Philip Spector from London’s Scout bar talks to BarLifeUK about his London Essence Company cocktail, ‘Bliss’
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 Scout’s Philip Spector about healthier drinking, and how he went about creating his cocktail:
BLUK: Tell us a little bit about Scout. What is the ‘vibe’ of the venue, and what sort of experience do you want your guests to have?
PS: So Scout is a small, intimate cocktail bar with a focus on British produce. It is dimly lit while playing a range of old and new hip hop, I can see why customers might be a bit unsure of what to expect on their first visit. As you walk in you’ll notice that our set up is rather unconventional as we look more like a restaurant with no actual bar top to speak of. The area where the bartenders work has an open plan design, similar to a kitchen, meaning preparation is in plain sight and we are always happy for guests to come and have a closer look at what we do. We want our guests to have a very personal experience at Scout guided by the bartenders on the floor, either pulling up a stool or sitting at the table alongside them. We like to start with a welcome amuse bouche and try not to overload guests with information at the start, but provide them with enough to make a decision and remain rather curious. With the nature of our cocktails we normally have plenty of questions after the first round. While the setting is very casual we like our service to be the best around.
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?
PS: To be fair I think it’s quite hard to categorise the style of drinks we do. We do change the menu quite often (no set time for changes) and we do work with seasonal and local produce but that doesn’t mean our menu always reflects the current season. With our menu at the moment we have divided the list into five sections representing different environments: Trees, Overground, Underground, Plants/ Bushes, Sea. With three drinks in each category, we aim to use either what is at its best in the current season, or produce that we have preserved in one form or another that was also obtained in the same fashion. So in that sense we are always gathering when produce is at its best quality, but an ingredient might not make the menu until later in the year. Maybe its been distilled, turned into a wine, a vinegar etc.
BLUK: How do you go about creating an alcoholic cocktail? Do you have a set process or is it trial and error?
PS: We normally start with produce first and work back towards what spirit to use, which is normally the last decision. There is a bit of trial and error for sure sometimes, but normally it’s just a case of figuring out the best ways to showcase the integrity of a flavour or whatever it is we are working with.
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?
PS: With the London Essence Company drink, I took the theme of low calorie as the main idea. Thinking about reducing calories but maintaining flavour was a great challenge. I definitely started with the flavours first and looked at what was currently around, namely fig leaves right here in Shoreditch. We wouldn’t normally use bananas in a Scout cocktail but it was a great chance to showcase a technique of distilling fruit juice to create a very aromatic water without any sugar for the drink.
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?
PS: Low abv for sure, low calorie maybe not so much (other than people asking for less sugar but this is often more directed towards a taste rather than calorie factor), possibly not a featured talking point yet, but I can see it growing in the future. I think it’s more of a cultural thing, people are drinking less but bars and restaurants are amazing social spots where people don’t want to feel on the outside if they aren’t drinking.
BLUK: Do you think it is important that bars have a low ABV offering, and if so why?
PS: I think it’s great for bars to be aware of low abv offerings, or just how much alcohol we are supplying to our guests. It also keeps guests in for longer if they are drinking lower alcohol beverages.
BLUK: Are you seeing any other cocktail trends emerge?
PS: The big buzz words at the moment are local, seasonal and sustainable. I think a lot of bars are opting for a more simplistic approach to how drinks are presented as well. Having bars that feel very organic to their location is growing, following in the footsteps of many restaurants, as well as bartenders being more accustomed to culinary techniques and how we decide to extract flavour or present flavour combinations.
‘Bliss’, by Philip Spector
17.5ml Fig leaf gin
20ml Lillet Blanc
2.5ml Peated Scotch
60ml Distilled banana cordial
35ml London Essence Company Classic Tonic Water
Pickled fig leaf and edible flower