This month Mayfair’s The Connaught Bar topped the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars, having been a regular fixture in its upper echelons for years. Its creative mastermind is its director of mixology Agostino Perrone. We asked him what it takes to get to the top, and how he plans to stay there.
Tell us about the journey that led you to The Connaugnt
I moved to London in 2003 in search of a new chapter. By then, I had experience working in several bars near Lake Como, when I grew up. I was keen to gain some international experience and discover what innovative bars in London were doing. I worked in some independent bars where I had the opportunity to sharpen my own style while collaborating with some great personalities. The opportunity to work at The Connaught came in 2008 when it was launching the Connaught Bar and wanted to make it a cocktail destination with an innovative mixology offering combined with the classic luxury of a 5-star Mayfair hotel. Today, we’re accustomed to great cocktail bars within hotels, but at the time it was extra-ordinary.
What were your plans when you arrived on day one?
When I joined we had an entire hotel bar to develop, from the concept to what we could build within the beautiful space designed by David Collins Studio.
Our plans were entirely drawn from the classic pillars of the hotel: tradition and iconicity paired with elegant and sophisticated service and style. We re-thought these foundations through the lenses of modern, creative mixology by experimenting and working hard.
For example, we identified the best-selling classic serves for a hotel, like the Martini and the Bloody Mary, and we asked ourselves how we could elevate these to true fine drinking experiences that could be tailored to the guest. This is how we conceived our signature Bloody Mary celery foam and the bespoke aromatic bitters for the Connaught Martini. Every day was a test and a learning day.
I guess the secret lies in the fact we have never stopped challenging ourselves, continuing to innovate every single year, looking forward to the future while still respecting our history and its traditions.
How have you coped with Covid?
We all embraced the motto of ‘we are in this together’ and I believe this is more than just a tagline. This unprecedented situation has put us all in a vulnerable position and we have learned that together we can support each other and find ways to overcome obstacles and difficulties.
We are one community: of colleagues, of hospitality professionals, of people. We are very lucky to have a very close-knit network of bartenders. We have also seen how creativity and adaptability have been important factors to first survive and then evolve.
How do you plan to stay on top?
To get where we are has been a long and difficult journey, but we enjoyed it because we love what we do and because we made it together, as a team. We consider our bar a temple of hospitality, where our guests come to feel good and create beautiful memories through our drinks, our stories, and our smiles. We infuse every experience with the classic innovation we pour into our mixology style.
The past 12 years of the Connaught story have been a story of evolution – while we always maintain our essence and the highest standards of service, but we also keep on researching to innovate our offering and keep surprising guests, giving them a reason to come back and discover something new. Now more than ever we have to renew this commitment and while we’ve reached the top of the mountain, we have to find a new, higher peak.