Simon Toohey : Callooh Callay (London)

Simon Toohey is bar manager at Callooh Callay in London. He makes two cocktails for us, the first one with gin and fino sherry, the second one with rum and bread milk.

Simon introduce yourself
Hi, I’m Simon Toohey  bar manager of Callooh Callay in London. I wanted to do psychology, but my marks made me make other choices. It was then a natural progression… I worked in a kitchen then the floor, then moved to a pub, until finally moving into cocktail bars. Most of the time when your work in hospitality you are hooked, you develop great friendships, it’s always lively and the ability to act without being on a stage. Even if you always encounter one or two customers that give you a headache, most of the time it’s amazing and you aim to please.  At the end it’s more a progression for me.  My next ambition is to bring cocktails to the same level as food, it’s fair to say that we are at least 5-10 years behind this industry. Food creates so many amazing flavour combinations, you have a lot of ingredients to play with. Bartenders often forget how many amazing ingredients we have to play with… so the next stage for me is definitely to overtake the food industry.

The classic you want to show us
London Calling
40ml of gin
20ml of Fino sherry
25ml of lemon juice
20ml of sugar
2dashes of orange bitters

The bar or party you dream of
The bar of my dreams would be a very dark tiny place (25 to 30 seats around the bar area) with a low ceilling and hanging lights to feel warm and cosy. I imagine a long bar which everyone can sit around. The bar should be like a stage and when you enter, you ask yourself, where am I? It makes you feel you could be anywhere, London, Paris, Madrid, NYC, anywhere. It should take you to another world with different music playing all the time.
I go to bars that I know where I have friends. But just after service I love going to the closest dirty pub, having a Guinness and playing darts, in my opinion it’s the best thing to do.

The spirit you like the most
I love american whisky, I love the sweet aspect of scotch, but I prefer the corniness of a bourbon for my palatte. But to work I prefer gin, it’s very floral, versatile, bright and refreshing.

What makes a good cocktail and which product do you want to highlight at this moment
A good cocktail is about the right balance. If you create a stirred drink without citrus, if it’s the right balance it’s still great. Mixing is about balance, you can have amazing ingredients but that’s not enough. If it’s too heavy on the alcohol, or not enough dilution it won’t work. So first balance and after that it’s the theater of creating a drink.
I love to work with sherry. It’s very of the moment but the range of fortified wines is incredible, from a light fino to a rich dark pedro jimenez.

The signature cocktail you want to show us
Bread Winner
40ml of dark rum
25ml of bread milk
20ml of cinamon syrup
5ml of lime juice
2 dashes of walnut bitters

Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender?
Off the top of my head, Freddie Sarkis in Chicago, he is the brand ambassador for Beefeater and he own 3 bars and has just opened one in a hotel called the Broken shaker.