No longer are cocktails seen as just a Friday night tipple, but an art form in their own right. Partly, this has occurred in line with the molecular movement in cooking. Harnessing technical equipment such as the rotary evaporator to distil your own alcohol, for example, has become quotidian for many of the world's most adventurous bartenders.
Bartender Matt Whiley is one such pioneer - the founder of Talented Mr Fox, a company that consults on cocktail menus for, among others, Simon Rogan's Fera and Tom Sellers' Story. He also runs Peg + Patriot, which is a mere drunken stumble across the hall from Lee Westcott's Typing Room restaurant at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, and this pairing has shown truly how cocktails are happily being welcomed into the fray of some of the nations greatest kitchens. We spoke to Matt about his career so far, how he works with chefs and making cocktails at Christmas. He was also kind enough to provide Great British Chefs some more homely cocktails to try at home over the festive season.
First things first, are you a bartender or mixologist?
A bartender. I like to keep it simple. There’s no difference really, a bartender tends the bar and makes drinks for people and I guess a mixologist is just a bartender giving themselves a title to make them sound more professional! I think the title came about because people were trying to make bartending sound like a real profession and not just something casual you do at uni.
Has it always been a dream for you to put your stamp on a boutique bar?
Yes, this is my fifth bar and I’m happy as long as I can continue to progress and do things differently, I'm happy. The next bar I want to do will be like this but leaving all of the science behind closed doors because you get tired of being a “molecular” bar - we're not really molecular, we'd just distilling spirits in the same way all spirits are made. For me it should just be about coming to a bar, having great drinks, listening to great music, hanging out and having a great time.