DANDELYAN partners with THE BLENDS OF THE WORLD.
Hitting our shores in August, Will Meredith and Jack Banks will be taking the industry on a journey of what is Dandelyan, its innovative menu creation, the behind the scenes of their day to day, all things Botany, and the practices of a great team. They’ll also be partnering with some of our best bartenders and venues here in Australia for one night only — details will come soon, so watch this space.
Here’s a little insight into Will and Jack, the two legends flying down under to educate and inspire (FYI this is their first time to Australia!)
1. What can we expect to see when Dandelyan arrives and tours Australia?
WILL: Hopefully we can share just a bit of what we do every day. It’s amazing to have the chance to come over and talk about our work, so I hope that translates to everyone who gets the chance to see us.
JACK: With the collaborations we’re pulling off, hopefully you can see some pretty f*****g interesting drinks, Dandelyan ethos, but Aussie flavours
2. What first comes to mind when you think of Australia?
W: Sun, Beaches, and a load of creatures designed to kill you!
3. How long have you been in the industry and briefly give us insight onto how your journey started?
W: I’ve been in the industry around 5 years, starting as a bar back in a nightclub in Manchester. As so many of us at the time, I needed beer money whilst at University. It was great fun as it was care free, pure disco cocktails, and just high, high volume. Northerners can drink!
J: Starting off bar backing in 2012, coming from being a graduate in Civil Engineering, I was drawn to the logical problem solving of running a bar, and tailoring service to unique guests. From working through the ranks in multiple bars, it was a no brainer to move to London when given the opportunity by Dandelyan.
4. What is your role and length of employment at Dandelyan?
W: Jack and I are both Seniors here, which essentially means that our job is to ensure the bar ticks over on a day-to-day basis and that no one falls apart. I started in September 2016 which feels like an awfully long time ago!
J: I was brought into Dandelyan 2 years ago and have worked my way up to Senior Bartender in the process
5. How would you summarise the drinks culture in London?
W: London moves about in waves that come as frequently as the seasons. Everybody is looking to stand out in new ways and there’s a really good push at the moment to design menus that possess a wider meaning, rather than just solely geeking out on liquids. At the moment the drinks themselves are getting nicely simpler which is great for engaging with our guests as they can understand much more! We are certainly starting to see the return of a few naughtier flavours that were tossed in the metaphorical trash can of obnoxiousness a couple of years ago, which is nice!
J: The drinks culture in London is ever-evolving. There is such high demand for quality from guests, and from such a high quantity, that bars can open in their masses. The call for quality and constant desire for something new provides a friendly competition for bars, that puts London up there with some of the most cultured cities in the world.
6. How has London evolved over the last few years?
W: Having been in London for under 2 years, I cannot speak too much for its previous drinks culture, but I guess it has shifted slightly away from your easy to balance, brown stirred down complex sipper and moved in to exploiting more accessible flavours and creating some really funky ingredients with them. There has also been a push for efficiency in order to maximise time with your regulars rather than messing about spending 5 minutes making one drink.
J: It’s almost ditched the braces and ridiculous moustaches entirely! I think there has been an ego shift, so it’s no longer about one’s self as a bartender, but it’s a shift back towards the guest. That translates to a much greater quality of service, and an even larger drinking culture!
7. What excites you about working at Dandelyan?
W: I think it’s the sheer volume we do on a daily basis. The amount of people who come in on what we would consider a ‘quiet night’ and tell us how busy it looks constantly keeps us in check with reality! The operation that goes on behind the scenes is great to be a part of and to see it working first hand is incredibly rewarding. From ordering, to seeing Aska and Matteo (our prep ninjas) working day in-day out downstairs making just about everything, to then seeing the results upstairs, is an amazing journey and seeing the cogs turn in such a chaotic machine is a great feeling.
J: People come to work in Dandelyan because they have something unique and endearing about them, that’s how our creativity as a whole team can thrive. I love trying to understand everyone’s process of thoughts and using it to challenge my own.
8. Sustainability and minimal waste is something the trade is really taking on board as an everyday practice now – how important is this to you and can you share with some methods you use at Dandelyan?
W: We will never turn around and tell the world we are perfectly sustainable, but we try and be responsible wherever possible. The best way to look at it is to just assess everything before you toss it in the bin. Can it be used again? For example, the off-cut citrus peels get thrown in a tub to make Oleo which is used in one of our drinks. The same applies for the pulps leftover from juicing apples and pineapples. We basically chuck them in a blender with water and sugar and blitz them and strain them to make delicious syrups/cordials. If you fancy getting geeky then fermenting old stuff can be fun. Just make sure you add plenty of sugar or else it doesn’t work (And tastes like shit)
J: It’s super important, for sure. We analysed our bins after one weekend of service, saw the potential for ingredients that could be re-manipulated, and realised the ease that this could be done, and with financial benefits. It just goes to show how simple some of it can be. My favourite has to be our apple pulp syrup, purely because it reduces our demand for citrus, something we obviously have to import.
9. What has been your most memorable moment you can share with us, working in the industry?
J: I mean it would have to be winning Best International Bar Team at Tales of the Cocktail 2017. Having missed out the year before we knew how gutting it was and how much it meant to us, so winning it the second time around made it all the sweeter!
10. What has been your most embarrassing moment behind the bar?
W: I wouldn’t know where to start there has been so many! It was probably back in my nightclub days whilst as Uni. We used to host “masterclasses” (and I use that word ironically) in which we would essentially help hen-do’s get drunk in the afternoon and feel like they’ve done something productive or fun. It is safe to say some groups are rowdier and more demanding than others. One group proposed a drink making race in which the loser had to strip off. I arrogantly accepted only to find out they had a weapon of a bartender in their ranks who subsequently beat me
several times, leaving me wearing just my work apron! Needless to say they were disappointed with their goods on show which was doubly embarrassing.
J: Trying to chat to guests..
11. Why do you love coming to work every day?
J: Dandelyan is now a team of 30 like-minded individuals. That’s two rugby teams of bartenders solely in one bar. When you’re brought into a team that size and included in it, it is a really special feeling.
12. How long does it take to create a Dandelyan Menu?
J: From Ryan and Iain proposing the menu brief to us, there is around 6 months until the menu launch. This consists mostly of researching stories. With our ethos being ‘less literal, more lateral’, we don’t want to touch any booze until around the 4 month mark, purely because our drinks evolve from flavours and bespoke being plucked from our stories, and finding flavours that just pair well together holds no experience that can be passed on to the guest. After that it’s time for weeds and balancing the drinks for menu launch.
13. Cocktails are pretty subjective – whether or not you like them is up to the individuals taste. How do you decide which one is a winning one for menu inclusion?
W: Given that our drinks are led by stories, the strength of the story tends to dictate which way the drink will go. The taste of the final drink is just about the last thing we box off during development so it’s not totally about flavour, as long as we have variability. I guess we look at subjectivity in that sense. If a cocktail can hold an identity or personality whilst appealing to as many people as possible then you’re on to a winner. We have people from all walks of life who walk through and whilst not everyone will love every drink, we want everyone to be able to feel like they gained something from trying them.
14. Who inspires you in the trade?
W: For me, it really is the people I get to work with every day. From top to bottom everyone is just awesome and makes work so easy. Honestly to make such a big project seem so chilled and simple is not easy and everyone involved makes that happen.
J: I’ve always been most inspired by my team. It’s who I spend most of my time with, and who I’m learning the most from. When you talk about inspiration, I can’t think of anyone beyond them.