Read Time: 7 minutes |
We pick the brain of our resident mad scientist and mixology instructor to find out about what’s going on in Ireland’s cocktail scene, new trends in the Irish drinks industry and the benefits of mixology courses for the bartender trade
| By Cameron Mowat
The team of bartenders behind our cocktail courses and mixology courses is pretty diverse, and that’s something that we’re proud of. It’s not just a diversity of career background, but also of life experience, perspective and speciality.
Our mixology course instructor Thomasz Ostrowski looks after all the courses involving mixologist training and cocktail training to make sure we’re offering the best quality education on our courses. Thomasz is the flavour brain behind some of our favourite mixology recipes and also a man of fierce opinion on contemporary cocktail culture, making him the best person for our first interview on the blog.
He’s worked all over Ireland, from banqueting in the Shelbourne, bartending in the Cliff House Hotel in Ardmore, plus he was Operations Manager for the Mercantile Group which includes big names like Pichet, Farrier & Draper and Café En Seine. He’s also worked as Brand Ambassador then Brand Development Manager for DWD Irish Whiskey where he is now the Market Development Manager.
We sat down on his balcony on a bright Dublin afternoon to talk about all things mixology, discuss cocktail trends in Ireland and talk about the mixology course in Dublin and mixology courses in Mallorca that he curates and teaches.
What is your experience of the Mixology and Cocktail Scene in Ireland?
“When I came to Ireland 14 years ago, the Irish palate was very different to what it is now and people were just drinking what they had been since they were younger.
They were not so open to new flavours… I remember these times you know: peach schnapps with white lemonade or vodka with black current – You don’t really see this anymore.
I started to experiment more thanks to this and I was always trying to work in high end places because this is where people were just like, ‘oh I’m not counting how I’m spending, I’m more open to experience’, which helped me grow as a bartender.”
How have you seen the focus on mixology and cocktails change over your years behind the bar?
“Now we have the 21st century, things are changing again in a completely different direction. People are starting to focus on experience. They are looking for craft, they are looking for something that will completely blow their mind.
You have this huge demand for cocktails in Ireland, even the traditional bars that serve pints, now they open the door in the city centre and at 12 o’clock it’s Pornstar Martini, Espresso Martini, Margarita.
You also have these worldwide trends of: ‘from the Garden to the Bar’, healthy lifestyle, low ABV cocktails, low calories, non-alcoholic et cetera. Now there is also bigger access to these unique flavours you can source, especially in Ireland, compared to what you could get on this little island years back.
I think this is great because all these trends allow bartenders to shine, because if you’re looking for experience, if you’re looking for the craft, this is exactly what we’re doing.”
Who do you think is doing it the best these days in Dublin?
“It’s a very differential market, some bars are very behind, some of them are creating trends. I know that one of the very cool bars that is very experiential is the Americana Bar in the Devlin Hotel. They fully carbonate their drinks and all this stuff. When it comes to this brand new stuff, this brand new tech, I think they are the strongest on the market at the moment.
You also have the VCC. I think they have the palate, and they have more experience than the guys there. I haven’t tried the Americana menu yet. On paper it looks amazing, but you know yourself, execution is a different story. So I’m really looking forward to exploring it!
I personally always look for bartenders really, not the bars. At the moment Andrei Petrescu is in Drury Buildings. For me to go to him and try one of his great prohibition style cocktails, he’s always the best pallet and the best bartender to go to.”
What trends have you noticed in the contemporary cocktail scene in Dublin?
“Well when it comes to spirits, definitely tequila is being used more often, and I’ve even seen 4 different Margaritas on some cocktail menus. The truth is back in the days tequila based cocktails would be the slowest moving cocktails, even next to Negronis believe it or not.
Tequila is hitting hard in the Irish market here, but what I truly believe in is what is happening with Irish Whiskey at the moment. Irish whiskey is just a really good product for the present palate, this is a product that people are looking for. It’s smooth, it’s elegant, it’s not fiery, it’s not in your face and there are so many different styles of it. Now bartenders can see what this juice can do.
When it comes to trends in cocktails and the methods, definitely you’re gonna have some Clarification happening. I have done a consultation for one bar on Dawson street where they call their clarified cocktail ‘The Glass Of Tap’. It’s basically a slim jim glass with some cubed ice in it and it looks like a glass of water but it’s actually a fully clarified cocktail.
In Dublin definitely we don’t have this sort of thing like when you go to London. There you have types of bars where you wait half an hour, and it’s like a main course in the restaurant, you don’t really get a glass, you get a hippo fountain with smoke coming out of his ass and you don’t really know where to drink from.
It’s not really my style of experience. I’m looking for something more like a nice classic glass, nice minimalistic garnishes that will be suitable, and the flavour, flavour is where the thoughts are going.”
How can cocktail and mixology courses benefit the bar industry and bartenders?
“To be honest, if I would have had these opportunities when I started my career and had someone that would show me all these methods it would be a different story.
The Internet was really kicking off in my time. I remember I was paying for loads of money to be on for like one hour. I also spent loads of hours sitting at home studying books, and first of all tasting everything around me because I understood that without doing that you can’t go too far, you can only follow what other people do.
Now there’s a big lack of people in the drinks industry and there’s so much space for young creative minds that are trying to tell their story of flavours. I’ve never seen the Irish market so open for jobs.
We have students now from Italy for example, they are all already working. If I would have had this opportunity I would definitely do the course, and spend extra time studying. I think it’s so easy to climb now and courses are such a kick start.”
Why is having cocktail knowledge so important in today’s bartender world?
“I think now it’s going to be challenging for you lads that don’t have any cocktail skills. I definitely think now people are just coming to random places and are looking for cocktails and you look stupid if you don’t know how to do them.
I know that everyone is stretched, because cocktail orders are going up and up. That’s what people drink, that’s what people look for.
Some people still think that it’s a type of job like back in the days in Ireland, you’d be paid with a pint of Guinness, but overall what would you do you’d just collect the glasses and pour pints.
This is not where we are now. There is so much stuff when it comes to technology, there is so much stuff that even our consumers have learned. They are educated now, they know what a Negroni is, they know what an Old Fashioned is. If you make something and you put the wrong ingredient in, they’re gonna say, ‘hold on a second, what are you doing here man?’.”
What’s your favourite mixology product to make at the moment on our mixology courses and cocktail courses? What cocktails would you make with it?
“One of the products I’m looking forward to introducing into our mixology courses will be the Caramelised Banana Stout Reduction and that’s gonna be some kick ass s***.
You need to make the caramel first, then you transform this caramel into a syrup and then sous vide that with the banana. You make the syrup by simply adding the stout to the caramel and slowly cooking this to merge the flavours. Then 1 ½ hour in the sous vide with the banana and it just blows your mind.
You can already imagine how the Espresso Martini would taste, or a Tropical Old Fashioned, but my favourite would be my personal creation. I would mix this product with just some Aperol, fresh lime and top it up with soda water. It’s a Low ABV drink that I could have for breakfast with my scone and jam on the side to be honest.”
What’s the most exciting thing about the new cocktail and mixology course at the Drink In Academy?
“The most exciting thing now is really about the pursuit of flavours and finding new flavours to play with. We’re gonna be experimenting with all sorts of new products and new production techniques, and we’re constantly improving the syllabus.
I love showing off these cool new trendy products and these new flavours to our students. It’s definitely one of my favourite aspects and I can’t wait to meet all our future students and show what we can do!”