Trends in the bar world are mirroring those in the restaurant industry, according to Dominic Jacobs Bar Manager at the Fifth Floor, the swish Champagne and Cocktail bar at Harvey Nichols flagship Knightsbridge store.
Bar tenders apparently have been through their Heston Blumenthal phase where they experimented with all the techniques of molecular gastronomy – gels, powders, atomisers and foams – to deconstruct cocktail recipes and recreate them in strange and surprising forms. Now, as in food, they are focussing their attention on the gentler trinity of ‘ local, seasonal and sustainable.’
This trend coincides with an explosion of creativity at the artisan end of the UK drinks industry. English sparkling wines from wine-makers like Chapel Down are now of a standard where they can sit comfortably on champagne menus alongside the best of Europe. Micro -breweries are following the lead of US craft-brewers in producing a whole range of new products which push the boundaries of style and strength. Aberdeen’s Brew Dog – ‘lunatic self-publicists’ according to Roger Protz – have recently produced a 32 % abv beer.
And, as in the world of brewing, artisan distillers are looking to the US where at least 150 ‘boutique’ distilleries are now making everything from absinthe to rye whiskey. Here it is not easy to get a licence to distill in small batches, but Somerset cider-maker Julian Temperley blazed the trail with his apple-brandy, and the torch is now being picked up by companies like Sipsmith and Chase Vodka who are producing top-end white spirits – gin and vodka – blending botanicals in small batches with barley, apple and potato spirit bases.
For Dominic Jacobs producers like these are providing inspiration for the cocktail menus he is creating at the Fifth Floor. “For instance” he says, “we recently did a Best of Britain menu pairing cocktails and food. We used William Chase Gin which is based on apple brandy, apple juice from their farm and their rhubarb liqueur to make a Hereford Martini which we paired with a Melton Mowbray pork-pie. We also did a Bloody Mary-style Martini paired with a wrapped quail’s egg from the Handmade Scotch Egg Company.”
You can see Dominic Jacobs and James Chase of Chase Vodka in action at the Abergavenny Christmas Food and Drink Show. They are giving a cocktail masterclass at Homes of Elegance on Saturday 10 December. And they will be in action on the Robert Price stage in theMarket Hall at 12.45pm on Sunday 11 December.