It should be no secret by now that we love a good cocktail, and it’s pretty clear for us that the Bar With No Name is one of the best places to get drinks in London. One of the reasons why this place has become a FoodCrafters favourite is simply because the gang behind the scenes are truly passionate artisans. All the ingredients they use in their drinks – from bitters to syrups, and many other magical concoctions – are made by themselves in their R&D lab: The Drink Factory.
A mix between an alchemist’s workshop and an ethnography museum, the factory is packed with vintage bottles of booze, spices gathered from all corners of the planet, and serious chemical equipment, from freeze dryer to rotovapors. No question, this place is more than the back-office of a bar, and is more a proper research center when it comes to flavour, as you can tell by following their blog or by checking out this reportage:
Among others, they have launched the Drink Factory Magazine, (still) available as a vacuum-sealed giant-size diaporama of gorgeous pictures printed on thick, mate paper, along with the recipes. No colours – just black, white, and a pinch of gothic wrapping a set of unique and mysterious drinks that play with our minds even more than our senses. Warmly recommended (by Gizmondo too)!
We had the chance to ask Tony Conigliaro and Zoe Burgess a few questions about their work, story, and projects, so read on!
Can you tell us a bit about who you are and the story behind the Drink Factory?
The Drink Factory founded in 2005 by Tony Conigliaro, is a collective of like-minded bartenders looking to expand their knowledge of cocktails and art by pushing the boundaries of their respective crafts. At one time located above the Bar With No Name, 69 Colebrooke Row, London it has expanded and relocated to a larger, fully equipped space in Britannia Row, (once the home of Pink Floyd’s recording and production studios). It is both a research centre and creative space used for lectures and product development. Techniques and practices used by the Drink Factory have been honed over an extended period through extensive collaborations with chefs, perfumers, chocolatiers and designers. The Drink Factory also hosts an international stage program, designed to share ideas between industries.
What are the major challenges to start and run a bar and a drink R&D lab? What helped you most overcome those difficulties and make the Drink Factory a success?
Hard work and having a great team around you always helps in the execution of these projects.
London is packed with great bars and restaurants. The combo 69 Colebrooke Row + the Drink Factory likely helped standing out from your average cocktail bar. What else you think is absolutely essential to be succeed in this business?
Consistency and service are key to us, we focus on making sure that the drinks are innovative and enjoyable. By focusing on this we have created a reputation for great service and great drinks.
What are the most fancy, exciting, powerful, mind-blowing flavour combinations you’ve come across recently (invented at the factory or in one of your travels)?
One of our focuses for the Gothic magazine was to challenge expectations of flavour, we looked at serving drinks in ‘undesirable’ glasses to see if a consumer would be temped to taste the drink. We wanted to try and turn this approach on it’s head and create a drink that was so desirable you would be able to overcome any preconceived ideas created by the glass. For examples, the Silver Bullet is served in a glass which has had it’s stem covered with prosthetic skin and hair, this compliments the narrative of the drink but pushes the boundaries of desire.
The worst flavour combo you ever invented?
We like to think that there is no such thing as a worst flavour combination, yes we do experiment and not all of these experiments taste good but we learn the most when flavours don’t work together as we then have to explore why.
What are the most exciting trends in the global drink/food scene that you’ve encountered and loved, but are strongly missing in London/UK?
There is a big focus on savoury flavours right now, people seem to be developing more savoury pallets which is a great area of exploration for us. There is also more awareness regarding how the sense affect how we taste and perceive flavour. We’ve been lucky enough to work with Professor Charles Spence who is head of crossmodal research at Oxford University to explore how sound affects the way we perceive sweetness. This is definitely an area of interest that will grow.
What’s next for the Drink Factory and 69? Any secret projects you’d like to share with us (we heard rumours about a new book)?
Now that would be telling! We’re excited to be celebrating 69’s fifth birthday this June. It means so much to us to have been open and still have loyal customers for such a period of time. It’s great to see a bar develop and grow over time, we’ve recently launched our food menu which is a great compliment to the drinks. Hopefully there will be more like this to come.
The 69 Colebrooke Row book is available to pre-order and will be released on the 1st June.
A final word or advice for food entrepreneurs out there that are too scared to jump in?
Go for it…
If you want to learn more about them, the best thing is to book yourself into one of their masterclasses or simply get their new book or read this very cool article! Oh and even better, they are throwing a massive party on the 15th June for their 5th birthday:
Happy to be celebrating our 5th Birthday. June 15th – 2PM til late. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations pic.twitter.com/RAgEEyQE54
— 69colebrookerow (@69colebrookerow) May 26, 2014