Mark Jenner, Bar Manager, The Coburg Bar at The Connaught
Mark Jenner is a walking, talking encyclopedia on what makes a blindingly good drink. Here he reveals a few of his favourite things…
Where did you learn your craft?
My life long love affair began over ten years ago and hasn’t slowed down since. I’ve had almost as many positions as years in that time too!
Everywhere I rest my tools I feel gives me that extra tiny cut to a rough diamond that I know will take a lifetime to perfect.
Name a few of the places you’ve worked?
The two places that stand out in my mind as being turning points in my career would be Benares Restaurant in Mayfair and Reserve Brand Group. At Benares I was given an amazing opportunity to have almost “carte blanche” of the drinks selection and fine wine list. Here I really immersed myself in all things luxury and solidified my desire for quality above all else.
Reserve was a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I learnt a lot about myself, my beliefs, and my limits at the time but the experience over the short time I was there has given me a lifetime’s worth of ideas. To see the industry from a totally different angle, to have the chance to spend time with Master Distillers in Scotland really touched my soul and only increased my passion to be the best I can be and to do my bit to help push the boundaries of people’s expectations.
Who’s the most inspiring person you’ve ever worked with and why?
Like any journey you meet countless souls along the way that, whether you realise it at the time or not, guide you on a path that can take you anywhere. I try to listen and learn as much from as many people as I can. I am very lucky to call my mentors very close friends and I regularly talk with them to help bring my pie-in-the-sky ideas to life.
The person that really ignited my passion for the way I look at my world now would be Roger Mallindine. A student of the old school, a teller of stories, a scholar, but most important of all, a gentleman, and he continues to inspire me. He is someone I aspire to be like in my own quirky way.
What makes a good barman?
This is a tricky one! We all know being a barman is so much more than being able to create a balanced beverage; we have to be friend not foe to all, we must be the ever enthusiastic host, the custodian of the cup of mirth, a wise and knowledgeable sage on all topics questionable. If I had to choose the ones that are closest to my heart they would have to be: to be the best listener and to be humble. My mentor once told me “You were given two ears and one mouth so use them in that proportion, speak once and listen twice!” Those words will always linger in my mind!
Which barmen do you admire and why?
For me, to choose one person would not be right. There have been so many pioneers over the centuries in search of that perfect concoction to quench the soul’s thirst that to single out just one would only shine light on one style of brilliance. I admire all my fellow bar people that strive long and hard at their craft and whose desire is unwavering over giving the highest quality they can possibly give.
Shaken or stirred?
It totally depends on the cocktail and my mood. I tend to drink more stirred drinks as it shows that the bartender has a deep understanding and connection with subtle balance and dilution. There’s nothing better than a perfectly prepared “Old Fashioned” to ease your woes!
What’s your favourite drink
The Sazerac would be one that always stands out for me. Selecting the perfect spirit and then following a slow methodical creation process.
Depending on who I am with a “Whisky Sour” will always be a great place to start. I love to experiment with different single malts and bourbons to keep tweaking that wonderful texture on the palate.
On your menu
My favourite drinks on my menu would have to be either a “Rum Flip” or a “Ramos Gin Fizz.” Two cocktails that always get my pulse racing when I’m making them!
What’s your definition of a bartender and a mixologist and where do you fit in?
For me “mixologist” is quite a modern term that I tend to shy away from. So I prefer to think of myself as a “Bacchanologist”, this is more of a philosophical outlook that involves “the study, preparation, and history of drinking,” and derives from the Latin Bacchus, the ancient Greek God of Wine. Etymology fascinates me so I feel a deep connection with this view of crafting ones ideas around something that has such a link to the past thus this is extremely inspiring for me.
What’s your favourite all-time ingredient and why?
The ingredient of all-time would have to be “Carpano Antica Formula” rosso vermouth. This is a mouth-watering liquid with a depth of character I have yet to find a better for!
Where do you drink off duty?
I know this must be the usual answer but I very rarely go out, I find it very hard to switch off and relax if I go somewhere. I find myself analysing the menu’s, looking at service, the architecture, the music, the crowd, who supplies them, the list is endless. I spend a lot of my own time in my bar and I would say that my inspiration stems from space itself. I joke and say “I save the best music for when I am alone in my bar at the end of the shift”, once everyone has gone I melt into the amazing chairs and let the Cab Calloway-esque, speakeasy atmosphere surround me and I dream of where to lead it next.
What is your essential piece of bar kit?
I recently travelled to central Brazil never really expecting to find anywhere to lay my bartenders hat. On a trip to a small village in the middle of lush forests and wondrous waterfalls I stumbled upon a bar that held the biggest selection of Cachaca that I have ever seen and it was run by this little old lady. After some very broken Portuguese explaining I was like she, a lover of all things mixable, she allowed me to step behind the bar and mix Capirinas with her instructing me on her technique. The tools were basic but the end result was fabulous! So my essential piece of kit would be to have a “limitless imagination” and turn anything you have to hand into creating something special.
What’s been your most unusual request at the bar?
I think the most obscure request I have had in my current bar would have to be a “Slow comfortable screw against a wall.” I’ll say no more on this one!
What’s your failsafe cocktail to mix at home?
A “Cuba Libre” is something that’s easy to make at home and is a great thirst quencher. I use a dark aged Cuban rum, lots of fresh lime, Coca-Cola, and big double frozen chunks of mineral water ice.
If you could mix a cocktail for anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
This is an easy one it would have to be The Rat Pack, Frank, Dean and Sammy. My grandfather was a professional jazz drummer and there was always music in the house ever since I can remember. I loved the lust for life that they all had and how immaculately they were always dressed. If I had my way I would be in black tie mixing Manhattan’s and Martini’s night and day with the guys and joining in on their antics in the early casinos of 60’s Vegas.
What’s your definitive cocktail recipe for us to add to our collection?
For this I would have to submit the following two recipes:
This drink is based on the bitters created by Antoine Amedee Peychaud, who made a Cognac cocktail by mixing his bitters with Cognac. The most popular Cognac for many years in New Orleans was Sazerac de Forge et Fils. In 1859, John Schiller officially christened the Sazerac Cocktail in his newly-opened bar, the Sazerac Coffee House. When John H. Handy took over the bar, he altered the famous drink and used whisky instead of Cognac. Here is a twist on a Sazerac, a mix of Cognac and Bourbon.
The Flip recipes from colonial times were hot drinks, with as many variations as there were inns on the Boston Post Road. Generally they involved a batter made from brown sugar, eggs and sometimes cream that was added to a large mug of beer, then scaled with a loggerhead (a poker with a ball at the end). The loggerhead was heated in the fire and thrust into the mug; rum, brandy or applejack was added to fortify the drink.
Meet Mark at The Coburg Bar At The Connaught, Carlos Place, W1K 2AL. T: 020 7499 7070.