These are the summer cocktail trends shaking up London's premium bars
Madison bar manager, Eduard Balan, tells us why fresh twists on classic ingredients will stay popular into 2020
With its unmatched view of St Paul's Cathedral and buzzing ambience all year round, Madison London is one of the capital's best-known rooftop restaurants, but it’s the ever-changing and consistently creative cocktail menu that draws the evening and weekend crowds to its al fresco bar area whatever the weather.
Behind the menu's twists and surprises – such as the edible grapefruit moisturiser that gives its gin and tonic a cream soda-like update – however, is bar manager Eduard Balan's absolute belief in the classics.
"Minimalism and sustainability have been the focus for 2019 across the mixology world. Therefore, the inspiration behind our summer menu is the evolution of the classic cocktails, using the original foundation and roots, but recreating them with unusual ingredients that maximise flavours and allowing guests discover new senses," he tells Tempus.
"It’s important to recall a classic as it’s something that customers are already familiar with, but then I twist it in a way that makes it unique; such as the edible grapefruit moisturiser that softens the bitterness of tonic water in Madison's G&T, or the clarification of the lime juice with agar agar powder in our margarita."
One of the elements that make it possible for Balan to experiment with cocktails in this way is his focus on traditional distilling and in-house liqueur creation, which includes a completely clear strawberry liqueur that creates a crystal-clear mojito.
"I like to play with the surprise factor, and challenge the customer's perception and expectation between reading the menu versus reality. Our St Paul's Sunset cocktail features an edible picture, our strawberry mojito is completely clear, the white coconut negroni and clarified margarita are other stand outs, for me. I focus on the balance and flavour profile of the drink, rather than presenting it how it stereotypically 'should' look," he explains, adding that thinking sustainably has opened up a whole new creative avenue. >>
"While some may deem rinds, peels and scraps as disposable waste, I think otherwise. By combining often overlooked elements of these fruits with my techniques, we can ferment a cocktail revolution. We make fresh lime juice, and from the discarded lime peels create our own citrus saccharum. It's the same for our grapefruit moisturiser. From discarded pineapple skin we’re making pineapple tepache."
Balan started his career in Italy, working at a Michelin-star restaurant before moving the UK to join Aqua in 2014. The award-winning bar manager joined Madison just seven months ago, but has already found new ways to advance the venue's excellent partnerships with premium brands such as Moët & Chandon and Mount Gay rum.
"Working with premium brands it’s very important for the quality of the drink, and I'm very lucky that at Madison I get the opportunity to work with some of the best drinks brands around," he says. "It really allows me to be creative when dreaming up new flavour combinations. At the moment we have the Barbados-inspired 'Time Well Spent' rum bar, in partnership with Mount Gay, which features drinks such as the Roasted Pina Colada – created using Mount Gay Black Barrell, coco lopez, rice water & smoked pineapple – and the incredible Barrel Aged Rum Old Fashioned –made using Mount Gay XO aged in a Port oak barrel."
As for future trends, Balan points to classic cocktails with new spirits. He says: "In terms of ingredients, the popularity of tequila and mezcal in the last few years has grown incredibly, and I believe at the moment it’s the world’s most versatile spirit and perfect for any cocktail or occasion. Tequila and mezcal are typically associated with shots, but all this has changed; now both are sipped over ice or mixed in a cocktail. It works well with grapefruit soda or pink grapefruit and bergamot tonic. I prefer mine mixed in a cocktail such as Paloma or simply with tonic."
"Behind every cocktail that I create there is a preparation that requires 24 hours minimum; that’s why we have a night barback helping with all the preparation in this way we keep the consistency and standards of all the drinks," he says.
"This also means it’s easy for our customers to find their perfect cocktail from our menu, as I have designed it to feature something to cater to every palate. The key to finding your signature cocktail is simply tasting! Explain to your bartender what taste you prefer, and they will be able to advise a cocktail for you based on its flavour profile. If in doubt, choose something that has your favourite spirit as a base."