Jérôme, is head bartender at Sexy Fish in Mayfair, London. He makes two cocktails for us, one with Japanese whisky and benedictine, and the second is with rum and yuzu.
Jérôme introduce yourself
I’m Jérôme Allaguillemette, head bartender at Sexy Fish in Mayfair, London. I am french, but I moved to England 5 years ago for music which is my passion. When I arrived I began to work in a coffeeshop as barista which became a cocktail bar, so I have to learn this new job which I found in love with. Cocktail is creative like cooking that I like too. But also bartending is like a show and remind me when I was a musician on stage (I continue to play music for pleasure): there is the taste but what you watch is important too. I’ve worked in different places like whisky bars and whisky becomes a passion, especially Japanese whisky. So I joined Lad and Tim at Red Bar Bamboo where we worked a lot on Japanese whisky and where the Japanese whisky collection were around 100 bottles. But unfortunately this bar closed last July and the company offered me to open Sexy Fish as head bartender. I am in charge as well of the Japanese whisky collection that we have developed, and now we have 175 different references, so the 3rd biggest collection in the world (2nd Auld Alliance in Singapour with around 215 references and 1st one is Zoetrope in Tokyo with more than 300 bottles). I love this part of my job, looking for new whiskys, seeking on internet, participate to auctions and try to get new references. Here, cocktails are important too, we serve around 600 cocktails a day which is quite a lot for a pan asian seafood restaurant cocktail bar. So it was a kind of a challenge to find the right balance between sharp cocktails, restaurant ambiance and the quantity to deliver. When we’ve worked on the cocktail menu, we’ve been inspired by Marco Polo journey around Asia, with a focus on 4 different countries. The first one is Japan, aka Land of Gold, China, India and Siam Kingdom. So we work with asian local products like yuzu, matcha tea, lemon grass, spices like masala syrup… We get 16 signature drinks and classic of course like Bellini, Martini… As I told you what you watch is important and here we are very lucky for that, the bar is spectacular. The mermaids at each corner of the bar has been made by Damien Hirst, the fishes above us and the crocodile have been design by Frank Gehry, the ceiling is the work of Michael Roberts from Vanity Fair, with the all interior design conceived by Martin Brudnizki. So no choices we need to get the same spirit for the cocktails.
The classic you want to show us
25ml of Yamazaki distilled reserve
25ml of Antica formula
5ml of Benedictine
The bar or party you dream of
My ideal bar wouldn’t be to big, like 50 persons where you can drink cocktails, wines, beers and eat in a space open on the sea. So not only a bar or a restaurant, but more a place to live with its own atmosphere. So open during the day and people come when it’s sunny and stay when it’s evening, butnot in a dark night bar. I go to Greece frequently and I love the family taverna with a great atmosphere where you go for lunch and you are still there at midnight. You are bEddie the sea, you eat, go to swim, come back for a drink, that this kind of warm atmosphere that I am looking for. A lively place where people spend time, they don’t come only for a drink or a dish. So the cocktail menu can evolve with the day, more fresh and long for the day and stronger and shorter for the evening. A full day is long, so you need to cover all the moments and moods of people. So music and designed will be related to the country. It’s like Cafe Moderne in Paris, with different ambiances, I love this mindset more a cafe than a bar where everyone is welcome.
When I go out I tend to go to classic minimalist speakeasy in London like Happiness Forgets, the opposite to where I work, but I know I can’t go there with all my friends. So we go to the pub, I love this ambiance, big fan of the concept. It’s place to live with friends, where you meet other people as well. In France you invite friends to your hone, here you get out more, home is just a place to sleep.
The spirit you like the most
My favourite overall is Japanese whisky to drink. After that I like to work with gin because it’s very delicate, so you need to be careful otherwise you ruin the gin. I like light drinks, not too strong and gin is good for that. At the beginning I hated gin, because when I was a teenager I drunk a full bottle of Gordon and I got sick, bad memories. When I arrived in London, a bartender friend whose I told I didn’t like gin answered me that he’s gonna a make a gin cocktail to make me like gin. Now I even like gin tonic.
What makes a good cocktail and which product do you want to highlight at this moment
For me the definition of a good cocktail is about balance and story. It’s a pattern with a start, an ongoing with several layers, then a finish, I like this complexity. It’s the story that the cocktail will tell you while you sip it. I love when the cocktail evolves in the time.
I like to work with sherry, because it allows an amazing finish to the drinks, fruity or dry depending of the sherry. I think Maraschino can be used the same way, in particular with gin.
The signature cocktail you want to show us
45ml of Havana club 3 years rum
15ml of yuzu
15 ml of lemon grass and ginger cordial infuse with kefir
Foam of absinthe and matcha tea
Where do you think we need to go to interview another bartender?
Go and meet Chris Denis, a great bartender, former Zetter Town House, at Sovereign Loss in Brixton. THe cocktails list changes every week. Otherwise Mido at Cafe Moderne in Paris and Chris at Bar stories in Singapour. No menu there, only discussions with the bartender. WHen I was there with 5 friends, we challenged him and he made it. One of my biggest discovery recently.