Bar residency trend gathers pace

Mixologists are like sharks – they need to keep moving forward or they’ll die, creatively speaking at least. To keep themselves entertained, the cream of the crop have been busy creating pop-up versions of their popular bars in achingly cool cities around the globe.

Ago Perrone and Colin Field at the Bar Hemingway pop-up at The Connaught

This trend for temporary residencies is also mushrooming in the restaurant world. As we explored in last month’s issue, maverick chefs such as Noma’s René Redzepi, Heston Blumenthal of The Fat Duck and Alinea’s Grant Achatz have all recently uprooted their wildly successful Michelin-starred sites and distilled their essence into temporary pop-ups in progressive food cities such as Sydney, Tokyo, Melbourne and Madrid, giving them the chance to get under the skin of a new culture and its cuisine.

Bartenders are taking a similar approach with their pop-ups, embarking on them for the personal challenge and the opportunity to boost their international profile. One of the first mixologists to pioneer the concept was Colin Field, the dapper longtime head bartender of Bar Hemingway at The Ritz Paris.

Rather than by design, his temporary residencies everywhere from New York and Hawaii to Tuscany came about by circumstance when the famous hotel was closed for refurbishment for four years but the owners were so keen to keep him on that they paid his salary for the entire duration of his extended sabbatical.

In April 2014, he sent Londoners into a spin when he brought his Bar Hemingway to The Connaught for a week-long pop-up with the hotel’s head shaker Ago Perrone, which was playfully pitted in the press as something of a battle of the bartenders.

Though written in jest, Field reveals that you have to tread carefully when you rock up for a bartender residency, as mixologists are a proud bunch.

“I was worried about how the bartenders would feel when I walked in, as it can be territorially offensive to have someone else behind your bar. It’s a delicate psychological operation.”  Fortunately, Field said that Ago was the perfect professional throughout his London stay.

“The Connaught is his stage, and he was very generous to let me share it with him. It wasn’t a competition – we were both there for a good time and had nothing to prove,” he insists.

Among the most popular cocktails on pour during his tenure was Field’s signature sip, Serendipity, an effervescent marriage of Champagne, Calvados, apple juice, sugar and mint. He believes bartenders are better equipped than chefs to take their shows on the road. “Chefs aren’t necessarily great showmen, whereas bartenders are performing on stage every night,” he says.

“It’s been great to have the opportunity to take Bar Hemingway all over the world and give guests a taste of what we do at The Ritz Paris. Bar residencies have a bright future, but you can’t do it on your own – you need your team to back you up.”

New York speakeasy PDT (short for Please Don’t Tell) was one of the first bars to trailblaze the Inception-like ‘bar within a bar’ concept with pop-up PDTs at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, Black Pearl in Melbourne, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong and, most recently, at the Mandarin Oriental in Barcelona, where it enjoyed a month-long residency last September in collaboration with Diageo World Class.

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