Interviewing Matteo Malian, Bar Manager at Zetter Townhouse
Matteo Malian speaks about Zetter Townhouse, their approach to creating new drinks and the emerging drinks trends.
You are renown for your innovative cocktails. What is your approach to creating new drinks?
“We work hard to link flavours, and if technology can help us to do that then fine, but it is all about having the right combination of flavours. Yes, the equipment we use is important but you have to know how to use it. But the focus is always on the customer and creating a bar experience, rather than becoming obsessed with how the drinks are made.
What are the most important elements of a really good bar?
We are a bar. It’s about having a good time. It’s about having the right drinks, the right music, the lighting and the atmosphere. They are all important. It’s not being pretentious, it’s about what we serve our customers.
You produce some of your own drinks. What suppliers do you use for the rest?
Pernod Ricard, Amathus, Specialty Drinks and Gordon McPhail. Our relationships with them are very good. They provide us with a lot of support as well. We don’t use as many suppliers as other bars of a similar stature. It’s a delicate balance between using our own spirits as well as leading brands. We will see how different spirits perform with our drinks. So anything we take on we know very well. But it can take time.
How do you select your wines?
We use the services of former restaurateur and wine consultant Martin Lam to help with the wines, and we offer four reds, four whites a rose and five champagnes sourced via Liberty Wines. We are adding Hattingley English sparkling wine to our range. It’s great working with Martin. He has a lot of passion and a real focus on what he is doing, which we like.
You obviously spend a great deal of time dreaming up unusual cocktails and drinks. Is that the secret of your success?
While we spend a long time crafting drinks, they must not be so complicated that they can’t be recreated time and again in the bar. It is one thing to get great service and a great Turf Club cocktail on a Monday. But you have to give the exact level of service and the standard Turf Club on a Wednesday too. We have to run our bar like a kitchen in a restaurant. You have to have that complete discipline.
How do you decide which drinks brand to list?
Producers have to really believe in their product and have a real story. People will come a long way to show us something at the bar. But we will try them.”
How do you keep up with global drinking trends?
We attract leading bar staff from around the world and see this as one of our most important driving forces. Travelling and keeping up with what is happening in New York, San Francisco, Paris or wherever. We are not just enclosed in our own world.
What are the emerging drinks trends to look out for?
“We are currently working on creating more of our own vermouth, which can work a combination of drinks and with mixed alcohol levels. So if you order a Negroni you can choose from a selection of vermouths.