Balls Brothers have been purveyors of fine wine and exquisite spirits for over 150 years. We have first-hand experience of seeing cocktail trends come and go, while others stay and become more than just a trend. We spoke to Sergi, bar manager at Balls Brothers Austin Friars.
What would you say is the most popular cocktail at Balls Brothers Austin Friars today?
We offer our guests a range of classic cocktails and gin cocktails. Every day between 5pm and 7pm we offer a selection of 6 cocktails for just £5, so we are flying in the evenings getting these out to our guests. Out of all of them, I would have to say the Pornstar Martini is the most popular.
Why do you think that is?
It is because of the perfect balance between sweet and sour and the exotic tastes. Passoa and the passion fruit dominate the taste palette, there is the sweetness of vanilla and it is visually very nice – colourful and attractive. Not to mention the shot of Prosecco on the side. It is enjoyed by men and women alike.
A number of top London bartenders and industry professionals have already expressed their thoughts on 2017’s cocktail trends. According to them, classics will be making a comeback in 2017. Would you agree?
I do, yet classics never left in my opinion! Nothing beats a well-made Classic Cocktail. I believe what is happening now, is the result of the food revolution, we have been experimenting a lot in this last decade. Drinks could be next. The playground is wide and the chance to create and innovate continues.
What’s the best cocktail you have ever had? Where was it?
That’s a good question! There are cocktails you remember because of the place where they are enjoyed, others because of the people you were with, and some because of the flavour and how they were presented or sometimes it’s who made them! One of my most memorable cocktail drinking experiences goes a few years back, a cocktail bar belonging to Tickets (the restaurant in Barcelona of Ferran Adria), I got to try interesting cocktails, it was an amazing place and I had some very special company.
How important is the story behind the cocktail, and the service? Does there need to be show around it, or is it a mix of the importance of theatre, without going over the top?
At Balls Brothers it is all about the experience. Our guests come to our bar for a drink, which they can choose to do in any other place, but the goal for us is for them to not only leave with a drink, but also with an experience. Even at busier times when it may not always be possible to deliver an unforgettable service, attention to detail makes all the difference.
Going back to the question, knowledge is good! It adds value to be able to add a fact or two about history of the cocktail or some stories around it, but I wouldn’t consider it indispensable. It will help you deliver an experience and it’s a good way to start building a relationship with your guest and to start a conversation.
On the service side of things – there are steps of service to follow, and it’s a must to have a good grasp of the foundations. The same goes for the making of a cocktail. For instance it would not make any sense to build a mojito and to add the ice at the very end. In regards to performance, flaring might look good, but it is much more important to try to deliver that unique experience in a professional manner and build a rapport with the guest.
What are the trendiest spirits of 2017?
Gin. As I see it, gin- it’s been the trendiest spirit in the last three to four years across Europe. Now, America and other continents are picking it up. About five years ago, a majority of bars in London had Beefeter, Gordons, Tanqueray, Bombay and a couple of others on their list. Now, bars can easily have 20 different gins on their menu. People are more knowledgeable nowadays, and we are ready for that. Actually, if we can, we would like to educate them even more with masterclasses and infusions. Gin is wonderful, being such a versatile spirit for cocktails – you can mix it with so many things other than tonic water.
What would you guess will be the next big thing? Why?
I can see the move towards using natural elements to make drinks and/ or cocktails. I can imagine this becoming big in the close future. For instance, using natural pressed fruit for cocktails, infusing some spirits with external elements to keep the essence but slightly modify the flavour, experiments like this will punch with strength. The range of things you can play with is infinite. At Balls Brothers Austin Friars we are going to start offering a drink of the week, made from handmade in-house infused spirits, off a tank. Let’s see how our guests welcome the idea!
How to make an easy cocktail at home?A recipe or instructions, maybe?
To make a cocktail at home, the first thing you need is sugar, fresh fruit and ice. Once you have this it’s easy to play around with juices, soft drinks and spirits. A very good spirit for cocktails is rum next to gin. Dark rum tastes really nice with lime and sugar. If you like something more fruity, you can muddle fresh fruit and create a flavoured mojito. For something more easy and simple just add ginger beer and imagine it’s a Dark & Stormy or Old Fashioned with Angostura and ice. Experiment!