Julian de Feral has spent the past 13 years working in top London bars including Milk & Honey, Lutyens and Hawksmoor and has recently joined Gorgeous Group as Drinks Specialist. Having made it through to the World Class UK Finals three times before, he’s hoping this time round to bring the global title back to Blighty.
What does the World Class competition mean to you?
This being the sixth time I’ve competed in World Class, it seems like a routine ritual. However, despite the familiarity it has changed a fair bit over the past few years, as have I, so it is a little like seeing an old friend again – checking out what is new.
What is your earliest cocktail memory?
From a customer point of view, ordering a Tiramisu at LAB. From a service perspective, completely blagging cocktail knowledge at the White House Hotel near Great Portland Street, London, convincing Americans that their Sidecar was served blue and long because “thats how we make ‘em over here.”
Did you choose the profession or did it choose you?
Chance and circumstance: it chose me. But I made the conscious decision to stop whatever else I was doing, kick it up a few notches and try to turn it into a profession.
How do you think bartending is regarded as a career?
It’s getting there.
If drink hadn’t entered the equation, what would you like to think you’d be doing now?
Cooking. Writing. Drawing. Who knows?
What’s the best thing about your job?
Is it cheating if I quote myself from last year?
“Too much! I get emotional when I think about how lucky I am to be working in such a wonderful industry doing what I love so much. To name a few: daily human interaction, the bartender community, the creativity, the passion, the fun and being involved in what is quickly becoming recognised as another ‘golden age’ for bartending.”
And the hardest?
With the speed at which everything is progressing, simply keeping up. Staying fresh and current without getting too carried away with it all.
Who’s the most memorable person you’ve ever created a cocktail for? Who was it, what was it and why does it stand out for you?
Oh, there was this wonderful couple who came into a members bar where I was working a few years ago. I created – what we were referring to as – a Concentrated Drinking Experience for them, making bespoke mini cocktails starting with aperitifs and ending with digestives from a drinks trolley. They were very charming, engaging, open minded and seemed delighted with the whole thing. Furthermore they had great taste. If only I could remember their names… I think hers began with an ‘S’, perhaps his with a ‘G’…
Brownie points! [or so you think Mr de Feral!]
Who’s your favourite cocktail drinker and why? (living, dead or fictional)
Whoever is joining me for one. Pretty soon they’ll be not only my favourite cocktail drinker but also my besht friend.
What’s the most valuable piece of advice you picked up at the World Class Forum?
I liked some of the points Jim Meehan made about simple cocktails, the value of personality and charm, and being aware of everybody in the room. Especially since at that very moment somebody fainted, and Mr. Meehan noticed. It emphasised his point very well.
What’s your favourite cocktail:
a) to mix?
At Hawksmoor Spitalfields they invested in a snazzy red Vitamix machine which made blending drinks an absolute joy, so I had lots of fun rediscovering that style: Banana Nuclear Daiquiris, Tiger In Autumns, Pina Coladas, hard milkshakes… what fun!
b) to drink?
Madam Snook’s Bitchin’ Brew
c) on your menu?
List three ingredients you’d put in a cocktail to sum up the facets of your personality.
1. The last release of Port Ellen whisky because I’ve mellowed out and matured over the years (and I’m 31).
2. Tanqueray Export because I’m complex, punchy, direct yet simply constructed.
3. A spoon of Froot Loops, because I don’t take myself too seriously.
You’ve created a World Class cocktail to secure your place in the finals, can you give us a simple failsafe recipe for cocktail lovers to create at home?
Just make an Adonis before dinner: one part fino sherry, one part sweet vermouth and a couple of dashes of bitters. Stir and serve with a twist. This is a fantastic, underrated classic that is brilliant for twisting – experiment with proportions, vermouths, bitters and twists, chances are it’ll still taste delicious.
The recipe that got him through:
45 ml Talisker whisky
15ml sweet vermouth
5ml Cherry Marnier
5ml maraschino liqueur
2.5ml Amer Picon
Stir all ingredients over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.