Being a restaurant and bar owner is very draining, rewarding, and fulfilling all at the same time. I believe you need a true sense of passion for your craft, love, sacrifice, humility, and a real sense of service to be in this game. If you have all or some of these traits, you’re already well on your way. You will need to keep yourself focused and have a real grasp of the industry, know the trends, keep yourself motivated, never stop learning and – above all – you need to enjoy and love what you do.
Two months ago, I took a trip to one of my favorite cities in the world: London. That city holds a special space in my heart because I spent part of my teenage years there. I took my internship or “stage” at a well-known hotel in Kensington. It was like a holy pilgrimage of sorts. London is the place I needed to be; to find myself again, to grow, to get inspired. I got the chance to immerse myself in the city where (arguably) the best cocktails in this world come from. London bars have the most progressive cocktail menus right now. This is probably why, this year, London has dominated and taken most of the awards from the prestigious “Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards (International Category)” (which is the Oscars of the cocktail world). I’d like to share with you some of the fantastic cocktail bars I visited during my trip.
The first bar we kicked off at is the world-famous London Cocktail Club (we flew them to Manila to do The Craft Take Over event last June). This place is “A Serious Drinkers Party Bar” indeed! Fun, crazy, expert bar staff can make you any classic concoction you fancy. But their bar’s signature cocktails offer quite a radical and wonderful selection as well. With the list of ingredients stretching from Bacon and Eggs to Spicey Noodle, plus a group-sharing cocktail served in a giant pirate ship, they really have an anything-goes atmosphere. London Cocktail Club (in any of their locations) is perfect for a post-work tipple or full-on let-your-hair-down weekend benders. Had so much fun in LCC!
The second cocktail bar we went to was Milk and Honey. This bar was founded by the visionary Sasha Petraske (who unfortunately passed away recently. The drinking world still mourns. I raise a glass of daiquiri, his favorite drink, to him). Established in New York in 2002 and which has also set up shop across the pond, this is the grand dame of cocktail bars. This is the peg of any bar worth its salt and is at the pinnacle of the scene. If I sound like I’m gushing, it’s because I am! The multi-awarded M&H has survived the initial hype and has not only stood the test of time, but also elevated and completely changed the international bar game. M&H ignited the neo-speakeasy scene around the world and pioneered classic cocktails with a modern spin (they birthed the modern classics). They have totally transformed and influenced how we drink in general, and cocktail culture in particular. If not for them, we would all still be drinking cosmos (not necessarily a bad thing, but M&H has opened the door to the great big drinking world out there). M&H has also produced great bartenders who have, in turn, put up their own bars that have become some of the best in the world. The cycle continues. (Incidentally, the newest bartender in Hooch is from M&H.)
As with the coolest bars in London, there was no signage, just a door. Generally a members only place (non-members need a reservation and only until 11 p.m.), I was lucky enough to be with friends who are enmeshed in the bar scene there. It really pays to know the right people. Entering the hallowed ground of M&H gave me goosebumps. It was like finding the Holy Grail; I was in awe. It feels like you’re being pulled back in a different era, like a world that feels familiar but people have forgotten. The air of refinement, the hushed tones, vintage bar tools on display, lived-in leather, and dim lights (but not too dark that you can’t see what your drink looks like) all contribute to the feel of the place. This sophisticated establishment has three floors: the ground floor is the main bar area (individual booths), the second floor houses The Red Room (lounge for members only), the third floor has functions rooms and there’s even a roof top area. This is the kind of place where you “Do not bring anyone unless you would leave that person alone in your home” (one of the special house rules). It’s the best place to go if you demand only the finest cocktails.
*As a tribute to Sasha Petraske, I will be including in this column M&H’s Daiquiri recipe for Sasha’s favorite drink.
M&H Daiquiri Recipe
50ml Plantation Rum
20ml Lime Juice
20ml Sugar Syrup (1 -1)
Add all ingredients together with ice in a shaker and shake like your life depended on it!
Serve in a chilled cocktail coupé.
Cocktail photos courtesy of www.londoncocktailclub.co.uk