22 May Cocktails for thoughts – ep 2
Hi, hola, hello. Welcome back to Cocktails for Thoughts, our monthly cocktails and thoughts swap (see how clever we were with the name? Much clever, very thoughtful). Building on the first installment last month (which you can read here), this month we are chatting to Derek Tsui of Foxglove in Hong Kong, and Kevin Fry from The Coral Room at The Bloomsbury hotel in London.
Foxglove, what can we say, even the website makes you feel special to be entering it! The bar itself is a mix of old world charisma and new world edge, describing itself as both a place to enjoy your poison of choice and a cure to ailments of the heart. Well, our hearts are ailing for more time in Foxglove, so it should certainly cure that. The Coral Room is equally impressive and, in short, the best of the English country side transported to the city, complete with impressive cocktail list and secluded cigar terrace (what what! Fancy!). It creates a perfect escape from the busyness (yes it’s a word) of Central London.
So without further ado, let’s get started on finding out more about these people, their bars, their cocktails, and why they love the industry. *throws the rest of your “ado” out and gets comfortable*
Tell us what five words you’d use to describe your venue?
Derek: Gatsby, jazz, speakeasy, cocktail, gentlemen.
Kevin: Bright, relaxed, fun, homely and warm.
What cocktail—and what is the inspiration behind the cocktail—have you chosen for the cocktails for thoughts exchange this month?
D: The cocktail we have chosen this month is the Gypsy Rose, in which we use FAIR gin, FAIR pomegranate, rose honey water, lemon juice, and a touch of soda water. The drink inspiration comes from the Foxglove Story, from Frank Minza, who is the co-founder of Foxglove. The story is from the time he was travelling around searching for the one he wanted to love. He was impressed by Gypsy Rose Lee, one of the famous American burlesque entertainers of the 1950s. After seeing her perform, Frank asked the bartender there to create a drink for her and that’s how this drink was created.
K: We’ve chosen the cocktail Homegrown for the exchange this month. Our cocktails here at Coral are all about bringing back the highball, or presenting low ABV cocktails in a unique way—even trying to make them as healthy as possible! The Homegrown is all about light refreshing bright green countryside flavors.
What FAIR alcohol do you use in the cocktail and why?
D: We use FAIR because we love the concept of FAIR. We love the idea of searching for and using fair trade ingredients from all over the world. FAIR gin has a unique flavor of juniper notes, which really come out when we use it in the cocktail, and the FAIR pomegranate has a natural sweetness from the pomegranate fruit and brings a lovely pink color to the drink.
K: We’re using FAIR gin because the botanicals from the FAIR juniper work amazingly well. The gin has massive hits of juniper that balances out beautifully when infusing it with lemon thyme.
What does the word “green” mean to you?
D: Environmentally friendly, earthy, tea leaves, and smells of a rainy morning.
K: For myself and for us at Coral, green is about recycling and no waste. We love to use the whole product so there is no wastage; what we don’t use of the fruit we pickle, make shrubs and so on, and we are extremely big on recycling to the extent that we hold trainings for the team every month on correct recycling procedures. And of course we have completely abandoned all plastic straws and stirrers.
Finally, what made you want to work in this industry, what brought you here? And of course, what keeps you here?
D: At the very beginning, it was all about fun. I started working as a part-time bartender when I was 20. I met my first mentor there, and he showed me how deep cocktail making can be and the story behind the classic cocktail—it was so fantastic to listen the story behind all the cocktails. The thing that keeps me here is always the people that I get to meet, the conversations we have and the endless story between the guest and us.
K: To be honest I just needed a job at the time when I was 20! But I immediately fell in love with the industry; I listened to everyone, tried to pick up as much information as possible, and worked in many places to pick up different techniques. For me there is nothing better than getting a guest who isn’t very happy when they come in but when they leave, they have a big fat smile on their face!