eventually have to close. How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bar? It was full of uncertainty. The worldwide news was on everyone’s mind – our customers’, owners’ and staff. Some of us were optimistic that we would not be affected by it and India’s hot climate would ward off
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the virus as speculated. We didn’t really notice a drop in customer base until the first week of March. The problem was, nobody had a clear idea as to what would be our future. When did you close your bar? We closed on 14 March. We were thinking of closing and picking a date, but then the government issued the directive to shut. A few of our staff had already made plans to go back to their home towns and we supported their decision.
What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown?
How can your guests help you and your business going forward?
Honestly, the thought that it would be the end of our business as we knew it. The fear still looms, even today – bars and pubs only make money when they are crowded. It will be very difficult to adapt to social distancing norms and still maintain a steady cash flow, but we will adapt to it. The fear of things never being the same was very big during the lockdown.
From our guests we don’t expect much; they’ve also had to deal with all the changes happening around us. The only help we’d expect would be for them to continue to visit us and put their trust and faith in us, and at the same time welcome the changes with open arms – and to learn to enjoy the new normal.
How would you describe your bar pre-coronavirus? Pre-virus we were a luxury function space and bar. We were a newly opened venue in a developing area of Bangalore. After, I would hope we can maintain the same identity. With our large space we are able to offer ‘social distancing drinking’. What changes will you have to put in place when you reopen? The biggest hurdle will be gaining the trust of guests all over again. Where good service and better drinks got you far before in the relationship with the guest, these will be replaced with standard hygiene operations and evident cleaning rituals. As usual, our job will be to make people feel comfortable, but we now live in a world were these trusts must be gained to obtain such a relationship. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally?
What changes are you most looking forward to in the drinks industry going forward? With the pandemic we saw a lot of regulations and rules being relaxed. I hope this continues. We are looking to the state government to allow delivery of alcohol and craft beer, as it would really help our business as well as making sure our products are reaching our patrons. As a bartender I hope the government will allow the delivery of cocktails as well.
The biggest hurdle will be gaining the trust of guests all over again
The biggest lesson that I’ve learnt is to always adapt to situations, to be proactive rather than reactive. Personally, I’ve started to make changes to my spending and saving habits. Professionally, I’ve learnt to appreciate the small things and truly understand the business of hospitality that we are in. The lesson that will remain forever is to never depend on a single source of income for our livelihood. As a bartender, I’ve also realised that we need to adapt to changes and stay educated on all the ways to deliver our products to our customers in the best possible way.
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When we couldn’t get to the bars, the bars changed tack and brought the cocktails to us. Pre-made cocktails are go!
LITLLE RED DOOR
LOTS OF BOTTLE First things first, we know that ready-to-go cocktails are hardly new. We’ve seen the category increase in size and status over recent years. Ryan Chetiyawardana made it sexy and glam by securing a much-coveted window in top London department store Selfridges with his uber-cool and brilliantly executed Mr Lyan range. Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson gave it quirk with kooky bottles and unconventional recipes in their eponymous Aske Stephenson collection (Peanut Butter and Jam Old Fashioned, anyone?). And Bar Termini transported us to their tiny Soho bar with just a sip from each of their four pre-bottled Negroni variants. That said, there’s no denying that the market and our perception of it has changed exponentially in the past few months.
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Obviously the pre-made cocktail love has been just as beneficial for bar owners. Boosted by a necessity to keep the coffers topped up while their doors were forced to close, not to mention monetise stock that would have otherwise gone to waste, venues around the world were quick to make the most of the cocktails to-go and delivery trend, with many countries and many states in America relaxing laws so bars could cash in. “We started offering our cocktail delivery service about three days after lockdown was announced,” says Richard Wynne, owner of Callooh Callay and Little Bat in London. Yes, it was an idea he’d been toying with at the beginning of the year, but Covid-19 and all of the implications that went with it gave the project more urgency. “To begin with it was just to keep some sort of trade going – we had no idea how we would keep cash coming in to pay our staff, added to which we had the best part of £30,000 worth of stock over our sites that had to be paid for by the end of April.” At the outset the cocktails on offer were based around the stock the bars needed to shift. “After a while we needed to update menus as per demand,” he continues. “The fact that we were so flexible meant that we would tailor drinks to the weather forecast for the weekend, send out newsletters each Wednesday and then watch the orders roll in.”
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The Cocktail Trading Co. Blame it on Covid-19. Check this: Google searches for alcohol delivery services in the UK shot up by a massive 250% from March to April 2020. Surprised? No, neither are we. Faced with the prospect of living life in lockdown, with no social lives to speak of for who knew how long, is it any wonder we logged off from the Zoom cocktailmaking sessions and sought solace in a well-crafted, premade drink instead? Our go-to venues may have closed, our favourite bartenders may have been furloughed, but, thankfully, we could support them (and our finely tuned palates) by placing orders for cocktails we would have previously sipped in their bars. The big difference being we could log on, click go and have them delivered to our doors. Which, for many, was – and still is, in fact – the next best thing.
It’s a similar story for Edmund Weil, co-owner of awardwinning London bars Nightjar, Oriole and Swift. “From a nitty gritty business point of view, cash is enormously important in a crisis such as this and selling our inventory in pretty packages was one of the few ways we could generate revenue,” he says of his bars’ popular bottled cocktails, which went on sale mid-May. “On the other hand, we’re lucky to have a very engaged following and we wanted to offer them as much as possible to keep the spirit of the bars alive during lockdown.” A sentiment that is echoed around the world.
Now that bars are back in operation, many have decided to keep their delivery/takeaway options going That said, even the most successful ventures didn’t generate anything like the amounts that a busy bar could, as Andrew Ho from Jigger & Pony in Singapore confirms: “Our revenue plunged 85% in the first week of lockdown, but steadily increased when we started offering delivery options. They now [at the time of writing] make up about 30% of our pre-Covid-19 revenue.” Not perfect, given that Jigger & Pony was named Best Bar in Asia’s 50 Best Bars list in May and under normal circumstances would have been acing things on the bums-on-seats front. But 30% in uncertain times is better than the alternative. While most bars chose to offer their drinks in bottles, single-serve pouches and even cans, Marian Beke and the team at The Gibson in London opted for cocktail ‘bundles’ – carefully curated parcels centred around a weekly-changing classic. Each one is packed full of goodies including a full-sized bottle of the base spirit – single malt whisky, say – then extras such as beer, mixers,
Electric Bitters, syrups, proteins, garnishes, paper straws and napkins. The idea is for guests to enjoy the spirit in a variety of ways, including tasting it neat, with a chaser or mixed into a cocktail (following instructions on a prerecorded video). “We wanted to create something for takeaway but we didn’t want to do pre-made cocktails as many other bars are doing them. For me, the bundles would communicate the spirits, plus many little extras that create the Gibson experience directly in your house if you wish to,” says Marian. To further enhance the mood, the bundles include aroma sticks, glassware, personalised messages with a joke, or a menu from the bar, plus savoury and sweet snacks – “You can’t have a drink without a snack!” says Marian. “I think it’s very important to create memories and bring smiles to the faces of our guests when they open the box.” And if that little lot doesn’t do the trick, they’re sure to feel good knowing that a percentage of sales goes to National Health Service (NHS) charities. Now that bars are back in operation, many have decided to keep their delivery/takeaway options going. “It’s almost a new business that will surely stay under the umbrella and will continue to grow and improve in the future. We’re now finalising our sister website with cocktail bundles as well as pre-made cocktails,” says Marian. “The most amazing part in this was seeing the addresses of people who are buying the bundles – around 60-70% are not even in London. So for a small bar such as The Gibson, with one location in Old Street, this is a great opportunity and ability to share what we do with a much bigger reach than just a neighbourhood crowd.”
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As for the Soft Cocktails, the Horseradish Sour (Green apple, Seedlip Garden and verjus) packed a big flavour punch and was one of the best non-alcoholic drinks we’ve experienced in a long time. Likewise, the refreshing Garibaldi (Æcorn Bitter, blood orange and honey) also proved that lack of alcohol doesn’t have to mean short-changing on flavour. The food: We attempted to pace ourselves for the full dining experience, but as we sipped our pre-dinner cocktails we couldn’t resist a couple of bar snacks (and as a description, ‘bar snacks’ is a total understatement). The Black Truffle Flatbread with Parmesan Cream worked a treat alongside The Dirty Martini. And the C.F.C. (Claridge’s Fried Chicken) is a delicious delight that would work well with absolutely any cocktail. Having set the bar high with those bar snacks, the exquisite brioche bread rolls kept things going nicely while we indulged in the restaurant’s seductive menu. From it we selected dishes from both the Cold Starters and Warm Starters. The Roasted Beetroot with sheep’s milk yogurt, quinoa falafel and cumin was a wonderfully subtle blend of flavours and textures. The Poached Lobster with swede, pear and lobster bisque felt gloriously indulgent, and if we’d stopped right there and then we would have been more than happy with our evening’s dining. The mains were still to come, though, and were superb.
The whole dining experience abounds with nice little touches, whether it’s dishes arriving in wooden boxes or the pure theatre of the way in which our wine was served – involving flames, freezing and the bottle neck, complete with cork, being deftly removed and presented to us later as a memento of the evening. At the heart of everything, though, is a quite outstanding celebration of flavour.
Davies and Brook 'To Go' Joy of joys, Davies and Brook has now introduced a delivery service. The delivery time is quite limited, as is the menu. But when it includes the C.F.C. (Claridge’s Fried Chicken), Lobster & Shrimp Boil and ready-topour cocktails, it’s a must for home indulgence. Davies and Brook ‘To Go’ is available Thursday to Saturday, from 2pm to 6pm. See daviesandbrook.co.uk for details.
Hake poached with shiitake mushroom, garlic and pine nuts was cooked to perfection, melting in the mouth. And the Dry-Aged Duck with honey and lavender glazed with rhubarb and daikon came highly recommended – and, from our very first taste, it wasn’t difficult to see why.
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IN-my experience IN-xxxxx
In my experience Yolanda Evans gives the cocktail-loving consumer's view I’ve been fascinated by bars since I was a kid. Growing up watching shows like Cheers and The Simpsons, I saw bars more as an oasis where you can commiserate with other wayward souls for a few hours. When I started going to bars, I found this aspect somewhat true. The entire bar didn’t shout my name as I entered, but they recognised my face when I became a regular. I will not lie, I love going to bars. When I travel, I have a list of places to visit for the time I’m in town. As much as I love tasting new cocktails, the best thing about going to bars for me is watching the talented bartenders create these concoctions. I would take photos, ask questions, and even get a little taste of leftover cocktails made for others. With the coronavirus wreaking havoc around the world, my love for bars has turned into fear; I just don’t trust people to be safe. The last bar I went to before the shutdown was a little cafe in Sighisoara, Romania. This bar had some cocktails on the menu, but I opted for some brandy because I’m such a cocktail snob. If I’m going to pay all that money for a cocktail, I want it to be an excellent one. If I could go back, I would have ordered that Old Fashioned no matter how it tasted. As lockdowns around the world are being lifted, bars everywhere are scrambling to open back up as they need the money to stay alive. Many have turned into liquor stores to sell bottles and cocktails to go, but the doors for many bars that I have visited, or ones on my wish list, will never open again. I regret not trying
harder to go to bars like the Pegu Club all those times I was in New York. I missed my chance and will never have that experience of visiting that particular bar. And for patrons of the bars reopening now that it’s allowed, it won’t be a spontaneous trip as many places now require you to make a reservation. I know bars need this to limit the number of people who can enter and how long they can stay, but it’s just going to deter me from visiting. I’m not much of a planner; I would just pop into a place for a cocktail or two. I think more bars will try outdoor seating, but even that option is not the safest bet. Recently, I went to a bar to celebrate my birthday. I felt uncomfortable even though I was sitting outdoors. All I wanted to do was to drink my beer and go home. These days, the only cocktails I will drink are the ones I will make myself. Although I have the skills to make my own cocktails, I hate making them. I went to bars for a reason. I never know what I want to drink. And when I decide what to make, I’m always missing an ingredient or two and would have to go to the shop. And that’s just too much work for me when I can visit a bar and order something, quick and easy. This is not the case these days, so I will just have to quit my bitching and upgrade my home bar. Hopefully, it will be safe to go back to my bar hopping one day. Until then, I’ll be flexing my cocktail-making skills and staying inside, where I can enjoy my drink without a care in the world.
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In pursuit of London’s coolest bars.
Baccarat Bar at Harrods Where better to have my first post-lockdown drink out in the big, bad world than the brand-new Baccarat Bar at Harrods? It’s the first time in its 171-year history that the grande dame of department stores has had a standalone concept bar, and social distancing or no social distancing, I wanted in. What was I expecting? Are you kidding? With Baccarat and Harrods joining forces, I wanted full-blown, in-your-face luxury. Of course, they nailed it. But in a chic-casual kind of way. There’s leather, there’s velvet, there’s original art, there’s Baccarat crystal – lots of Baccarat crystal – and there’s masses of drinks know-how and style. For me though, the best bit is, it’s totally accessible and despite the feeling of being in such a glamorous setting it’s not remotely blingy. Put it this way, I’d feel equally at home if I popped in at 4pm after purchasing a little designer number upstairs as I would meeting up in the evening with girlfriends or a date (or even my mum, for that matter); it pretty much fits the bill for every occasion. And do you know what? Once safely cocooned in the rich, red huglike space, I completely forgot that this was my first time out. Enough of the room and on to the drinks… Not wishing to boast or anything but I’ve seen some pretty cool menus in my time. This one though got me extremely excited. It’s filled with lots of details – some you might get, others not, but it doesn’t matter. What I loved about it was, everything is there for a purpose –
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from the specially commissioned art to illustrate each section, to the carefully thought-out descriptions and ‘frequency levels’. Each section is divided into colours and each colour ref lects a particular style and mood. For instance, white is light, clean and refreshing, with bright and bubbly drinks such as The Arrival (Hendrick’s Gin, sugar snap distillate, fermented pea and rice oil – a stunner by the way), while violet is more contemplative and mysterious, as illustrated in the Hat – Trick (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, banana wine, compact caramelised dairy and cinchona bark). Another absolute stunner. All drinks are served in gorgeous Baccarat crystal, which makes the world seem like a much better place. And should the urge take you, all of the glassware is available to order there and then. One last little tip: do yourself a favour, settle back in your chair and order the bar snacks, specially created to complement the menu and all made with the tastiest, first-class ingredients from the Harrods Food Hall. My date and I polished off the outrageously good beef cheek beignet, Faroe Island smoked salmon and honey and rosemary glazed le fin Normand camembert (aka cheese on toast) before you could say “who’s hungry?” The verdict? I’m smitten. Beautifully balanced drinks served in THE most fabulous crystal glassware, lush setting and gorgeous bar snacks – it’s well worth leaving home for. Harrods, Door 5a on Hans Crescent, SW1 harrods.com
See, feel and taste the spirit of Latin America by immersing yourself in the pages of the new book by Ivy Mix. Beautifully written, it’s more than a collection of recipes (100 in fact), it’s a passionate account of the place, its people and their products, with stunning photography by Shannon Sturgis. Add it to your collection. Whether you’re a fan of agave spirits or not. Spirits of Latin America by Ivy Mix is published by Ten Speed Press, available from amazon.com
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In my experience Barney Toy, Clipper: Auckland, New Zealand When did you first realise the seriousness of Covid-19 and the fact that it would mean closing your bar?
What changes did you have to put in place when you reopened?
I think when the news started spreading globally and then cases hit New Zealand I knew it was going to affect things within hospitality.
We reopened on 21 May, when New Zealand dropped to a ‘level 2’ alert and bars could open with some restrictions in place. We had to drop our capacity by half and ensure contact tracing and social distancing measures were in place. It was a massive challenge to run the bar with half the capacity yet having to pay full operating costs. Now we are really lucky as New Zealand is at ‘level 1’ and we can run normally.
How was the mood leading up to the closure of your bar? We are a small team of three so the unease wasn’t really there, it was more planning for what was coming. When we knew forced closure was coming we had a few regulars and sales reps step up and ‘pay it forward’, buying 10 drinks at a time to encourage people to come and have a drink on them. When did you close your bar? We closed in late March, as New Zealand entered ‘level 4’ lockdown. The government went very aggressive early to try to contain Covid-19 – it was very much out of our hands. What was your biggest fear for your business during lockdown? Simply making it through was the greatest fear. We still had fixed costs to cover while closed and that was why we decided to look at offering takeaway cocktails and voucher sales to help cover some of those costs. How would you describe your bar pre-coronavirus? Clipper is a 25-seat, small yet vibrant cocktail bar in Ponsonby, a busy suburb of Auckland. The layout is cosy, with tables and chairs close together yet comfortable.
What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learnt from this period, both personally and professionally? Professionally, we had to hustle hard and think of anything that fitted our brand to make money to help us get through this. It was stressful but also a challenge and a good learning curve for a first-year business owner. Personally, it was a good chance to take stock and refocus. As travel wasn’t an option it’s the longest time I’ve been in one place for a while, without going anywhere, and it gave me a chance to do heaps of life admin. How can your guests help you and your business going forward? We really need people to support small local businesses, now more than ever! Some businesses unfortunately won’t make it through this. clipperbar.co.nz
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The Eternal City offers up some exceptional bars 66 - The Cocktail Lovers
A luxury hotel bar with one of the world’s most stunning views, a hidden Japanese-inspired room, a celebration of vermouth, fermented cocktails, old-world charm, plus an awardwinning speakeasy. We explored the modern bar scene in Rome and discovered a thoughtprovoking blend of eclecticism, creativity and deliciousness.
Drink Kong isn’t only the name of the bar, it’s also an attitude. Founder and top Rome bartender Patrick Pistolesi describes it as “Drink Kong, Think Kong, Be Kong” – a strong, confident point of view that pervades the whole offering. Whether you’re looking for a highenergy evening or something more laid-back, just drinks or exceptional food too, live music or a bit of mystery, you’ll find it delivered in style at this award-winning bar.
The Court is an appealingly refined, elegant terrace space. But as we walked through it to be shown to our seats, nothing could have prepared us for the view that awaited us. Of course, you’ll see the magnificent Colosseum countless times as you walk around the city, but there was something particularly spectacular about being presented with it as a backdrop for an evening of sitting back and sipping exquisite cocktails – and watching the sun set over this iconic symbol of the city felt particularly luxurious.
We started our evening at Drink Kong in the large, welcoming main space where a loud crowd was up for a good time and the bar team were happy to oblige, pumping out great-looking drinks with effortless efficiency. A change of room also changed the mood. Here’s where you find yourself at an intimate table or in a secluded booth. The seating is lush, the lighting is subdued, the sounds are softer and it’s ideal for indulging in the excellent Asian-influenced food. All combining to set the scene for a more romantic evening. There’s also a third space designed for the regular live music performances. And finally, we slipped behind some sliding doors to find ourselves in the hidden Japanese-inspired Drink Kong Room, a funky little area that is perfect for groups (advance booked required). Running throughout the four different rooms is some very cool unifying design – we especially loved the neon Drink Kong logo. The cocktails are every bit as creative as the decor and brilliantly showcased in the new menu, New Humans. Intriguingly, the concept was conceived just before Covid-19 shook things up but it seems to represent a positive attitude for the future as we all re-emerge into new ways of drinking. The menu’s five sections include Newmami – described as ‘the fifth flavour’ and aimed at a ‘more adventurous palate’ – which features the Enki (Tanqueray No. Ten Gin, mango, tea, citric, milk and parmesan water). It gradually revealed contrasting layers of flavour, leaving a very pleasant lingering finish. From the Herbs & Herbs section we absolutely loved Bitter Apes (Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Campari, Chartreuse Verte and Kong cordial) – bold yet accessible, just like the whole Drink Kong experience itself. Piazza di San Martino ai Monti, 8, 00154 Rome
And luxury is absolutely synonymous with The Court. It’s situated within the super-stylish five-star Palazzo Manfredi hotel (which also houses the Michelinstarred Aroma restaurant), but the bar has created its own individual atmosphere and offering thanks to the stewardship of Matteo Zed (back from gaining invaluable experience in New York and Japan). It’s perhaps fitting that as well as the Colosseum, the bar also overlooks Roman ruins that once housed a training area for gladiators. It feels as though a little of that rigorous discipline has rubbed off on Matteo’s team at The Court, as they all expertly go about the business of serving up their cocktails with effortless style and panache. The menu focuses on classic cocktails but gives them a distinct character through a considered use of local ingredients to delicious effect. A perfect example, and the standout drink for us, was the Roman Martini (Ginarte macerated with Roman herbs, Mancino Vermouth Secco and homemade Puntarelle bitters). Not surprisingly, Matteo’s inspiration for it was that view. All the ingredients are Italian and many are local to the surrounding area, such as the capers which grow wild nearby and are foraged to use as the drink’s garnish. Not only was it an outstanding Martini, it was also the perfect match for an evening spent gazing at the Colosseum. Add in the fact that the accompanying aperitivo snacks were abundant and off-the-scale tasty, and it’s not surprising we went back the next night to enjoy the experience all over again. Palazzo Manfredi, Via Labicana, 125, 00184 Rome aromarestaurant.it/en/the-court.html
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3 The Jerry Thomas Project The Jerry Thomas Project is an award-winning bar with an international reputation and it’s easy to see why. Now 10 years old, it started out as a passion project for a group of bartenders who wanted to celebrate and research their craft, hence the naming of it after the bartending legend Jerry Thomas. And it’s us, the guests, who are the lucky beneficiaries of their studies. Conceived with a speakeasy vibe, its dark wood interior and jazz soundtrack combined to transport us back in time. Make no mistake, though, this is no superficial theme experience. Quite the opposite. It’s all about offering outstanding cocktails. Given its origins, it was originally very much a haunt for drinks industry professionals; today it plays host to discerning locals and overseas visitors united in the love of a great cocktail experience. If you’re particularly lucky you may secure one of the few stools at the bar, where you can satisfy your inner geek watching the adroit team do their stuff serving up one great drink after another. And those drinks celebrate the classics but also reimagine and refine them for a modern audience. The House Manhattan (Bulleit Rye Whiskey, Cocchi Vermouth, Maraschino, Angostura and orange bitters) looked every inch an elegant cocktail (indeed, all the drinks looked as though Instagram was invented just to capture them) but like everything we tried, importantly it was made perfectly and served without pretension. Vicolo Cellini, 30, 00186 Rome thejerrythomasproject.it
4 Ercoli 1928 Ercoli 1928 is something of an institution. A name that’s been around for over 90 years, it feels like your dream neighbourhood delicatessen, purveying all manner of cold cuts, caviar, cured meats and cheeses. There’s also a large informal restaurant. But what we loved, no surprise here, was the Vermouth Bar. Given that Ercoli 1928 is open all day, the Vermouth Bar makes a perfect spot to while away a lazy afternoon – which is exactly what we set about doing. Positioning ourselves at an imposing bar that looked as though it had been hewn from an immense fallen tree, the sunshine flooded in and we took in the shelves that surrounded us, bursting with an abundance of enticing sparkling wines, sherry, Marsala, port and, of course, vermouth – probably more brands than we’ve ever seen in one place. The bar describes itself as ‘a club for connoisseurs, passionate and curious… to celebrate vermouth’. And while it happily lacked the formality of a club, it’s definitely a place to explore and enjoy. We chatted with our bartender and he was more than happy to share his knowledge and open bottles for us to sample. Moreover, it’s not only the
68 - The Cocktail Lovers
perfect place to discover your ideal vermouth, but also to enjoy an array of vermouth cocktails. The Special (Hendrick’s Gin, Martini Riserva Speciale and Antica Torino Vermouth) was a classic well-mixed Negroni that was elevated by its accompaniment of small breadsticks with a homemade Green Chartreuse and Angostura jam – presented as part of the serve, they complemented the drink beautifully. Viale dei Parioli, 184, 00197 Rome ercoli1928.com/en/parioli
Baccano The first impression you get on entering Baccano is a feeling of somewhere that oozes old-world charm. It’s a large space with high ceilings, nice period details and lots of dark wood and leather furniture combining for a feeling of rather appealing opulence. Efficient floor staff bustle around a mass of restaurant tables, while a row of large booths positioned by the bar offer a more relaxing and intimate experience. Baccano is designed for all-day dining, offering a fantastic celebration of Mediterranean cuisine and a very long wine list. But the focal point of the room is an enticingly long, traditional bar – behind which the shelves are piled high with all manner of bottles – that seems to beckon you over to take a stool. And once seated it’s the kind of place where you want to chat with your bartender and look forward to a well-made drink in the traditional style. We’re talking spritzes, highballs and classic cocktails, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We ordered a couple of Dry Martinis. They were perfectly mixed, good and cold, and slipped down an absolute treat. Via delle Muratte, 23, 00187 Rome baccanoroma.com
6 Latta A relative newcomer on the Rome bar scene, Latta has brought with it an altogether different kind of offering that complements and contrasts with the smart, classic or contemporary bars around the city. In fact, it’s an inspired mix of various ideas and different styles and could quite easily have gone wrong. Fortunately, the sum of the many parts makes for an intriguing and successful whole. The bright space has been created within a converted mill and has an industrial vibe about it. The original bare brick walls are accented by slick brushed aluminium and there are artful displays of some of the herbs that feature in the drinks. Pick up a menu, though, and you feel like you’ve dropped into a 1950s American diner. Kitsch images of robots and flying saucers are scattered amongst retro typography. All of which doesn’t prepare
you at all for the drinks. On offer are natural wines, craft beers and fermented cocktails. And there’s a welcome emphasis on no- and low-alcohol drinks.
The Jerry Thomas Project
There’s also a great selection of classic highballs, such as Mojitos and Gin Mules, which were mixed with all the precision and love of more intricate cocktails and were all the more enjoyable for that. The real standouts, though, are the ‘fermenti’ drinks. A Gin Sour might not sound like the most unusual of offerings, but using the fermentation process of beer creates an altogether distinct and delicious drink. Oh, and one other thing – the hotdogs are a must. Via Antonio Pacinotti, 83, 00146 Rome latta-roma.it
La Punta Expendio de Agave La Punta Expendio de Agave manages to pull off quite a smart trick by seamlessly bringing two ideas together. From the moment you enter you know it’s a good times bar, small and buzzy with pockets of friends coming and going throughout the evening. The mood is helped along too by a bar team who are clearly having a great time and want to make sure everybody is having a good one too. And, let’s face it, good times and tequila always go together. But this is where they pull off the second part of the offering so well, because they take their tequila very seriously here. So serious, in fact, that the team spent two years researching the production of traditional spirits and authentic Mexican cuisine before opening the bar. So if you’re that way inclined you could just spend a happy hour or so tasting from the vast selection of top-quality tequilas and mezcals, learning a little more about the spirit as you go, but without any dry sense of academia about it. And we certainly tried a few. The cocktails too celebrate the intricacies of the best tequilas beautifully. And bringing together the good times of the bar and the quality tequilas they have available, they’re not averse to serving up drinks like the Tequila Sunrise and elevating it in the process. We especially liked their take on a Negroni, with a super-complex mezcal twist. And we loved the Alfenique (tequila, mezcal, beet
sugar, green apple, lemon, egg white and mint), which had real depth and was exceptionally easy drinking. Like the drinks, the small plates also elevate some great classic dishes – the cod tacos were superb. Via di Santa Cecilia, 8, 00153 Rome lapuntaexpendiodeagave.com
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THE NEW NORMAL If the new rules for going out mean having to wear a mask, then so be it. Only make sure you do it in style. Check out the collection from msbartrends.com
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