London boasts some of the planet’s best bartending talent and we are proud to be friends with one of the hottest. We caught up with world-class finalist and all-round nice guy, Ali Reynolds to ask him about what lies in store for London’s drinking scene.
From humble beginnings bartending whilst at university in Nottingham, Reynolds quickly rose through the ranks, and now oversees the cocktail wizardry at Hawksmoor. Just last year, he was named World Class Champion for the UK.
We caught up with Ali to discuss London’s best drinking destinations, tips for aspiring bartenders, plus his favourite Kamm & Sons serve. Read on for his advice (and one truly world class cocktail recipe).
How has World Class transformed your career? Do you still have time to tinker behind the bar?
‘World Class was amazing. Career-wise, I’ve met a lot of people through the competition, and I’m still in touch with all the other global finalists. Luckily, I also still get time to tinker behind the bar, and had some wonderful help from the team in creating our new cocktail menu.’
What’s your creative process like when you’re crafting a cocktail recipe? How many tries until you feel you have a drink nailed?
‘Usually, I create the idea before any ingredients get touched, then I’ll build a story around the drink. The flavour combination always needs a bit of tweaking – it’s very rare that we put a drink together and it is great straight off the bat.’
I think Kamm and Sons Islay Cask is one of the best new products I’ve tried in the last six months.
What is it that makes London’s cocktail scene one of – if not the – best in the world?
‘The consumers – they love to explore and learn more. London has a well-educated food and drink consumer population, and without them we wouldn’t exist. Aside from that, the plethora of amazing bartenders, chefs, bar-backs and waiters, plus the amazing level of care and sharing I find within the London bar scene. Everyone is always helping each other out. ‘
Where are your favourite places to drink in London right now?
‘I love the drinks at Peg+Patriot. Matt Whiley, who runs the bar, gave me one of my first-ever bar jobs, and he likes to mess around with drinks. It’s fun. The EDITION Lobby Bar; I love going there with the lady and playing pool with a nice bottle of wine. It’s great for people watching, plus Davide Segat and Andy Shannon are usually around to try and make you drink tequila. Last, but certainly not least, is High Water in Dalston. Just go and see Barbarossa Inan. He’s my favourite – best hospitality in the business.’
Which cocktail trends do you see taking off in the near future?
‘I’d say unheard of fruits and plants. We use very little at the moment of what the planet offers. I wouldn’t be surprised if next year we start to see a lot of new ingredients in some of the world’s best bars.’
Beyond the bar scene, artisanal British spirits are also on the rise. What are some of your favourites in this new generation of British-made products – and where is there room to grow?
‘I think Kamm and Sons Islay Cask is one of the best new products I’ve tried in the last six months. Haycocks No.9 is also brilliant; Andrew Campana is a genius at balancing flavours in a spirit. Hepple Gin, made by our good friend Nick Strangeway, is fantastic and great for cocktails.
I think there is room to grow with British wine – they can keep taking advantage of their current success. More British vermouths and bitters would keep me happy. The Wingfield have made a good start.’
How do you approach cocktails as part of a meal? What do you like to drink alongside your steak?
‘If cocktails are going with food, I find they’re better as low-alcohol drinks. After-dinner drinks require the harder-hitting, more serious booze. But nothing beats red wine with steak.’
If you had one trick to share with any aspiring or at-home bartender, what would it be?
‘Keep it simple. You don’t need to spend too much money to make cocktails at home. Sugar and tea can be used for syrups, look to your fruit bowl for fresh juice and zest, turn beers into syrups by adding equal parts sugar to beer over heat. Decent ice always helps.’
What’s your perfect Kamm & Sons serve?
‘Kamm & Sons is my go-to modifier with cocktails. It works fantastically with champagne.’
The Gentleman’s Choice
- 20ml Johnnie Walker Blue Label
- 15ml Kamm & Sons Islay Cask
- 10ml bergamot syrup 1:1
- 2 dashes Fernet Branca
- Topped with Ruinart Blanc de Blanc