It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that ‘doing shots’ is a bad idea.
What begins as a ‘swift half after work’ can quickly descend into a protracted bout of loud incoherent philosophising, lasting until well after the last tube has left. Or a well-intentioned plan to ‘pop into the house party just to say hi’ can all-too-easily result in a brutal jump-cut to 3pm the next day, complete with thumping headache, a vague-but-crushing sense of existential angst and a series of home-made tattoos. All thanks to an ill-advised round (or two/three/four) of shots.
It needn’t be thus. A number of forces within the drinks industry are striving for a more enlightened approach. Tom Sandham and Ben McFarland, aka The Thinking Drinkers, are award-winning drinks writers, industry consultants and comedians, whose slogan is ‘drink less – drink better’. Tony Conigliaro - the hugely influential uber-mixologist behind Bar Termini, 69 Colebrook Row, Zetter Townhouse, Grain Store and Untitled Restaurant and Bar - has pioneered a more academic approach to drinking, conducting constant Wonka-esque experiments at Drink Factory, his East London lab. And Zoe Burgess, head of Research and Development at Drink Factory, and Partner at Untitled Restaurant and Bar, continues to pioneer new and exciting ways to drink.
“I think it is a world that people are moving away from,” said Burgess, when The Spoils picked her brains about the current state of shot-drinking. “Customers are led much more buy a drink that tastes good, so we're seeing more interest in sipping spirits and cocktails. It's a great thing as there are so many interesting spirits and sipping cocktails out there - there is much to be showcased.” That’s not to say Burgess is totally against traditional shots; “It very much depends on what experience the customer is looking for, and there’s no right or wrong answer really. If a guest wants a tequila shot we give it to them - but if they want something they can savour after dinner we have suggestions too.” But, as we all know, shots of tequila can be joyous harbingers of unutterable chaos - so here are some more civilised options, as endorsed by Burgess. Just remember, sip, don’t slam...
“For a whisky lover we recommend Auchentoshan,” Says Burgess, “it's accessible and has some lovely spiced notes while being a very round and smooth spirit. We’d recommend it straight up, or over ice.”
Limoncello done badly can be a disaster - perfumey, saccharine and undrinkable. But plump for a quality bottle and it’s light, fruity and refreshing. “Bar Termini has a great homemade Limoncello - we use fresh lemons and orris to give a little structure to the drink,” says Burgess.
Vodka on the rocks is a timeless classic – but again, quality is paramount. “Siwucha Vodka is a popular go-to,” says Burgess. “It's a great Polish 'old style' smooth rye vodka that has a touch of barley spirit in it. We love it over ice.”
“We are so lucky - because we are based in Soho and we have so many excellent restaurants around us” says Burgess’ colleague, Bar Termini General Manager Robin Kolek. “When people finish their dinner they come to Termini for a digestif. In this case we offer amaro. We have two favourites; Amaro Del Capo and Averna. But I can’t forget for Fernet Branca and Becherovka, which are popular shots for bartenders from around the world.”
“One of the most successful sipping drinks we've created is the Violin, which we serve at Untitled,” says Burgess. “It's a blend of vodkas we have infused with ingredients such as oak, redwood and pine resins. The idea was to create a drink that resonated in the same way a violin does - we've had great response and people really enjoy it.”
“A shot of Espresso! This is everyone's go-to - Espresso Al Bar at Bar Termini is our most popular shot. Guests pop in, have an espresso while stood at the bar and then carry on with their day.
Bar Termini - 7 Old Compton St, W1D 5JE. Visit bar-termini.com
Untitled Bar - 538 Kingsland Rd, E8 4AH. Visit untitled-bar.com
Main image credit: Adam Jaime on Unsplash
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