We sat down in the vaults with our two men behind the taps, Saša Rudivic and Matt Green, to talk about our new cocktail list, the inspirations behind it, and what to expect when you finally get your hands on some of our serves.
So what’s the overall concept/idea behind the new menu?
Saša: “The initial idea was to explore how Britain inspired the world and vice versa. So we decided to go for themes like Darwin’s voyages, English gardens, Lawrence of Arabia, and other bits and bobs in British history – and then try and connect them to drinks, both ingredients-wise and history-wise.”
Matt: “Yeah so essentially it’s a celebration of British achievements and history.”
Talk me through the new menu, drink by drink, and explain how each fit in with the overall concept and how each got their names because I think that’s quite interesting:
Saša: “It is indeed and I’m glad you asked. Let’s start with the Shipwrecker. This drink is based on the heritage of two of our team – our bar manager, Matt Green, and shop manager Jake Rogers – who are both from the West Country. Obviously a big feature of that coastline in times gone by would’ve been shipwrecks – big boats that would hit the cliffs and spill their cargo out all over the beach for the locals to ‘salvage’ if you like. So they would just scoop these precious bottles out of the wet and keep then nice and dry and safe in their cellars. Moving on, Kingsland Rose is basically just a nod to where we’re located but also a homage to the English garden.”
Matt: “Yeah, it’s light, floral, delicate – the quintessential idea of the English summertime.”
Saša: “Like your perfect woman – the English Rose. Then there’s The Clink, which is named after one of the UK’s most notorious prisons of yesteryear. So we went for Hayman’s gin – a spin on the hooch that inmates were known to make whilst inside.”
Matt: “Also our building used to be a prison – and what’s another name for prison? Porridge – which is made from oats, and so that’s why we wanted to bring some oats into the drink in the form of Oatchata. And the name itself ‘The Clink’ came from the sound prisoners’ cups used to make when they rattled them against the bars of their cells.”
Saša: “Which is also why we decided to serve them in enamel cups to complete the effect. Then we come to Stiff Upper Lip, which is essentially our tribute to the fallen soldiers of the Great War, and the ration packs they carried with them, which generally contained some tobacco, tea and some rum.”
Matt: “Yeah, for that little bit of Dutch courage before you went over the top.”
Saša: “Before you went out there and faced probably the most horrendous scenes you could possibly imagine, you’d cheer yourself up with a nice cup of tea and some rum.
Then, crossing to the Middle East, we get to Lawrence of Arabia – who is a huge, huge hero. He did so much in terms of Britain’s relationships with, and understanding of, the Arab world. And he’s a hero there almost on the same level, so we wanted to acknowledge that with the flavours of the Middle East which we’ve packed into this drink. Figs, mint, yoghurt, rose – and it’s a really delicate serve and a really nice drink. So, yeah, just a really nice homage to the heroes of the past. Salut!
Then there’s Redcoat, which is about America gaining their independence from the British.. and the British admitting defeat. If you look around, the ceremonial uniform of any British marine is still the red coat, and I don’t think this is a bad thing because these guys are out on the front and they give their lives for freedom. As for the drink itself, it’s rye-based with healthy injections of beetroot, maple syrup and blueberries – so there’s at least two of your five-a-day in there too.”
Matt: “Also, what’s more American than blueberries and maple syrup with pancakes?”
Saša: “Uhhhh cheesecake? Apple Pie? I mean everybody loves bubba shrimp.
Anyway, moving on, there’s The Beagle – named after the ship Darwin circumnavigated the globe on and made all of his great discoveries about evolution and how we came to be. Again, for this serve we used influences and flavours from the areas of the world that Darwin went to on his voyage. So there’s Cachaca, Bananas, walnut, beautiful citrus in there – it’s a really really delicious drink.
Then we move on to our sisters across the Irish sea and the White Star Lane. This is a really beautiful, luxurious drink. It’s our homage to the Titanic, and it’s served in a nice coupette with a BIG ice rock, representing the iceberg they unfortunately hit on their maiden voyage.”
Matt: “So at the base of this drink there’s Bushmills Black Bush – which is obviously an Irish whiskey. We wanted to play with the idea of the Pornstar Martini being so popular, but we wanted to make it a bit more challenging whilst still delicious. So it’s Irish whiskey-based with some passion fruit syrup and lemon juice, topped up with Veuve Clicquot Champagne. So it’s a bit like a Pornstar, but with a bit more depth.. and class.”
Saša: “Then we come to Ye Olde Fighting Cock. This was named after the pub which claims, out of many, to be the oldest pub in Britain. Officially, I don’t think there is one but this pub certainly has a good claim to the title.”
Matt: “Yeah, I think there’s been a pub on that site since 1100.”
Saša: “Yeah and Steven (our star bar-back) looked into it and I think there’s another two pubs that claim exactly same with like a year in between. So we just went for the one we believed the most – but which also had the funnest name – which was Ye Olde Fighting Cock. It’s a beer-based drink, but with an influx of deliciousness coming from…”
Matt: “…delicious Buckfast Wine! So with this one we wanted to recreate that great British drink of mead, and doff our caps to the mead drinkers of days gone by. So in this drink we’ve got some Buckfast tonic wine – made by monks and really good for you.. in tiny doses – then there’s honey and beer, topped up with IPA and served in this really nice dimpled pint glass to complete the effect. Buckfast and beer, who would’ve thought it eh?”
Saša: “Then we move on to more recent events and Article Fifty. It’s our little take on a delicious Espresso Martini, but using exclusively European ingredients.”
Matt: “I think it’s important to note here that this is the only cocktail on the entire menu without a single British ingredient. So, as you’re probably aware, in 2016 the vote was passed for us to leave the EU. Article 50 is the ongoing process that we have to go through to make this happen. Nobody here really likes it, so this is a bit of a ‘fuck you’ in a way, and a cocktail tribute to our friends across the Channel.”
Sasa: “So in this drink we have a Dutch salted caramel rum, French Fairtrade liqueurs, – chocolate-based and coffee-based – an Italian amaretto, and coffee and hazelnut also from Italy. So it’s absolutely delightful and I think it’s going to go down a treat. Then last but not least – because none of us are really stylish or hip in any way – we wanted to pay a tribute to the people around us in Shoreditch. So the last drink is called Do You Even Shoreditch? and it’s our take on an Old Fashioned, but the ingredients are quite out there – pretty much what a hipster would ask for.”
Matt: “And to that end we have a smashed avocado syrup – home made and organic – some Japanese whisky which forms the bulk of the drink, and then we’ve also got some FREYA, which is a spirit made from birch sap. So, again, a bit out there, a bit different but still sticking to the principles of the Old Fashioned.”
Saša: “It looks RAD and is so delicious. But if someone put that in front of you, you’d think they were mad – that’s not what an Old Fashioned looks like! I guess that with our past menus we’ve been a bit stern and serious, and here we really wanted to show another side to us and break the mould a little bit. We wanted to highlight that we’re a bunch of fun-loving guys down here in the cellars, we don’t get to go outside all that much, never mind see daylight, so this was our chance to show everyone ‘this is what happens when you keep us down here, we just come up with crazy ideas!’”
Matt: “No but at the end of the day we think drinking should be fun, and perhaps over the past few years it’s become very serious. So we just wanted to dial back that seriousness a bit without straying into the tacky realm.”
Saša: “And I think the feedback we got from the soft launch was really really positive and none of the drinks went unordered. Everybody ordered something different, which I take as a good thing. Hopefully next week it should be just as good if not better.”
Matt: “Quality, mostly. While we may take a bit of a hit on the profits we make on each drink – because we still want to offer it at a competitive price – we also wanted to use products that we both love and that are banging quality, really.”
Saša: “Not only that, but in this industry you get a lot of people coming through and trying to throw themselves at you with their product and it’s about finding those people who are actually keen to work with you as a company and not just ‘are we listed there?’ To us that was really important and a lot of the brands that we chose is because we knew we would get the most from them and vice versa. They are genuinely happy to work with us and they show us so much love, and in return we’re more than happy to do the same.
You could ask: Would it make a difference if we swapped the vodka in Lawrence of Arabia? And I was like ‘yeah, yeah it would’ – flavour wise, definitely. Because we chose it because of it’s origin and the way that it’s made. The same with The White Star Lane – we could’ve gone for much cheaper bubblies but this is a champagne that really is truly delicious, and it will sell itself. Plus the guys that we work with there are amazing. Same with FAIR – an absolutely beautiful brand. We chose them because the working relationship we shared with them over the last year was insane and vice versa.
So all of this made sense to us, and the drinks came together in large part thanks to these brands. We tried other brands and it wasn’t the same drink – the reason why this menu came together is because these ingredients that we chose are of high-quality and marry together to create some really fantastic drinks.”
Our new cocktail list drops on Thursday 18th October, so why not stop by soon for a drink or two and ask the boys all about them?