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The Hand and Flowers bar manager: ‘I love Tequila and rum, but Sambuca can do one’

Anthony Peart, bar manager at Tom Kerridge’s two-Michelin-starred pub The Hand & Flowers, talks to db about hospitality’s “new normal”, his hatred of Sambuca, and his latest venture into the world of rum-making.

Tom Kerridge bar manager Anthony Peart

“I love Tequila and I love rum, but Sambuca can do one,” says Peart, who heads up the bar team at Tom Kerridge and wife Beth’s original gastropub in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Peart first began working for Tom Kerridge in 2006, a year after The Hand and Flowers opened its doors, and after leaving to pursue another opportunity in 2009, has been working behind the gastropub’s bar since his return in 2013.

The bartender recently took on a new role, launching his own rum brand, Fr’um, on 30 August for National Mai Tai day.

“Now I’m able to wear two hats,” he says, balancing his work behind the bar with his new spirit.

Fr’um combines flavours of scotch bonnet and pineapple, inspired by Peart’s childhood summers spent in Jamaica. “I think this is my first food memory,” he says. “I was around the age of five, and my grandad in Jamaica is a farmer. One of his pigs was up for slaughter, and I remember the smell of the barbecue, the pork on the barbecue, and sliced scotch bonnets.”

“Fruity scotch bonnet, roasted pineapple, it just goes, so why isn’t this in everything?”

Romantic memories of heady nights in Jamaica are balanced with another inspiration — teenage nights out with his mates. “Rum was the first proper spirit that I tried,” he says, explaining that his love of rum is “all down to Bacardi”.

“I used to go on nights out, clubbing with my mates, and I’d be on the Bacardi and cokes,” Peart says. His love of rum may have survived one or two rough nights, but a taste for Sambuca has not endured. “I’m not good with anise, and it’s because of Sambucca that there’s no star anise in my rum.”

Peart teamed up with The Henley Distillery to launch Fr’um, but had come up with the flavour profile two years prior. “I thought maybe I could use it in a cocktail or something. You know how it is — you always put stuff on the back burner.” He knew it would come to light someday, however. “Once I see something in my sights I’ll pursue it, but I’ll wait for that right moment,” he says.

Tom Kerridge

Tom and Beth Kerridge were a major inspiration to Peart, who admires the couple’s drive.

“I’ve always wanted to be a little bit more entrepreneurial,” he says. When Covid-19 hit, Tom Kerridge went into “fifth gear”, he says. “He just became busier.”

Following in his boss’s footsteps, the new venture into rum-making has made him realise that more is more. “For anyone in any walk of life, there’s always time. You might say you have no time, and then you have a child and all of a sudden you’ve got time for this child. So rum is my baby. Rum is my second child.”

Peart is by no means taking a step away from the bar, and plans to juggle the promotion of Fr’um with his work at The Hand and Flowers. Staffing has been a “massive issue” for the gastropub, and it is not alone.

A lack of workers is costing pubs around 8% of their revenue, research has shown. A recent survey undertaken by the British Beer and Pub Association, UK Hospitality, the British Institute of Innkeeping, and Hospitality Ulster uncovered that 61% of hospitality businesses are experiencing staff shortages, and 42% have reduced their weekend opening hours as a result.

Hospitality bosses are even calling in the over 50s to bulk up the on-trade workforce.

Other pressures, including the fall out from Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis are also putting strain on food and beverage businesses. The number of venues in Britain licensed to sell alcohol has fallen to below 100,000 this year, a drop of almost a third compared to two decades ago.

The findings, from CGA by NIQ and published by UKHospitality, reveal that as of the end of this September, there were 99,916 licensed premises operating – a substantial drop from the 2003 figure of 144,055. Pubs, bars and nightclubs have been the worst affected, seeing a net decline of 43.6% over the two decade period.

Peart still has hope for the future of hospitality. “People still want to come out and eat and drink. I think that will never die,” he says.

The Hand and Flowers has bypassed some of the staffing challenges by “cross-training people”.

Peart explains: “If you work at The Hand and Flowers, you don’t just work in the restaurant, you’re also behind the bar, you’re collecting people’s coats, giving people a warm welcome; you can do everything, bar going into the kitchen to cook an omelette.”

These challenges are unlikely to go away overnight, and Peart believes that all we can do is adapt. “When something’s gone on for two or three years, I don’t like the term ‘the new normal’, but it’s time to adapt and leave the past in the past,” he says.

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