Portrait by Antony Crolla
If you are looking for somewhere fabulous to woo a loved one this evening, a brownie points-scoring suggestion would be 69 Colebrooke Row, where magical drinks designed by Tony Conigliaro are served. And the very passionate Mr Conigliaro goes a stage further than most mixologists, in that above his bar, he has a science lab where he concocts the ingredients for his cocktails. On a recent outing, the Livingetc team were treated to some exciting flavour combos based around the classic Beefeater 24 gin, including the Flintlock with gunpowder tea syrup, Fernet Branca and dandelion and burdock bitters, which simply blew us away. The Lipstick Rose might be a softer option (raspberry and violet syrup with rose vodka, topped with Champagne). And one for yourself, Tony…
You’re the only barman in the world to have his own lab. What inspired you to take scientific equipment and use it to create ingredients for drinks? I have seen chefs using new processes and equipment, and I thought that I could use equipment similar to or most specific to the drinks industry and cocktails, hence I started buying equipment over the years which have culminated in the lab.
How do you begin to create a new recipe? A number of ways, if I come across a new flavour combination, or it can start as a concept, or it’s by working on an old drink.
What do you consider your greatest creation? I don’t see any one great creation, I am proud of serveral things I have done.
And any that didn’t go down so well? It never gets to the stage where a customer gets anything that has not been thoroughly worked out and tested.
Is there an illusive ingredient that you’d love to create? There are illusive ingredients from the past that I would love to get hold of but are not made anymore. I collect vintage bottles where ever possible.
What’s your favourite taste? It depends what i’m working on, it varies a lot. I think about a series of flavours.
What’s your favourite drink to mix? One that will make a customer happy.
What’s your most memorable drink? The first time Peter Dorelli made me a White Lady.
Whether you’re creating ingredients for drinks or fragrances, what unites your approach? I am constantlly checking and tasting, smelling and getting opinions.
Where do you see the future going in cocktails? There are some great new Japanese products like Kigo coming onto the market. It means we are looking at many more ingredients from elsewhere, which will give us a new perspective and refresh our trade.
What do you drink when you’re on the other side of the bar? A nice pint of Guinness.