We talk to the creator of two of our most popular drinks – the zingy CoBa G and refreshing CoBa Roman Holiday – about coming up with new ideas and mixing the perfect cocktail to complement our Vietnamese dishes.
If you had told Bartosz that he would one day be inventing some of the best cocktails in north London (in our humble opinion) he might have thought you were joking. But when this keen canoeist and medal-winning weight lifter moved from Warsaw to London three years ago he decided to swap sports for a cocktail shaker.
Starting out as a barback at Shaftesbury Avenue’s exclusive members-only Century Club he was kept busy preparing garnishes, keeping the spirits topped up and supporting the bar team. Quickly developing a passion for the craft he was soon promoted to bartender: “I loved seeing all the work that went into creating a cocktail for someone – it’s a nice feeling when you are sharing something with people – and that’s what preparing these drinks is all about. It was a great learning experience; a great way to pick up some knowledge.”
He put all this knowledge to great use when he joined us in February and instantly made his mark: “I think there were six cocktails on the menu at that time, and I made it eight by creating two cocktails that quickly became best-sellers. They are still on the menu and I don’t think we will stop serving them any time soon.”
He is referring of course to the zingy CoBa G – Hendrick’s gin, elderflower liqueur, mint, cucumber, tonic and egg – and the refreshing CoBa Roman Holiday – Campari, vodka, strawberry and orange with Campari sorbet.
Pairing cocktails with Vietnamese dishes presents heaps of potential – our food menu is very flavourful with a hint of spice and Bartosz found that creating sweet and sour cocktails could be really complementary.
“I like to keep moving forward though, with the cocktails reflecting the season in which they appear on the menu. The new menu we have just put together includes an apple whisky sour, while some feature wine and cognac. The idea is to make everything warm and cosy.
“I am influenced by classic cocktails, but I really like to add my own creative twist. In our break times we are always playing around trying to make something new. Garnishes are important – we use fresh fruit or dehydrated spices to deliver more flavour – and we make our own jams and syrups. For the new menu we made pear and jasmine tea syrups, as well as a cherry jam.
“We were working on this latest menu for about two weeks and we probably made at least 50 versions to get the final cocktails on offer this winter. Four will be on the regular menu, and then there’s one extra-special one – a smoky barbecue take on a sweet Manhattan. It’s so full of flavour I would recommend drinking it after a meal. Combined with the smoke and the scent, it’s a real experiential cocktail.”
Intrigued? You should be! Here are the new cocktails you can expect to see Bartosz and the team serving up this winter:
- CoBa Beets
- Scarlet Woman (red wine, cognac, crème de mure)
- Pear Up (pear, prosecco, gin and hibiscus)
- Honey Plums (plum, whisky, honey, mint and ginger beer)
So what does Bartosz order when he’s on the other side of the bar?
“If I was a cocktail, I would be a whiskey sour because I am strong – in lots of ways – but especially because I have a strong focus on my work. I enjoy it here. Damon [CoBa’s owner] is open to us creating new cocktails and the restaurant is different to places I have worked before – I used to be in fine dining venues whereas here it’s relaxed and friendly, the atmosphere is so welcoming. I hope to keep moving forward, who knows – maybe one day open my own bar. But in the meantime I am really happy learning more.”
We look forward to welcoming you soon to test out the winter cocktail menu!