Eat Travel Live was lucky enough to get a behind the scenes glimpse at Tristan Stephenson’s experimental lab at The Worship Street Whistling Stop to find out the scientific secrets that get poured into his extraordinary cocktails.
The Worship Street Whistling Stop is one of London’s premier cocktail bars and a beautiful reimagining of a Victorian gin palace. It’s all dark panelling, lamp-lit corners and battered Chesterfields. This is all part of the cocktail experience that the bar’s co-owner and chief mixologist, Tristan Stephenson, aims to create.
We catch up with Tristan in the corner of the bar with a Tanqueray and tonic served Spanish style in a coupe over tons of ice. Tristan, who started his career in the kitchen before finding more ways to experiment behind the bar, has worked at Fifteen with Jamie Oliver and was previously the owner of Purl in Marylebone. Now Tristan’s creativity is channelled into his lab-based mixology in the Shoreditch based gin den and as the face of Tanqueray’s latest advertising campaign.
“Victorian Gin palaces are England’s answer to the speakeasy,” he explains. “The dark secluded bar is escapism. That’s why a lot of people went to cocktail bars in the first place. Back in the 1950s the Tiki bar made people feel like they were escaping but right on their own street. And it’s the same thing here and it’s bringing a lot of classic cocktails back to the forefront.”
We catch a glance at the beakers, burners and curious bastardised food mixers in Tristan’s lab where he comes up with his curious creations. “We’ve got sous vide set ups for creating infusions that we use to infuse ingredients into syrups simply because delicate ingredients like flowers can be infused at a controlled temperature without damaging through heat or overcooking. We use rotary evaporators to distil ingredients and again that’s infusion but the end result is crystal clear.”
All of this George’s Marvellous Medicine antics isn’t just for the fun of messing about with a lab coat on. Tristan says: “It allows us to incorporate flavours into the cocktails that we wouldn’t normally be able to do. Yes you can buy off the shelf syrups that are flavoured like cucumber for instance. But they’ll either be nature identical ingredients or completely synthesised ingredients so you’re not getting any natural flavour there.”
We certainly agree with the science when faced with an innovative menu that includes using a sous vide to infuse lavender and honey into cider vinegar for a sour style whiskey cocktail or a martini where cream is distilled into gin giving it the texture and flavour of cream yet totally clear. These are cocktails to marvel at indeed.
For those of us who long to impress our friends with the perfectly created cocktail, what’s the best cocktail for the home? “Negroni only needs three ingredients and they’re all in equal parts, Campari, gin and sweet vermouth. A martini is dry vermouth and gin. Don’t make too much of a challenge as it’s easy to make your kitchen look like a bomb’s hit it.” Lucky for us Tristan’s new book The Curious Bartender has all the know how to help us navigate the cocktail jungle.