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Bar Manager Francesco Medici chats to Diageo Bar Academy about how ‘Tipsy Tea’ at Mr Foggs London, are the latest trend in the industry and how you can create your own tea time tipples…

Can you explain the concept of ‘Tea time Cocktails’?

Well it’s all very easy...’Tipsy Tea’ work just like a Classic British afternoon tea with pastries, cakes and sandwiches but what makes it special and unique is our selection of ’Tea Time Cocktails’ that are available to enjoy with your food.

In recent years there has been a resurgence in the popularity of afternoon tea, appealing to both older and younger customers. We saw this as an opportunity to ride on the back of that - if people are whiling away the afternoon in restaurant and hotels why can’t they do that in a stylish bar, enjoying some lovely cocktails? Once we got our heads around this it was plain sailing.

Our menu is designed to give two options for our guests: the classic cocktails; and for the champagne lover, a sparkling tea cocktail selection. For all our ’Tea Time Cocktails’ we use infusions which incorporate different tea flavours with TANQUERAY™ No. Ten gin. We ensure there is plenty of variety on the menu to cater for all needs and gin is the perfect base - who doesn’t love gin?

Why did you decide to introduce ‘Tipsy Tea’?

Mr Fogg’s is quintessentially British as is the concept of afternoon tea, so it was the perfect fit to introduce an afternoon tea - we just had to wait for an upswing in popularity for afternoon tea.

So as soon as they became trendy, we knew we had to offer something distinct from our competitors, something that played to our strengths - and as you might already know, that was cocktails. And so, ’Tipsy Tea’ was born.

We always want to improve our bar and set new and aspirational goals, that’s what led the introduction of our ‘Tea Time Cocktails’ and without this out-of-the-box thinking we wouldn’t have been the first in our industry to go down this road. Always remember to play to your strengths; look at your culture, your local area and your bartenders for inspiration.

What were your main influences when introducing these new cocktails?

We wanted to make the tea unique in a number of ways, principally that it would be a cocktail, so rather than tea coming from the pot, it would be a TANQUERAY™ NO. TEN gin cocktail pouring from the spout.

Not only is the drink important, so too is the atmosphere. The entertainment was key. We didn’t want it to be an experience that was too formal, so to add atmosphere we have introduced a pianist who gives the occasion a real energy and relaxed vibe.

It’s key to note, when launching a new concept or menu in the bar that it is important to consider all aspects and not just the drinks list, ambience can be just as important as the flavours in your serves.

We also had to think about the skill set of our bartenders. What influences could they bring into the serves, what tastes were unique to them. Once we investigated this we knew we had landed on a range of serves that would undoubtedly spark interest.

The market for alcoholic teas is becoming more competitive, how do you ensure that Mr Foggs ‘Tipsy Tea’ competes?

At Mr Fogg’s we ensure all our staff from doormen to bartenders, are completely immersed in our brand, up to speed on our special teas and knowledgeable about bar staff. They are all frequently asked ‘Where is Phileas Fogg?’ and they always know exactly where he is and what he’s up to. It’s important that we have a ‘family’ atmosphere as it’s what keeps us unique.

‘Tipsy Tea’ really do feel like stepping back in time to a bygone era, it isn’t just about the alcoholic tea but more about the whole experience at Mr Fogg’s - enjoying a quintessentially British tradition but with cocktails on the side - I can’t think of anything better.

With the bar industry becoming increasingly competitive it is important to make sure that staff stay up to date with all the goings on in the bar to ensure we are always ahead of the game. Briefing staff well on menus and the running of ‘Tea Time Cocktails’ helps create a better experience for our customers - and is something that we take great pride in.

What are the main challenges of running ‘Tipsy Tea’?

There are many challenges - first on the list is time. After a long, late Friday night shift we have to come back early the next morning to set-up the venue. Everyone is tired from the week and these afternoon teas can be very demanding. With a strong team, we make it through together.

One of our other challenges is the preparation of homemade infusion syrups and other products. The preparation is the easy part; it’s retaining the same level of flavour and consistency of the liquids that’s something that can be challenging. Repeat customers like to have the same experience each and every time and it’s important that we have consistency in our taste experiences.

The double sitting means that we have to ensure a quick turnaround. As you know, afternoon tea is best enjoyed leisurely and at one’s own pace but the double seating puts more pressure on the staff. As always they are complete professionals and always manage to nail it.

If you’re thinking of incorporating two sittings into your bar it is worth making sure you check you have the necessary resources and staffing. There is extra pressure on set-up and making sure all ingredients, glasses, garnishes and menus are available for both sittings, so it’s important that you lead with strong management, and organisation is key.

Since introducing ‘Tea Time Cocktails’ have you noticed an impact on trade during day time hours?

Originally we introduced ‘Tea Time Cocktails’ on Saturdays but due to some great press coverage and also word of mouth publicity, we rapidly became fully booked. We then took the decision to offer ‘Tea Time Cocktails’ on a Friday too, and more recently we started doing two sittings on a Saturday due to increased demand.

It shows how valuable it is to host events like this to increase trade - worth noting if you want to increase footfall during quiet times. Sometimes customers love any excuse to leave the house and visit your bar, so ensuring you are providing them with an experience and service they can’t have at home is one of the most important things.

As afternoon tea is a traditionally British phenomenon do you think 'Tea Time Cocktails’ appeals to visitors?

Those visiting from both outside of London and abroad love the concept; they see it as experiencing our British culture and it’s something we’ve really tapped into through our special serves.

‘Tea Time Cocktails’ give tourists the opportunity to sample one of Britain’s most iconic delicacy’s with the added bonus of the delicious drinks we serve! We have found them to be extremely popular not only with tourists, but also locals who are looking for something a little different.

To help with the overall experience, we make sure our staff are can speak different languages so they can communicate with tourists and explain the different cocktails on offer in their tongue. This prevents anyone from feeling that they aren’t getting what they want and is a pleasant surprise for customers.

We are also fortunate that a lot of our press has focused on those travelling to London and as a result we work closely with luxury hotels around us - it’s important that we network with local hotels as it’s a great way to get exposure to visiting guests.

So if you’re interested in hosting some afternoon teas in your bar when not try out these latest ’Tea Time Cocktails’ recipes:

Love to Auoda

50ml Camomile infused TANQUERAY™ No. Ten
25ml Elderflower liquor
25ml Lemon juice
20ml Honey syrup
2 Drops of lavender tincture

Method: Shake and serve in a teapot with camomile flower and zest of lemon.

(2.1 standard drinks*- 2.4 units per serve)

Diageo are committed to promoting responsible drinking and further information can be found on Drink IQ.

Want to find out more about ‘Tipsy Tea’ and keep up to date with all the latest news? Check out Mr Fogg’s online, connect with Mr Fogg’s on Facebook.

(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)

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