Meet Julian De Feral, our tastemaker and chief drinks development officer for Cocktails in the City.
Drinks consultant, bar trainer, drinks writer, global cocktail and spirits judge and all-round nice guy, Julian has developed drinks and written menus for bars all over the world (over 100 and counting) and was the perfect choice to work in partnership with Cocktails in the City in converting our years of cocktail festival experience into a selection of delicious drinks to make available for you, our guest!
So Julian what makes a great drink in your experience?
Personally, I think a great cocktail is something that is greater than the sum of its parts when a collection of ingredients come together to create something new and surpasses expectation.
For me, the flavour is king and whilst the visual elements, the setting and the storytelling all help to maximise your enjoyment of a drink it has to be about the taste of the final product.
I believe a great drink should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The drink shouldn't be dominated by one flavour, I find drinks more interesting when different flavours are working together.
What advice would you give to a home bartender/amateur enthusiast?
On a practical level I would advise measuring everything you do (doesn't have to be a jigger but something consistent eg an egg cup) and to keep a record and notes when making a drink so they can learn from each experience.
Batching is a good idea, prepping all your drinks in advance will help make the drinks consistent and save time when you have friends over.
Don't be afraid to experiment with flavours, you don't have to commit to adding alcohol to begin with, see how different products work together. It can be great fun to go out and buy unusual and unfamiliar ingredients and see how they work together.
It's also really helpful to have someone else with you tasting your drinks and giving their opinion as everyone has a different way of looking at things and everyone has a different palette.
How do you approach creating a new drink?
For me, the first step is to understand who the drinks are for, and where and when they would be drinking them. I would be asking who is likely to be ordering it, their culture and background. Different communities have very different affinities with different flavours.
Once I have that understanding of the guest profile I would try to find a balance of something relatable but introduces something extra that is memorable or unique that would hopefully start a conversation or get them sharing that experience to a friend or colleague.
If I am developing a whole menu I need to make sure the offering is balanced, that it provides enough variety for different people taking into account the time of day the place is open.
As we've been working together on Cocktails in the City Signature Collection Box how do you feel this has gone?
I feel this box is a good example of the principles I believe in that create a good drinking experience, interesting ingredients that work together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts.
I like the fact the drinks follow up on from one another, I think they are easy to enjoy but complex enough to get people talking to their friends about it.
An international drinks consultant sounds incredibly glamorous and we are a little jealous, make us feel better! What is the hardest part of that role?
When I first started full-time consultancy I was travelling a lot this sounds great and of course I would be posting beautiful images of our drinks in luxury five-star hotels, but the reality is that whilst I might be staying in amazing surroundings I could be spending my days in the bowels of the hotel prepping ingredients and training staff. Living out of a suitcase is a big strain on the body and mind and you are away from your family and friends a lot.
The hardest part of the job in terms of delivery for clients is that every country and client has different working practises and expectations but there are huge differences in availability of ingredients and supply chains which is important when designing your drinks.
You might presume that lime is a lime but the cost of ingredients can vary wildly in different countries or not be available at all. I was helping to open a luxury hotel in Moscow and suddenly there was a trade embargo and suddenly it was very difficult to access citrus fruit or fresh produce.
And as a drinks writer what have been the most interesting articles or areas that you work on?
I really enjoy writing and recently I have been writing about disco drinks for IMBIBE. It is has been an interesting subject to write about it because the answer to the question of what are disco drinks depends on who you speak to.
Speaking to bartenders who were actually working at Studio 54 in New York and their experiences were quite an eye-opener. For example Studio 54 didn't actually have a drinks menu and the original disco club Paradise Garage which was actually a dry bar; it was all about the music and a welcoming atmosphere for people regardless of race and sexual preference.
You are known in the bar community for questioning commonly held beliefs such as in your KILL YOUR HEROES PRESENTATION. What are some of the most interesting myths you have debunked?
For a lot of people, there is an assumption that drinks from the past are sacrosanct however when you actually pick apart a lot of these drinks they simply aren't as good as some of our modern interpretations.
Today we have access to so many global ingredients, techniques, equipment and information. There has never been a better time for cocktails.
If you want to enjoy the fruits of our work together we now have our first Cocktails in the City Signature Collection Box available.
Featuring a Pink Peppercorn and Yuzu Cosmo, Peach + Jasmine Gimlet and a Cacao + Cherry Bencini we hope you like it!