A Drink With… JJ Goodman, London Cocktail Club

12th December, 2012 by Marinel FitzSimons

JJ Goodman, founder of London Cocktail Club (LCC), talks to SB about manipulating flavours, his drink philosophy, and setting an unwitting reveler’s hair on fire.

JJ Goodman London Cocktail Club

JJ Goodman founded the London Cocktail Club in 2010 along with partner James Hopkins, chef Raymond Blanc and entrepreneur Sarah Willingham

LCC on Goodge Street, a gin palace, has been going for two years now, and you opened a second site, a rum parlour, on Shaftesbury Avenue earlier this year. How’s business been?

Wicked! It’s all great at the moment. There’s lots of exciting things going on, including plans to open new branches in the east end of London, as well as in Worcester – my home town.

Worcester? Is there much of a cocktail scene there?

It’s getting there! There’s definitely the interest and the willingness to offer good cocktails; at the moment it’s still at the mixed drink stage rather than cocktails, but I’m optimistic. Also, it’s a little bit of a sentimental endeavour for me as it’s where I’m from, but we’re going to start soft, with a nice entry level drink, like the Punch of the Month that we’ll offer at an accessible, entry level price to help build people’s confidence.  We’re hoping to open in February next year, so, Worcester, watch out.

You and James Hopkins won TV show The Restaurant in 2009, with host Raymond Blanc backing your concept for LCC. What impact did your partnership with Blanc have on LCC and what’s his involvement with the bars now?

It certainly helped. While we were already running the Covent Garden LCC, things certainly got busier after The Restaurant. We’ve been umming and erring over Raymond’s title – it was originally mentor, but after tossing it round the table for a while, we’ve now ended up with him as our ambassador which is pretty cool. It’s good because it means he’s keen to be more involved in a hands-on kind of way.

You worked with Blanc at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons – what do you think the cocktail industry can learn from the restaurant industry – or vice versa?

After my stint at Le Manoir I got excited by the idea of gastro-mixology. Flavour doesn’t start and stop with ingredients; each ingredient has a role that it fulfills flavour wise, but you can play around with which ingredient you use to execute a specific function in a drink. For example if you need acidity, the obvious route is a lemon. But apple puree also has acidity – it’s all about manipulating the flavours and being creative. Not everything works, and some things work better than others, but there is a world of opportunity. One of the main problems with gastro-mixology is the fact that you‘re using alcohol rather than just pure flavours. It takes a lot of time and effort to get the result you want.

What’s your philosophy regarding making cocktails?

We’re trying to make great drinks that are affordable. We work with bands that we can make a margin from, which sometimes means we need to put the time in to really tweak the recipe to get exactly the result we want. That said you’ve got to remember than everyone’s palate is different and you’re never going to be able to make something that pleases everyone, but we’re trying to break away from classic cocktails, making more consumer friendly, ground breaking drinks for £8. After all it is a business – so the drinks have to be cost effective and easy to produce in large quantities and at speed.

What makes a good cocktail in your opinion?

It’s got to be balanced – enough sweet and sour, and a good level of intensity. I’m big on dilution – I think a lot of people still see it as a bad thing, as something that will detract from their drink, but if you’ve got a whole lot of strong flavours fighting with each other in a glass, a splash of water on their heads just cools them down a little so they behave and get on with each other nicely!

What’s been your career highlight so far?

I think probably winning the 42 Below Cocktail World Cup competition in 2008. Some people think it would have been opening my bar – but anyone can open a bar, it’s the day you break even that’s great.

What other projects are you working on just now?

Other than continuing to expand LCC, we’re keeping up our training, so that’s two hours every two weeks for all our bartenders – after all, they’re the source of our success. We’re also working more on our Cocktails from the Kitchen idea which we started two years ago. The idea is to create a range of drinks that can be made at home by consumers, so simple drinks using ingredients that can be found in the local supermarket without having to run off to buy all sorts of outlandish bottles that’ll be used for a one-off cocktail. We’ve already got a couple of chapters down for the related book, but it might be a while yet before that’s done. We’re also heavily developing our online offering, getting our recipes available for free online. The other thing we’re looking at doing is offering training days for our members – we want to create an LCC ethos, so it’s about the cocktails rather than the bars themselves. A way to go still, but it’s exciting!

Who’s your muse?

It sounds like an obvious answer, but I’ve got to say Raymond. The man is relentless. Everything he touches turns to gold. He’s got great energy, creativity and commitment.

What’s been your worst moment as a bartender?

When you start out, it’s very easy to be intimidated by the big boys in the industry. I remember some top dogs walking into my bar, and asking for a cocktail – one that I knew like the back of my hand – but my mind went blank and I couldn’t for the life of me remember where to even start. Horrible. Other than that, just making stupid errors that end up making a drink bad– stupid things like not trying it before you serve it, not keeping your mind on what you’re doing all the time.

Other than that there have been other pretty bad moments, like falling off a bar that I was standing on, playing air guitar, or the time I was flaring and smashed two glasses mid air, only to see the people around my station at the bar suddenly grow tiny, tiny cuts from the shards of glass – that wasn’t so cool. Or more recently even, we were flaming sambuca, and without thinking I topped up a glass while it was still flaming and, like a gunpowder trail, the flame leapt up to the bottle, and shot out like a flame thrower, and one poor bystander with absolutely loads of product in his hair just happened to be in the line of fire (literally), so we had to pull off his coat and stop him burning. Before you ask, he was completely fine. But it’s little things like that that keep you on your toes.

One Response to “A Drink With… JJ Goodman, London Cocktail Club”

  1. Louise says:

    Thanks for sharing this one. I do appreciate what I have read in here.
    Frozen cocktail machines hire

Leave a Reply

If that's interesting, how about these?

SB competes in Finest Call's speed cocktail competition

American Beverage Marketers cocktail mix brand, Finest Call, brought its speed more...

Sci-fi cocktail book seeks funding on Kickstarter

The creator of a new science fiction-inspired cocktail book is seeking funding more...

Woodford Reserve: a brand history

Woodford Reserve, while being a relatively new brand, has a long heritage that more...

Top 10 creative cocktail menus

With so many classy bars competing at the top end of the market, it’s more...

Funkin introduces new 'spiced' single batch syrup

Cocktail syrup brand Funkin has expanded its range of single batch syrups with more...

Historic building transformed into craft distillery

The renovation of a disused historic building has started in Maryland to make more...

UK underage drinking falls to lowest recorded levels

Government statistics show that underage drinking in the UK continues to more...

Kilchoman to sponsor equestrian championships

Independent Islay whisky distillery Kilchoman is to sponsor the upcoming FEI more...

Whisky bottler moves into barrel-aged gin

Independent whisky bottler the Gleann Mor Spirits Company has moved into gin more...

A drink with... Sakuma Tadashi, Nikka

Nikka's master blender Sakuma Tadashi talks about his approach to innovation, more...

Plantation Rum reveals image revamp

French drinks group Cognac Ferrand has revealed a bottle redesign for its more...

The world's best bars and bartenders 2015

Out of the largest pool of nominations in its history, Tales of the more...

Top tips to run a successful start up: Part 1

As most of us have witnessed over the past few years, anyone and everyone can more...

Master of Malt launches DIY cocktail ageing kits

Master of Malt has expanded its range of DIY spirits ageing kits to include one more...

Location sought for first Borders distillery in 180 years

Scotch whisky firm R&B Distillers is asking members of the public to vote for a more...

G&T beats Pimm's as UK favourite summer sip

Gin and tonic has beaten Pimm's as the UK’s favourite spirit-based drink this more...

Artesian features Reàl syrups in cocktails

Real Cocktail Ingredients’ Cream of Coconut and Agave flavours have gained more...

Former BBC TV car park turned into rooftop bar

Storeys pop-up food and drink experience is set to open on the roof of the more...

Top tips to run a successful start up: Part 2

For those with the ambition to make their first foray into the fiercely more...

Social media survey inspires Sauza campaign

Sauza Tequila has launched new campaign "Pitcher Perfect Picture" after a more...