Ago Perrone, director of Mixology at The Connaught Bar, shares his top tricks and techniques to encouraging guests to linger longer at the bar.
What are your bestselling bar drinks?
This is an easy one! From our classic drinks, it is our Connaught Bar martini by a long way. It is our signature and a huge part of our DNA. Our guests love how it is presented, how it is mixed in front of them on our Martini trolley, and how we make it a bespoke experience for each and every person. This is followed by our Bloody Mary. It has a Connaught Bar twist that has become recognisable – the elegant coup it is served in and the celery air that tops the cocktail. From our new menu ‘The Vanguard’ the Number 11 cocktail is quickly becoming a best seller. It is inspired by our martini which never changes, but does offer choices according to the guests preferences – vodka or gin, one of five aromatic bitters. The ‘Number 11’ sees all of these choices combined in one drink – our own gin which we create and bottle in house, vodka, Amalfi lemon oil, wine distillate and all five bitters (cardamom, tonka, ginseng and bergamot, lavender and coriander seeds). To nod to our signature martini pour – which is a high movement in order to aerate the mixture – the Number 11 is dispensed, in front of the guest, from a machine which does the same job but with immense power. This forceful aeration is the equivalent of pouring from an eleven storey building, and this air allows the flavours of the drink to open up and provide different experiences on the palate. The drink is served in a coup which has been hand painted by the bar team with five colours to represent the five bitters used. This painterly effect and the name of the drink are inspired by Jackson Pollock who used to number his masterpieces. This is a cocktail where the storytelling is essential!
How do you curate the bar drinks menu?
It’s a complete team effort – we are constantly inspired by our travels and backgrounds and we have the luxury of being so constantly motivated by our immediate surroundings of the bar. This is where our curation process begins. Of course the taste is paramount, but the story and inspiration is also key.
What are your best upselling techniques?
This comes naturally – it is simply the way in which we connect with our guests and our storytelling. The more we connect, the more they feel inspired, the more they feel at home and therefore the more they want to try and taste, and ultimately the more they want to return!
How do you use story-telling to sell drinks?
The Vanguard menu is a prime example. It is entirely inspired by the bar itself – the structure, the design, the martini and the guests. We created three chapters in this menu, each paying homage to different elements of the Connaught Bar – Enigma which nods to their iconic martini, Strata which was motivated by the bar itself and Verve for the two hand-hammered iron gates that stand either side of it. The chapters follows a consistent pattern of five different drinks, ordered from strongest to lightest, including a champagne cocktail and a mocktail in each. Each drink reflects its chapter and therefore each tells a story. For example, from the Strata list, we have the ‘Amberblack’ which is designed to show the many pairings within the bar such as the contrasting light and dark colours in the interiors. Tropical coconut is juxtaposed with coffee, and floral notes of jasmine are offset with aniseed notes of Mastiha. The amber cocktail is served in a wine glass partially covered in coconut milk powder and active charcoal giving an amber and black design.
How do you prepare for each season with your bar drinks menu?
We do one new menu a year – they are labours of love that the whole team contribute to and so we ensure that they can be relevant throughout the seasons. However, of course, we respond to seasonal ingredients, weather, and the inspiration we gather on our travels. This Summer we launched the Poke & Spritz menu which allowed our guests to have a quick, healthy and very satisfying lunch between meetings and so on. Our incredible poke bowls are exactly what you want to eat in hot weather and we created three spritzers to accompany – we wanted guests to have the satisfaction of a cocktail at lunch, but we made them lighter, longer with less alcohol and more refreshment.