The Negroni has had a huge comeback recently. It’s a very simple drink - equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth served on the rocks with a slice of orange. Or an orange twist. There’s a whisky version called the Boulevardier and that’s becoming really popular, especially among people who like a twist on a classic drink.
One of the big things we’re seeing in cocktail culture is a move towards simplicity. A lot of cocktails over recent years have involved a lot of ingredients - seven, eight or even nine ingredients in some cases - and there’s been a move back towards the classics as a result.
Also, lighter cocktails such as the Aperol Spritz have been really popular in the last couple of years. That’s part of the family of Italian Aperitivo drinks. These drinks, which are designed to get you ready for dinner and get your juices flowing, tend to be lighter, crisp and dry and that style of drink is definitely coming back in a big way.
"A lot of innovation happens here... There are new ideas floating around all the time"
We’re very lucky in the UK that we have a very strong cocktail culture. And not just in London. Edinburgh, Manchester and Bristol all have a very strong and distinctive culture. A lot of innovation happens here - there are a lot of independent bars and a lot of dynamic bartenders. There are new ideas floating around all the time.
In general, especially with new openings the move seems to be back towards simplicity and fun. I think a lot of cocktail bars and bartenders lost sight of the fact that people are putting their hands in their pockets and paying upwards of £10 for a cocktail - they want some enjoyable aspect. Moves towards simplicity and fun in hospitality reflect that.
"The economic downturn of 2008 didn't badly affect pubs in general because there’s a sense of escapism in pubs and bars"
Whether these moves back to a more refined and classic style is because of the times we live in I don’t know. You probably could make a link, but I’d probably defer to someone like Alain de Botton there. But certainly, the economic downturn of 2008 didn't badly affect pubs in general because there’s a sense of escapism in pubs and bars. Obviously pubs keep on closing and that’s part of a wider trend, but I find that in London in particular people were willing to spend a little bit of money to distract themselves from what was going on. And alcohol - hospitality in general - is something that people want to spend money on when times are bad.
The moves towards classic drinks might not be related to that. I think it’s more to do with certain bars disappearing up their own… well, you can fill in the blanks. Bars have recognised that the most important thing when people go out is that the guests enjoy themselves. Some bars focused too much on impressing people and they lost sight of their duty to their guests. The idea of hospitality is front and centre again, whereas before it was more about showing off.