Jay Sebode of London’s Worship Street Whistling Shop talks to BarLifeUK about his London Essence Company cocktail, ‘Mauveine’
The London Essence Company briefed three top London bartenders to create a low alcohol and low calorie seasonal cocktail perfect for the Spring and Summer seasons. We spoke to Worship Street Whistling Shop’s Jay Sebode about healthier drinking, and how he went about creating his cocktail:
BLUK: Tell us a little bit about Whistling Shop, and the sort of experience aim to give guests.
JS: The Whistling Shop is a Victorian themed cocktail and gin bar. We don’t consider ourselves as a speakeasy bar but rather a Victorian gin palace (Whistling Shops were 19th century dodgy watering holes where you could buy illegal gin) where the atmosphere is still cosy but a bit more vibrant and somewhat quirkier than a quiet jazzy speakeasy bar of the prohibition era. As such, the vibe is a bit more chilled and music a bit more upbeat but outstanding service is still our top priority. We want our guests to discover another type of bar, where you can bring a date without having to dress up, where you can be seated on a comfy couch, sipping on an innovative cocktail whilst nodding your head to the beat of the chilled tunes, and where your bartender sits with you to explain the menu or chat about gin.
BLUK: What sort of drinks are usually on your menu? How often do you change the menu and is it seasonal or themed in some way?
JS: Traditionally we have been changing the menu every year. Our current cocktail menu is presented on a bookmark in a Charles Dickens novel (you can even read Oliver Twist whilst sipping on your drink if you fancy) and the drinks are inspired by High Victorian Society on one side of the bookmark (fancy drinks for fancy people, think Downton Abbey) and Low Society on the other, with drinks inspired by the working class. The real innovation and challenge here is that every drink on this menu is available in alcoholic and non alcoholic versions. More and more people make the choice not to drink alcohol and we felt that they shouldn’t be left behind when coming to a bar. Thus, we worked for months to develop each drink side by side so they offer the same flavours, same textures, same aspect, same experience, whether they contain alcohol or not. This has been an exciting challenge and the result is actually unique in the world (for now). On top of that, gin is even more massive and we currently have over 140 here with more on the way. We even make our own alcoholic and non alcoholic gins in house!
BLUK: How do you go about creating an alcoholic cocktail? Do you have a set process or is it trial and error?
JS: When creating a new cocktail, I first look at how it will be included on a menu. Do I need a sweet or sour drink? Long or short? What flavours would be a good complement/contrast to the other cocktails on that menu? This also determines the choice of the spirit. With that frame, I start experimenting with flavours, ingredients and techniques. Sometimes it can go a bit crazy, other times simpler is better. The aim is always to innovate in some way.
BLUK: Explain how you created your London Essence Company low calorie / low ABV drink? Was the process different, or did you stick to your normal method?
JS: The creation of this cocktail was slightly different. There was an extra challenge to keep the calorie content as low as possible. This impacted the research process in a way I have never experienced before. The main question was how to keep the drink tasty and innovative using healthier elements? I learnt more about the calorie count of different ingredients and it very much opened my eyes to a new aspect of cocktail creation.
BLUK: Are you seeing more guests who want low ABV / calorie drinks? If so, what do you think is driving this increase? Is it a seasonal thing?
JS: There have always been people watching their calorie intake and drinking accordingly. Unfortunately, in the past the only low calorie drink widely available was vodka, lime and soda, which is not very exciting. More and more people have that concern now, and the bar industry has very well understood this. That’s why you see more and more low calorie / low abv offers in the bars. For instance, as I said before, our cocktail menu has 12 drinks that are all available in both alcoholic and non alcoholic versions. We’ve seen a massive increase in the sales of non alcoholic options compared to our previous menus that had only four non alcoholic cocktails. The funny thing is that even the guests who order an alcoholic cocktail are very interested in and interrogative about our unique offer. In my opinion this is not only a trend but a durable drift in the way people apprehend drinking.
BLUK: Do you think it is important that bars have a low ABV offering?
JS: Again, I believe the way people are drinking is changing. Bars must adapt as they always do when trends change. We’ve seen a tremendous expansion in the number of gins on the back bars following the gin boom of the past 10 years. I anticipate the same for low ABV and low calorie drinks.
BLUK: Are you seeing any other cocktail trends emerge?
JS: There are of course other trends which somewhat relate to the more healthy, ecological way of thinking we have now. Sustainable and ecofriendly drinks are already a big thing, with local natural ingredients, often foraged in the wild. More and more bars, including Whistling Shop, ban plastic straws or single use items. Another trend that is developing is minimalism, where the focus is on the liquid and the flavours rather than the aesthetics. Glassware becomes more simple and garnishes disappear.
‘Mauveine’, by Jay Sebode
30ml Copperhead Black Batch Gin
12ml Lime juice
20ml non-alcoholic red wine and spice reduction
2 Drops Pea flower water
125ml London Essence Company Classic Tonic Water
Mixed edible flowers