There must be a lot of expectation on your shoulders when you run one of the World’s 50 Best Bars. But Rhys Wil- son, general manager at Happiness Forgets in Hoxton Square, puts his high profile gig at the tenth best bar in the world to good use, namely pro- moting young bartending talent through his cocktail competition Happiness Unforgettables, and utilising under-appreciated spirits.
This was the rationale behind Forest Hill, at least, a concoction that has been a surprising hit on the menu since December. It mixes mezcal – a spirit distilled from a variety of agave plants in southern Mexico – with Freya, a natural spirit distilled from the sap of birch trees. Blended with the appley flavours of 30/40 Aperitif de Normandie and lime juice, it’s then topped up with soda and a sprig of rosemary.
“The name originally came from a small rural town in west New South Wales,” says native Aussie Wilson. “The idea of terroir and countryside is represented strongly through all the ingredients of the drink so I felt it was a fitting name. It was only later that I was in- formed that Forest Hill was also a town in south London.”
Wilson started his career in London at Shoreditch’s Callooh Callay six years ago, where his bartender at the time recommended Happiness Forgets. There, he struck up a friendship with the proprietor Ali Burgess, who asked him to join the team four and a half years later. “The feel of these walls is infectious for guests and staff, it’s hard not to be pulled in. It’s my perfect bar to run.”
Although mezcal has a large following in the US, it’s now gaining momentum in the UK. For this drink, Wil- son uses Montelobos for its distinctive tropical note, and Freya for its light, floral, grassy taste to complement the earthiness of the cocktail.
And don’t be cautious with your new spirit friends; the worst thing you can do at home is overdo the soda. “It’s there to slightly lengthen and smooth out the cock- tail, but you don’t want to over dilute the delicate, fresh flavours.”
- 25ml Freya
- 25ml Mezcal
- 25ml 30/40 Aperitif de Normandie £ 5ml Maraschino
- 20ml Lime Juice
- 20ml Sugar syrup
- Top with Soda
Method: Shake all ingredients minus the soda, and strain into a highball glass with ice. Add soda, and garnish with a lime wedge, and rosemary.
Pictured: Rhys Wilson, general manager at Happiness Forgets, mixing Forest Hill