For richer, for pourer: Ben Clark lets us into some of his secrets

Posted at 6:00 pm, September 14, 2012 in Food & Drink
Zetter Townhouse bartender Ben Clark © Rob Greig

It’s hard to believe but you can find some quiet, intimate spots in the heart of London. One such venue is Zetter Towwnhouse on St John’s Square. With such a quiet atmosphere, your bartender may know if  you’d prefer a shake than a stir but what do you know about him? We managed to grab bartender Ben Clark on a much needed break and found out a little more about him and a recipe you should try at home…

Favourite spirit?

‘I’m torn between gin and bourbon. Gin is my pre-dinner spirit and I favour bourbon for a late-night tipple.’

Cocktails – classic or innovative?

‘At Zetter Townhouse I like to serve two innovative cocktails: the Flintlock; and the Master at Arms. They are great, well-balanced drinks but also have a story behind them and a little bit of theatre in the presentation.’

Which do you prefer to drink?

‘I particularly like a sazerac. It’s a classic, but I also enjoy the bartenders’ interpretations that you find at a handful of great London bars – whether it be the glassware, the garnish or the recipe. Innovative cocktails are exciting when taste and flavour are at the heart of the creation. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Beware of gimmicks.’

Favourite classic cocktail? Best variation?

‘A gimlet is one of my favourites: simple to make, fresh zing on the palate from the lime cordial and a little punch from the gin. A fantastic variation is the lemon balm gimlet we currently serve, using Beefeater gin and a homemade lemon balm cordial.’

The next trend in cocktails?

‘We are focusing on homemade ingredients where we can achieve the exact flavour we are looking for, such as cordials, syrups and tinctures.’

Leave it to the pros

Get a taste of the countryside with the Zetter Townhouse recipe for a Somerset sour.

Somerset sour

50ml five-year-old Somerset cider brandy

20ml lemon juice

20ml egg white

10 ml sugar

20ml Breton cider

Put all ingredients except the cider in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into ‘your largest, fanciest wine glass’ and top with the cider.

One to try at home

For a cider-free kick, try a hard-boiled gimlet instead.

Gimlet

In Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel ‘The Long Goodbye’, Philip Marlowe says: ‘A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice, and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.’ Some people prefer them less sweet, but try it Marlowe’s way to start with.

50ml top-quality gin (Beefeater is good for gimlets)

50ml Rose’s lime cordial

Add both ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake sharply and strain into a chilled martini glass.

To view the 50 best cocktail bars in London, see timeout.com.

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