The Liquor Rooms is one of my favourite bars in Dublin and always tends to be my go-to place when I’m in the mood for a really great cocktail. They’ve recently launched a brand new craft cocktail menu, Flavour Inventors, which provides a flavour wheel to help guests uncover new taste combinations. The Liquor Rooms has also been nominated as “Best New International Cocktail Bar” by Tales of the Cocktail’s “Spirited Awards”(The Oscars of the bartending world!). I caught up with assistant Manager, Alan McGillivray, to ask him some questions about the world of cocktails and bars!
To people who aren’t familiar with the term, what is the difference between bar-tending and mixology?
“Mixology” is not a term I ever use. I don’t mind if someone refers to me as a mixologist because it’s usually meant as a compliment. However the whole point of bar-tending is to create an enjoyable experience for the customer, just as it is for a waiter and chef. The term “Mixologist” over glorifies what we are doing and promotes the idea that you are here to see the bartender rather than the bartender being here to add to your experience.
I feel people who refer to themselves as a “Mixologist” are trying to imply that they are better than the guy pouring pints next door. Where in reality he is losing focus in what is important; the customer not the bartender.
What is your favourite part of the job?
My favourite part of the job is when we’re crazy busy behind the bar, working as hard as you possibly can trying to serve what seems to be a never ending stream of customers. And just as you are feeling the strain a random customer stops and says “I just want to say you guys are doing a great job”. It makes it all worth it. We have a times a very demanding job, both physically and mentally, but we all do it for the same reason; because we like to give others a good experience.
Do you have a signature style?
I always take pride in my technique while making drinks behind the bar. In The Liquor Rooms I teach all of our staff a very particular style of making drinks which allows the process of making cocktails at the bar a visual experience as well as a taste experience. So I guess my style would be “technique focused”.
How do you go about creating a new cocktail?
There many different ways I approach making a new drink. Sometimes it’s just taking an already known drink and exchanging some of the ingredients for different ingredients. Sometimes I’ll start with a concept of a specific flavour combination that I want to have in a drink and I’ll build around that combination. But for all my drinks I try to add an element of craft to it, by making my own ingredients like liqueurs and cordials rather than just using ingredients that everyone has access to. This way you know you are always giving an experience that is unique to you and your bar.
What do you think the next drink “trend” will be?
At this stage there have been so many different trends in bars, everything from molecular cocktails to carbonated bottled cocktails. In general, Ireland has been a bit behind other cities in cocktails like London and New York. So we will undoubtedly start seeing more trends seep over from these countries to ours.
The main thing sweeping the cocktail scene overseas at the moment now is not a new style a of drink but rather people have been getting back to basics and have started putting more emphasis into customer service. Things like finding out what separate customers at the bar have in common and getting them to engage with each other resulting in a better atmosphere in the venue as a whole.These are little touches with a big impact.