Now the general manager at Coin Laundry on the far corner of the foodie mecca Exmouth Market in London, Robin serves up Craft Beer and good drinks at this neighborhood joint with a comfy vibe.
I don’t think I ever stood a chance. My parent’s Liquor cabinet was always stocked with weird and wonderful bottles they were picking up on their travels. A lot of French eau de vies and Liqueurs came over with my aunt and uncle. My dad would always take us to the pub as kids and I started working in my local since I was old enough to pour a pint.
When did that Eureka moment happen when you realized your mission is to be a bartender?
What are the TOP 5 skills every bartender should have?Every bartender should be able to keep their head up and their eyes forward, no matter how busy they are. Reading the room and greeting people as they come and go has to be number 1. Keeping your cool also comes under this header. Coin Laundry is a big venue and gets incredibly busy so it’s important you keep calm under pressure and stick to your task.
Which cocktail is the biggest pain in the ass to make, pardon our French?Hot cocktails. To this day after 12 years of experience, I don’t think I’ve seen a fast, efficient way of serving hot drinks at volume. It always calls for a visit to multiple parts of the bar. Also anything with cream, it gets everywhere and is a pain to wash off jiggers and tins at speed.
And which cocktail is served in your version of heaven?Gimlets shaken with fresh lime and sugar rather than cordial, fresh like a Gin daiquiri. Preferably something navy strength.
Which drink or cocktail would you say is way underrated? (And a tricky followup: Which one is the most overrated?)In the UK, it has to be the Manhattan. It just does not have the rep it does in America and is ordered so rarely for such a fantastic drink. The bi-product of that is the over-ordering of the Old Fashioned which is definitely the kind of city drink du jour. Not that it’s a bad drink, just that a lot of people see it as a symbol rather than the sum of its parts.
You come home, slide into something comfortable, and throw yourself on the couch. What's in your glass?A nice cold Beer. There is not a single thing more refreshing in the world than a cold Beer after a long shift. Preferably something light and hoppy. The UK definitely makes the best light & pale sub-4% ales in the world. Anything from Buxton, Deya or Left-Ganded Giant.
What are the five essential ingredients every booze lover should have in their home bar?Sweet Vermouth and Campari have to be top of the list. They are so versatile and can be used with a number of base Spirits or just on their own with mixers. Having a good Gin and a good aged Spirit for sipping.
And it’s always class to keep a bottle of Sherry on hand, ideally something dry like a fino. It’s great on its own, it’s great to cook with and it mixes incredibly well.
Which booze is the most versatile?Probably something Italian, there’s not a drink out there that doesn’t work with a lick of bitter or amaro.
Is there a favorite life hack you learned at your job?I don’t know if it’s a life hack but the one thing this job has taught me is how to deal with people in any situation and remain calm. This skill will serve you your whole life and is invaluable for young bartenders to learn early on. Keeping a low resting heart rate is a bonus.
What's the craziest anecdote you're willing to share with us?Too many party stories but I’ll keep it clean. I had a girl sitting in front of me at the bar I was serving at a few years ago. I loved to flick the small tin in my hand when I finished shaking and this time, I flicked it and it took flight. Naturally, it hit the drink in front of her, smashed the glass and the drink all over her, and then the tin hit her in the face to boot.
What are your passions outside the world of Spirits?Building bikes and riding bikes, any kind: road, mountain, fixie, as long as I’m riding. I’m a big foodie as well. A perfect day off always includes cooking some slap-up dinner or doing some kind of supper club or dinner party. And it’s cliché to be English and love football but playing or watching it is up there.
What would you be doing if you weren't a bartender?I’m really into my food and would really love to retrain as a chef, but if I was to move out of the industry, I think I’d be a radio show host. I absolutely love playing records and shooting the breeze, match made in heaven.
Tell us what's your favorite tool of the trade and why.There is nothing more pleasurable than a good spoon and mixing glass combo. So, satisfying. More stirred drinks, please.
Fast-forward five years. Where do you see yourself?I’m engaged to be married in November (pandemic permitting) and I just became an uncle in August, so I’m starting to reach a place in my life where I have an answer to these kinds of questions. But the real ambition is owning a place, something low key.
I want to keep it really simple and just sell things I really love. Craft Beer, Spirits, natural Wine, specialty coffee. Ideally, I’d be working there as a chef but we’ll see.
A Genie tells you to pick someone to fix a drink for; dead or alive, real or fictional. Who would it be?It’s hard to pick someone from the music or hospitality world that I’d love to meet but that doesn’t have a problem with alcohol. I’m also very privileged to be living in a city where it’s possible to meet and be served by a lot of my hospitality heroes.
I think the one person I’d really like to serve a soda to is AA Gill, the food critic, and travel writer. A controversial figure in some people’s eyes but an absolute fire writer and an inspiration to read and read about.