Story by Jono Carr. Jono is the Director of Bars for the Etymon Group and our Sydney-based Drinks Writer. You can reach Jono at email@example.com
Photography by Christopher Pearce @christophernpearce
Sitting at the bar and having a cocktail made especially for you is, for me, one of the joys of going out. The feeling of being front and centre is as much a part of the drinking experience as the interaction with the bartender and that first wonderful sip.
So, when the situation doesn’t lend itself to that experience, for instance sitting down at the table in a restaurant or receiving table service in a cocktail lounge, bridging that gap between that ideal personal bar-top service and just having a drink plopped down in front of you is the challenge.
When done well, it is like the bar has been brought to you, even if only momentarily. This is sometimes better for the people around you, or if the night is more about other factors like the music over geeking out about drinks.
Perhaps one of the best examples of this tableside service is the famed Martini Trolley at The Connaught. A white-gloved bartender preparing a Martini to your specs is the level everyone hopes to achieve, the theatre adding to the beverage and the admiring looks from other diners around the room. “Our Martini Trolley infuses this iconic mix with a sense of ceremony. The perfect cocktail is personal – but our Martini is always stirred.” Agostino Perrone, Director of Mixology.
“Our Martini Trolley infuses this iconic mix with a sense of ceremony. The perfect cocktail is personal – but our Martini is always stirred.” Agostino Perrone, Director of Mixology, The Connaught
Fine dining restaurants are focused on the tableside cocktail experience as another element of their opulent dishes. Venues like Gimlet in Melbourne serve their namesake cocktail deconstructed on the stunning metal tray with the Gin and citrus element poured elegantly into a chilled glass to be topped by French Champagne and misted all while you sit and watch (or take pictures).
Cocktail bars and lounges have been finding ways to give another level of service to their drinks at table and not always just for the show, explains Matt Dale, Venue Manager at Re in Sydney’s South Everleigh, “Certain drinks deteriorate the longer you leave them standing on the pass. At either end of this spectrum, you have a glass of red wine versus a martini. A glass of red wine will survive hours on the pass. A martini begins to “die” as soon as it hits the glass, becoming a warm slug of gin rather than being the deliciously, bracingly cold cocktail we all love”.
He adds: “We pour our martinis and any stirred cocktail that is served up, table-side to ensure that they stay as cold as possible, as long as possible. The glass comes out of the freezer, just before serving and is always held at the lowest possible point”.
Another factor at play is in live music-focused venues where the chance to chat at the table is diminished by the focus of what’s going on stage. At Tiva, a live-music driven cocktail lounge in Sydney’s CBD, the opportunity to interact with the guest isn’t always possible due to a couple of factors – there may be a live Jazz set that would be awkward to interrupt or a DJ spinning bangers that you couldn’t resist dancing along to.
To still be able to give some table side theatre, keep the drinks cold as possible and keep the music front and centre they have created several serves that combine the best of each world. The Martini is kept near frozen and served table side, poured into a frozen glass served alongside a citrus disk, olives and brine on the side to give the guest all the options.
An Espresso Martini plunged in a French press to give it that fluffy head everyone is looking for also means it is cold as possible as it is poured into the glass at the table. The Negroni is pre-batched and poured over perfect branded ice tableside, to make sure its not overdiluted before that first sip.
All of these factors are carefully designed to give the chance for the server to have a chat between sets or quietly serve a beverage to the guest with some understated theatre and optimal temperature in mind.
Re does something similar “One of our current cocktails the Tropical Negroni (Tanqueray, Strawberry, Yuzu Vermouth, Dry Vermouth, Campari) is currently being served in a Jeroboam and poured over a Bare Bones ice cube, garnished with a strawberry meringue. This is a bit of fun, some theatrics, and allows us to better interact with our guests” adds Matt.
Whether it be to ensure a beverage is served as intended to be enjoyed, a touch of understated theatre or a conversation starter (or replacement), a little extra love to the tableside service can only be a good thing for the guest experience. Especially when they can’t be seated at the bar.
15ml Mr Black Coffee Liqueur
35ml Cold Brew Coffee
10ml Salted Vanilla syrup
15ml Filtered Water
30ml Good Quality Gin
30ml House Sweet Vermouth
10ml Filtered Water
Pre-batched and refrigerated.
Poured at the Table over a large ice cube
Slice of Orange
65ml Good Quality Gin
10ml Lillet Blanc
5ml Regal Rogue Lively White
1 Dash Orange Bitters
10ml Filtered Water
Pre Batched and stored in the Freezer
Poured into Frozen Decanter and poured at the table
Side dish of Olive, Lemon Disk and Olive Brine