Funkin Bartending Debate

Each year Funkin gather together some leading names from the bar industry to get their thoughts on trends and influences in our trade, we were on hand to bring you the results.

This year we were hosted by Cocktail Trading Co. down in Bethnal Green with this years Funkin Innovation Champion Massimo Zitti from Cane & Grain in Manchester behind the bar knocking out the drinks.Funkin-drink

The format had changed slightly this year with the assembled bartenders being divided into three groups and working their way around three discussion groups dotted around the bar. The three topics were:

  • Cocktails/Innovation
  • Consumer Trends
  • Global Influences

Each group had a moderator to keep things moving with BarLifeUK heading up the Global Influences discussion. Unfortunately this job came with the added pressure of finding all of the countries the bartenders had visited on a world map, revealing our shocking geography skills.

Throughout the day we were served food and cocktail matches. The food menu had been designed by 2014 Professional Masterchef winner Steven Edwards and CTC’s very own Andy Mil who was also slaving away in a hot kitchen knocking up the dishes.

Experimental Old Fashioned: Funkin Pro Smoked Syrup, Woodford Reserve, bitters, saffron mist and salted port
Paired with a smoked mackerel and walnut salad

Lady Angelica: Funkin Pro Jalapeño Syrup, tequila, fresh lime juice, tomato water, smoked sea salt and dry curacao
Paired with a butter poached chicken wrapped in Parma ham

Sophisticated Mai Tai: Funkin Pro Apricot, Vanilla and Sea Salt, three types of rum, Funkin Pure Pour Lime and Funkin Sugar Cane Syrup garnished with a cherry
Paired with a Piña Colada Egg and Soldiers

With Andy in the kitchen Steven was free to join in the discussions and it was fantastic having a chefs take on trends and seeing where the world of drinks and food overlap. He was very intrigued by what was being said as well and seemed inspired by the drink slingers around him.

Trends & Influence

When it came to the Global Influences section of the discussions it may have been a little biased towards the UK, that also might have been a little bit our fault. However the general consensus was that currently it is London that leads the world in cocktails and bars, overtaking longtime champs New York.

America? I've heard of that...
America? I’ve heard of that…

It seems that a lot of this has to do with the amount of influence we get from across Europe, be it with travels to other cities or the huge variety of nationalities working in our bars. It does have to be pointed out New York’s current ‘hottest bar’ is run by a couple of Irish lads after all.

In retrospect it probably would have been easier to mark off places the various bartenders hadn’t been on the world map, leaving Steven very jealous. It was also interesting to hear from him that the next big expected food trend will be Mexican which ties in with the current interest in Mezcal, Raicilla and Sotol in our industry.

You would struggle to talk about trends without mentioning Social Media and Instagram, especially when you are sat in CTC. We doubt very much that a single day goes by when at least one CTC drink pic doesn’t get posted by a guest somewhere on the net.

As well as looking good, cocktails, of course, have to taste good however low and non-alcoholic have been overlooked on this front for a long time. This is something that is changing and will continue to do so according to the group.

Brands like Seedlip, the increase in the amount vermouths on the market and continued increase in popularity of sherry are all helping bartenders to get more excited about this area of the market. No longer is a virgin ‘insert name of cocktail here’ an acceptable option for those not wanting hard liquor.

As for flavours that are popular, well that list is just too long to go into but it was interesting to hear that salt is still an ingredient that is being played with and we certainly haven’t seen the back of it yet. Bitters however seem to have had their peak with a lot of the room mentioning that the days of bars stocking 50 bitters and putting 3 different types in one drink are, thankfully, done.

Another area of bars needing to be trimmed down was identified as the cocktail menu. More and more bars are moving away from the 50 strong lists and heading towards more manageable 10 – 12 drinks.

One of our favourite quotes of the day was ‘Speakeasies are the pulled pork of the drinks world’ although we missed who said it, apologies to whoever it was.

Funkin managing director, Andrew King had this to say about the day: “It was great to witness the depth of knowledge, passion for bartending and camaraderie at this year’s Funkin Innovation Forum. Having the culinary expertise of Steven Edwards gave us a very different perspective on flavour and technique and his enthusiasm to learn from the bartending community was palpable. The UK bar scene is now second to none and our forum is a celebration of that status. Our role is to listen to bartenders, interpret their ideas and deliver the tools they need in order to continue to innovate and create great drinks using the very best ingredients.”

It was a great afternoon and really interesting to hear everyone’s thoughts. Big thanks to Funkin for organising it, the CTC boys for hosting so well and all the bartenders who gave up their afternoon to come down and natter away.

Funkin Innovation Forum attendees:

  • Andy Mil, The Cocktail Trading Co
  • Elliot Ball, The Cocktail Trading Co
  • Olly Brading, The Cocktail Trading Co
  • Zoe Van der Grinten, White Lion
  • Robyn Wilkie, 7 Tales
  • Miguel Arbe, Ceviche
  • Marcic Dzelzainis, Sager + Wilde
  • Nick Lewis, Be At One
  • Fabien Lallement, Barrio Group
  • Rhys Wilson, Happiness Forgets
  • Oskar Kilmaszewski, Found
  • Stuart Binks, Victory Mansion
  • Jack Banks, Jake’s Bar & Stillroom
  • Massimo Zitti, Cane & Grain
  • Giles Looker, Soulshakers