A chat with Huckle’s favourite bartender
Huckle is proud to call Happiness Forgets a friend, so it seemed only right we should pay them a visit for this blog. On a sweltering June evening, we caught up with bartender Dan Garnell in the dimly-lit basement drinking den.
He recommended a Tokyo Collins; Beefeater Gin and Yuzu Sake shaken with fresh lemon and grapefruit juice, topped with soda. Long, refreshing and the perfect accompaniment to midsummer meltdown in the capital.
How did you become a bartender?
Dan: ‘I came to London five years ago when I was 18 and got a job here polishing glasses. Ali didn’t expect me to last more than three months, but I fell in love with it. It was the party atmosphere that hooked me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work and the training was rigorous—I spent two years as a bar back before becoming a bartender—but my job is to help people have fun. Not bad.’
How has the London bar scene changed in the past five years?
‘There’s been a trend towards out-there drinks, unusual processes and ingredients. Our menu has become bolder. There are things on there people don’t know, which means they have to trust our ability to read their tastes.’
Happiness Forgets’ motto ‘Good drinks, no wallies’ chimes with Huckle’s no gimmicks approach to barbering. What’s behind your ethos?
‘The roles of bartenders and barbers are actually very similar. You need to listen to people to understand what they want. You need to create a good atmosphere. They’re placing their evening, or their hair, in your hands and it’s on you to deliver. Do it consistently and your customers will be loyal. It’s about giving the best possible service.’
How important is high-quality booze to your drinks?
‘Fundamental. We go out of our way to select the best and that does have its downsides. The vermouth we use, Vergano Americano, is made by a small producer whose supply dries up if he goes on holiday. Then we have to use a different vermouth and it changes the taste of the drink completely.’
Where do you get inspiration for recipes?
‘Anywhere, really. Food, travel, always trying new things. It’s about understanding individual ingredients, but also how they combine. One of my early managers here was a wizard with flavours. He’d say, ‘I’m going to make a drink that tastes like bread and butter pudding.’ And it did.
Every bartender has a signature drink. What’s yours?
‘The Dante. Why? Because I’m called Dan and it’s made with tequila! I use reposado (aged) tequila, lime juice, cane syrup, green chartreuse, celery bitters and fresh basil. It took ages to perfect, but now I’m happy with it.’
What are your favourite bars to drink in?
What’s next for London’s bar scene?
‘Sustainability. It’s happening right now. Outfits like Trash Tiki, that turn waste into drinks. They collect lemon and lime husks from bars, or unwanted coffee beans from roasters, then they create delicious cocktails.’
Customers began to drift in and take their seats and soon it was time for us to (reluctantly) climb the steps back onto the baking streets. Thanks to Dan for his time and cocktail making skills. Happiness Forgets is super popular, so if you plan to visit do book ahead.
If need a haircut, and you like your hair managed as expertly as your drinks, book your next appointment at Huckle the Barber online here.