Joe Harper’s Pillars of the Community – Sly Augustin
Joe Harper is the current Bacardi Legacy UK champion. Fingers crossed, he will go on to nail the global final and bring the Legacy crown back to the UK, but before he can do that, Joe is tasked with creating a campaign to promote himself and his Legacy cocktail, ‘Pilar’. Joe is interviewing a number of industry luminaries as part of this campaign, and we were very happy to say yes when Joe asked if BarLifeUK would publish them. Primarily because we’ll always help a UK competitor when we can. But also because we never say no to free editorial – ED
First up in this series of interviews, we’re meeting Sly Augustin from Trailer Happiness
Sly has been a figure in the London Bar Scene for a good while now, and he’s often found in Trailer Happiness’ bustling environment, ready to enjoy the cocktails from the team and to meet the crowd. He’s a rare example of an owner that is emotionally and physically invested in the operation of the bar he’s invested in – and we sometimes need a reminder that without people to put up the cash for the bars we work and drink in, they simply wouldn’t exist. So, let’s have a little look at what has made Sly’s relationship with Trailer so special:
JH: Sly, you’re the co-owner of a seriously well regarded bar these days, but how did you start out?
SA: My relationship with Trailer Happiness began as a consumer back in 2003. The level of hospitality and the theatre of Tiki drinks was unlike anything I had experienced before.
It was a refreshing change from the West End and I soon became a regular, often hosting events (including my birthday) at Trailer. Over the years, I became good friends with a number of the staff and it was one of those friendships that put me in a position to buy the bar when it went up for sale back in 2012. I took money from the sale of my house and dived head first into an industry I knew very little about.
JH: Was there anyone early in your career who really inspired you to persevere with it? If so, what about them was so influential for you?
SA: There are many people who have been very supportive. The knowledge of how important the bar is to the cocktail community, and the joy of watching customers enjoying an evening at Trailer makes it a lot easier to keep moving forward. Jake Burger and the guys from the Portobello Star (next door) have also really helped to improve my knowledge over the years.
JH: Are there people in the industry you look to now for inspiration and motivation?
SA: There are so many incredible characters doing amazing things in this industry so it’s impossible for me to single out less than twenty. The Bacardi family have offered us incredible support and the smaller independent brands always go the extra mile. Their passion is my motivation, the assorted oddball bartenders who work for me are my inspiration.
JH: How do you approach trying to mentor younger bartenders who work with you, and what aspects of that relationship do you think are the most important?
SA: I think it’s important to give young bartenders the ability and the responsibility to grow. My job is to make sure they have everything they need to express themselves in a fun and safe environment. As with all relationships the most important aspect is honesty.
JH: Trailer Happiness is world-famous for both the drinks and the atmosphere people can find there – how have your experiences and relationships so far contributed to that success?
SA: I’m not sure I can take any credit for the atmosphere in Trailer. Trailer Happiness is a living breathing entity that transforms all who enter. Its retro décor is immediately disarming and it has a level of cosy you won’t find anywhere else (maybe your grans house). When you combine this with a proper vinyl music setup and banging Tiki drinks you have 90% of what makes the TH atmosphere. Just add people.
JH: If you had to pick one highlight as your favourite from Trailer Happiness so far, what would it be?
SA: That’s tough, but if pushed I’d have to go with Notting Hill Carnival 2013. Carnage! In a good way, shared with pretty much all of Trailer’s friends and family over 48hrs.