London Essence Company Spring & Summer Collection – Luke Condell

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Luke Condell of Cocktail Trading Co. talks to BarLifeUK about his London Essence Company cocktail, ‘Lutein’

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 Cocktail Trading Co’s Luke Condell about his thoughts on the healthier drinking trend, and how he approached this challenge:

BLUK: Luke, tell us a little bit about your bar and the sort of experience do you want your guests to have.
LC: The Cocktail Trading Co has been open now for around 2 and a half years. Styled around comfortable old English pubs it has a kind of “your nan’s living room” feel; warm, comforting,but a bit wacky at the same time. We want our customers to feel at home more than anything so we run a tight but casual shift; quick, efficient but also fun and friendly

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?
LC: The drinks on our menu don’t tend to follow any particular theme or set dynamic. We like to make sure they are fairly tongue in cheek, equal parts fun, interesting and delicious. After all, people go out to drink for fun and that is always at the forefront of our operation. From a social drinking point of view our cocktails will always be a big talking point for customers. We change the menu generally seasonally but I like to think its more fluid than just seasonal (generally we change it if we are bored)

BLUK: How do you go about creating an alcoholic cocktail? Do you have a set process or is it trial and error?
LC: The basis of drinks creation has always been a bit of a weird one for me, as you tend to get the same questions such as ‘what inspires you?’ I don’t think it has one particular answer as inspiration for me comes from anywhere. The inspiration then becomes concept, concept becomes design, and once the drinks concept is cemented, the fun part of extracting the desired flavour from different spirits and ingredients becomes number one. This is then followed by a brief period of trial and error. Once the flavour and balance have been finalised, it’s just about the finishing touches: garnishes, glassware, ice. The number one for me is flavour and balance.

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?
LC: My low cal/low ABV drink came out of a few ideas. My first consideration was how you create a delicious cocktail that is both well balanced and healthy, without making it one dimensional or flat in flavour. After that I put my chef experience into practice and thought about seasonal flavours and combinations that go well together. I then remembered a stint I did at a restaurant in Winchester where we cooked carrots in equal parts butter and vermouth and seasoned the liquid with saffron – absolutely delicious. Getting the natural sugars out of carrot, I realised, would be the perfect way to obtain the sweetness I needed but without having to add sugar to the mix. Building on those previous flavours a herbal dry vermouth was the obvious choice for the base spirit. After making the carrot and saffron mixture it needed a further touch of balance. Russet apple was in season and on the lower scale of sugar content in apples. Fresh juice was added, then left to slightly ferment giving it an acidic element and achieving the balance I needed. The London Essence Company Grapefruit & Rosemary Tonic gave the perfect finish with the grapefruit boosting the fruity acidic notes, rosemary accenting the vermouth and the tonic giving the drink a perfect long bitter finish.

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?
LC: In the last year I have definitely seen more and more people ask about the ingredients, strength and ABV of the cocktails they buy. I have especially seen a huge jump in the amount of non-alcoholic drinks we get. I believe it is a huge trend, as consumers are generally more health conscious  – just look at the mass popularity of gyms and yoga classes. Veganism and vegetarianism are also on the rise year after year and these trends are now catching up with the drinks trade.

BLUK: Do you think it is important that bars have a low ABV offering, and if so why?
LC: Yes definitely! It is nothing but a hugely positive trend in our industry so it should be absorbed by all.

BLUK: Are you seeing any other cocktail trends emerge?​​
LC: There are a few absolutely killer ones at the moment! Bars and kitchens working more closely together has been great in terms of the bar understanding more about produce and how to get the best from ingredients. Ice programs in bars have been incredible (Melbourne has had the best I’ve seen so far but we will get there!) and drinks simplicity is also making waves across the industry keeping the focus on flavour. At The Cocktail Trading Co we will still always fly the flag for the fun, crazy and absurd, as Joe Namath said ‘If you’re not going all the way, why go at all?’

‘Lutein’, by Luke Condell
30ml Martini Ambre
30ml Carrot and Saffron Shrub
London Essence Company Grapefruit and Rosemary Tonic

Watch Luke Condell make his Lutein cocktail

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Editor

Andy Ives has over 10 years hospitality publishing to his name and has written for trade magazines such as CLASS and Theme. Most recently he worked as editor of Industry magazine (the Australian version of Theme), bars editor of Australian Bartender magazine, and launched (with Simon) www.4bars.com.au, which is now Australia’s leading bar industry website.

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