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From our initial launch event at Edinburgh's Bramble Bar in 2009, Caorunn has always partnered with exceptional bartenders, and we remain amazed by the passion and innovation at the heart of the industry around the world.
Please enjoy the first in a series of catch-ups with some of the finest behind the stick; from industry legends to unsung heroes and the next generation of stars as they help to demystify the bar, offer tips to use at home, and share what makes them tick.
First up we have the amazing Lucy Jane from NOLA in London; creator of their stunning Caorunn cocktail “The Other Woman”.
I somewhat fell into bartending. At first, it was just a summer job and then a job at university that was a million times more fun than working in retail. However, it became so much more than that when I started working in cocktail bars. When you’re around career bartenders that have such an infectious passion for drinks and cocktails and hospitality, you realize how much more there is to this industry and how it really is the coolest job in the world.
When you love what you do it’s not really a job, it’s not really like work. I turn up at NOLA every day at 4pm to hang out with some of the coolest people I know and serve some of the best drinks I ever have in my career. I became a bartender to earn money on flexible hours, I’m still a bartender 7 years later because I love what I do.
I suppose most of my favorite bars are right here in East London, but I guess that’s mainly because this is where I know everyone and all my friends drink. It’s nice being able to go into a bar by yourself and not feel awkward or alone. I have also been to some amazing bars in Manchester, Edinburgh and Paris but I have so many more places on my Bars To Visit list that I think it would be a bit unfair making a top 10 just yet!
As bartenders, we take inspiration from everywhere. My personal style draws quite a lot from classic cocktails. I go for simple serves, with maybe an infusion here or a homemade syrup there. As interesting as I find the molecular mixology trend with its mousses and foams and gels and dry ice, I’d rather my drink was an enjoyable beverage than an multifaceted immersive flavour experience.
I love what Susie Wong does with her drinks; they’re usually not too complicated in terms of the liquid, but are presented so perfectly with intricate garnishes. A lot of people order with their eyes, they see a drink go out and want what the person at the next table has. Maybe I don’t mimic her style because I think she’s just too good at it and anything I attempted would just be a poor man’s Susie Wong!
Great drinks to make at home are always going to be the simpler ones. A martini is never a bad shout. Find yourself some dry vermouth and some gin and you’re away.
Personally, I like my martinis quite wet (as terribly unfashionable as this seems to be), a good 2:1 martini with a twist is elegant and tasty.
If your bar at home is a little more eclectically stocked, one of my new drinks of choice is the Martinez. At NOLA we make them 2:1 sweet vermouth-heavy with a dash of maraschino and Bob’s Abbots bitters. I am a massive fan of the Abbots bitters, they can do no wrong.
An Army & Navy is another great drink, especially in the summer. It’s a bit like a gin daiquiri in that you can play with the flavors, maybe add in some fresh berries to make it a bit fruitier. You can’t really go wrong with gin, lemon and orgeat.
In a really cheesey way, I’d say the best bit of kit for making drinks is your imagination. Classic cocktails are amazing and they’ve survived Prohibition and the Disco years for a reason, but if you’ve got a few flavors that you love and think would go great together, why not put them in a drink.
Not being totally cheesey, there is one piece of equipment that I have become particularly attached to and it is my barblade. My barblade is red and has a matryoshka (Russian nesting doll) engraved on it that matches the tattoo on the inside of my right bicep. My sister bought it for me and had it engraved with the design after the first time she came to watch me at a cocktail competition and I won. Even when I’m ancient in a rocking chair on my porch I will be opening bottles with that barblade.
I think a real game-changer for cocktail ingredients is what you use for aroma. Our sense of smell is an integral part of our ability to taste so what you put on top of your drink, or the aromatic ingredients you put in your drink will be someone’s first impression. A cheeky spritz of absinthe or a subtle citrus zest can really enhance a cocktail.
My dream cocktail party would probably include the staff of most of the East London cocktail bars. It would have to be a dream party though because we never all have a day off on the same day! Obviously, I’d also invite some absolute industry legends, I’m a huge fan of Anastatia Miller and Jared Brown. I recently met the Master Blender for Chivas Regal, Colin Scott, and turned into a complete giggling fangirl – I imagine that’s how normal people react when they meet Hollywood celebrities.
My ultimate gin cocktail? That’s such a tricky question to answer, it depends entirely on my mood, the time of day, the weather and how much I’ve eaten! I think a Last Word is a pretty safe bet though; you really can’t go wrong with equal parts gin, maraschino, green chartreuse and lime. A strong contender for my second favorite is a Martinez. Not technically a cocktail but I’d never say no to a Gin & T'ing!