Artisan restaurant The Larder House opened in Bournemouth in 2011, and in 2013 welcomed the addition of a small upstairs cocktail bar, The Library. It's full of knick-knacks, candles, old carpets, stuffed animals – and banging booze. You might remember its owner James Fowler from World Class UK 2014... no big deal.
Locals and regulars at The Library have grown used to the level of creativity that Fowler and his team instil in their menu. The clientele is varied, ranging from young professionals to the retired, but all ready to learn more about drinks and eager for an experience, says Fowler.
Those two ideas have found themselves at the heart of the newly launched drinks menu, which celebrates travel by exploring a variety of spirits and their native countries.
'I wanted to continually force us to utilise and explore our back bar, and learn more about the origins of products,' says Fowler of what inspired this menu. From a customer's perspective however, it offers an insight into the drinking culture of a country – from the USA to Venezuela via Madagascar and Japan – with what Fowler calls 'jovial stereotyping'.
Drinks are named simply after places; so the Haiti uses Clairin Sajous rum in a Daiquiri twist with squash (for the island's national fruit, the gourd) and spices; as well as 'voodoo wishes'. 'Haitians practice voodoo and love to gamble. They often pray to the gods for the lottery numbers. So the garnish for the drink is a hand that passes you a genuine National Lottery ticket – folks are winning money!'
That might not be the most straightforward way to improve GP, but that's not so much Fowler's main focus. After all, there's a drink on the menu that infuses cognac with £100 worth of foie gras (see below). 'It should be on the list for a lot more than £14... but it's fun!'
Rather, theatre takes central stage, and that's been working very well with guests, he says. One of the best sellers, New York, is served on a manhole cover together with a Statue of Liberty watching over the drink. This focus on the experience is therefore integral part of prep, too. A lot of the drinks are pre-batched so more time can be devoted to presentation; but no drink takes more than a minute. The 45-seater does around 150 covers on a weekend night, so time's precious.
Glass: Brandy balloon or rocks glass
Garnish: Discarded lemon zest
Method: Muddle sugar cube with Cointreau in a mixing glass. Stir with both cognacs and bitters on ice. Strain into absinthe-rinsed glass.
15ml Rémy Martin VSOP infused sous-vide with ethical foie gras*
35ml Rémy Martin 1738
2 dashes girolles bitters
Absinthe to rinse
*To make: Use one jar of ethical foie gras (such as Sousa & Labourdette) to 70cl of Rémy Martin VSOP.
The Library, 4 Southbourne Grove, Southbourne, Dorset, BH6 3QZ, 01202 424687