Coming in hot at number 32 in the recent Drinks International Bar World 100 list of influential people in the drinks industry, Anna Sebastian is everyone’s favourite Bar Manager. Under her stewardship, the Artesian bar at the Langham hotel is back on form, drawing in the crowds and getting praise for its five-star cocktails and superb service. Here the divine Ms S shares the drinks and discs that have shaped her life to-date.
The early years
We know you as an amazing host and fantastic bar manager, what were you like growing up?
I grew up in London which I will always love and appreciate – you get to grow up fast and things like buses, trains, black cabs, busy streets are just normal.
I had a love/hate relationship with school as found it quite hard to settle but looking back now it gave me some good foundations and friendships that I still have.
Is there a particular song that takes you back to this early period in your life?
Probably Wannabe by the Spice Girls or Slide by the Goo Goo Dolls. Especially when a boy didn’t reply to you on MSN….
And what would have been your favourite drink?
It would have to be a soft drink at this stage in my life, of course! It would probably something classic like Ribena or Capri Sun. However, the first thing I ever got drunk on was Malibu and whisky liberated from my parent’s cupboards and mixed together for me by my brother. Luckily, he didn’t get into drinks making as it wasn’t very nice…
First bar job
When did you start bartending and what are your memories of this time?
It was a dive student bar in Islington aged 18 – back then, it was all about the Snakebites and Sambuca shots. I was living in East London and having the best time of my life. Shortly after that I started working in nightclubs and fell in love with the buzz of nightlife – I loved that you were part of creating some of the best nights and memories for people. I moved from East London to central, just off Marylebone High Street so I could be close to everything.
Give us a taster of the type of music that you associate with this period in your life.
Generally, I have lame music taste but I was really into going to Ibiza so Carl Cox was a big influence for me during that time – particularly Space Calling. I loved that you could literally listen to him for hours.
Was your taste in drinks any better? What were you drinking at this time?
I didn’t discover cocktails until much later so back then I was drinking vodka and cranberry juice. Another of my favourite combinations was vodka, Redbull and Champagne. I guess Champagne has always been a big part of my life!
Take us back to a key moment in your career?
Joining The Savoy was pivotal for me – it changed everything. I went from not taking what I was doing seriously to actually realising it was an amazing industry and so much more than just making drinks or letting people into nightclubs. Daniel Baernreuther, the American Bar Manager at the time, changed my perception of everything – actually he still does, almost 10 years later!
And what would you say was a breakthrough moment in your career?
Joining the Artesian. After seven years at The Savoy and going from a host to a manager it was hard to create my own identity. Leaving gave me the clarity and confidence to define what I wanted to do with my career and create at the Artesian. The last three years have been amazing, challenging and very rewarding especially with the team we have.
Is there a song that best captures this time in your life?
Fleetwood Mac – Monday Morning.
How about the drink that takes you right back to these heady days?
Michter’s Bourbon and Bud Light – it reminds me of happy moments, friends and a great whiskey.
Where you are in your career now and how would you describe your attitude to life?
Well life currently is very different to how it was five months ago. I feel a lot of things have changed for me generally with the industry but also my personal life.
I spent the lockdown actually not really having a lockdown but helping Under One Sky – a non-profit organisation that helps the homeless. I found that SO many people were from the hospitality industry that simply had nowhere to go and not enough money as a result of Covid-19. It shows that the industry really needs to be taken seriously by the government in order to continue to survive.
Furlough whilst a great scheme – is nothing when service charge is not included so this needs to be looked at and changed. How can someone survive on £600 a month? The simple answer is that they can’t. I will be continuing to support this movement and hopefully we can change things for the better.
Now tell us a drink that captures how you feel now?
In lockdown it was Jameson and oh, Champagne. I actually came up with a new cocktail featuring Champagne recently, called the Midsummer Gimlet, it featured Oxley Gin and a blackberry and ginger cordial. The drink was created as part of myself and the team’s involvement in the Oxley Gin Team Labs Series.
Each bartender had to come up with an Oxley cocktail inspired by the brands idea around “freezing nature’s freshness” through its inventive sub-zero distillation process. We each received a frozen care package and bottle of Oxley Gin to help us and created a trio of cocktails after a Zoom brainstorm! As a result of taking part we also got a virtual tip jar to split between us but more importantly, it was fantastic to be creating drinks together again and being amongst incredible bar teams from across the world at quite an isolating time. The content made for a great educational and inspiring message and provided a snapshot into the unique process that happens between bar teams during cocktail development, the creativity and lab style approach that goes into it.
Is there a particular song that you associate with lockdown life?
Don’t ask me why but Blinding Lights by The Weeknd – partly because of all the late night fun Tik Tok has provided during lockdown.
If you could only have one spirit while stranded on your desert island what would it be and why?
So HARD!!! Can I have one of each? But if I have to single one out, I guess it would be tequila because I love Margaritas.
If you could only have one cocktail that you could have on your desert island what would it be and why?
Margaritas for sure.
What would be the one song that you would pick to accompany you on your desert island?
Is This Love by Bob Marley, especially if it was a hot desert island.
What luxury item would you take with you on your desert island?
Sparkling water for the drinks inbetween the Margaritas?
You can find Anna at Artesian bar at The Langham Hotel, 1c Portland Place, W1B iJA, now open Thursday-Saturdays 5pm-1am. Find out more at artesian-bar.co.uk