The magic of trolley cocktails
Take tableside service to a new level with cocktail trolleys, the trend that’s rolling into top bars around the world. We catch up with award-winning mixologist and martini magician, Agostino Perrone, who talks us through the inspiration behind his famous trolley at the Connaught Bar, London, and shares his top tips to set up your own.
Roll with it
At the Connaught, our aim is to combine technique and carefully selected ingredients with theatrical service to create a unique and unforgettable experience for our guests. We welcome everyone with a taster cocktail that changes from day to day and we carefully tailor each guest’s chosen drink to their taste, providing a recipe card so they can even have a go at recreating the cocktail at home. We’re always looking for innovative ways to take our customer service to the next level, and that’s how the idea for the cocktail trolley was born.
Our famous martini trolley was designed to bring a touch of theatre and to share the process with our guests in a more intimate setting. We opted for the martini as it’s a very versatile classic with countless opportunities for customisation that doesn’t require too much equipment. Using our homemade bitters, we can create bespoke cocktails right in front of our guests’ eyes and make them feel like they’re drinking something that’s truly one of a kind.
Tricks of the trolley
Cocktail trolleys are a great conversation starter and an innovative way to personalise service and add a little touch of tableside cocktail magic. You can literally bring the bar to your guests and you have a lovely opportunity to interact with them directly and distinguish your venue from its competitors.
When deciding which martini to make, I start by reading the customer. If they are pretty cocktail-savvy already, I like to suggest new, more adventurous flavours and combinations; if they are slightly hesitant, I’ll opt for more traditional recipes. It’s all about reading your guests and working around their needs.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Connaught Bar, and the martini trolley has become one of our signature selling points, but that’s not to say there weren’t a few teething problems in the beginning! The bar’s original layout was designed with a carpet in the centre, making it difficult to manoeuvre the trolley quickly during service. So, we replaced the carpet with a runway and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Don’t be discouraged if you have a few hiccups early on or your customers aren’t immediately receptive to the idea – perseverance is key, and a bit of trial and error will help you find what works best in your bar.
Here are some of my top tips for setting up your own cocktail trolley:
- Everything is visible, so ensure all ingredients are washed and well-presented and keep the trolley tidy.
- Use fresh ice cut in large chunks and top up throughout the shift.
- Keep an eye on your stock and refill ingredients before serving – running back and forth to the bar ruins the tableside experience!
- Make sure every bartender operating the trolley is up to speed to keep service consistent and create checklists for both setting up and cleaning.
- Publicise it – put your trolley front and centre and use it to attract new customers or impress existing ones.
The Connaught Martini
50ml TANQUERAY NO TEN GIN or KETEL ONE VODKA
10ml Dry Vermouth
3 Drops aromatic bitters
Stir vermouth and spirit over ice
Strain into martini glass coated with bitters of your choice
Garnish with lemon zest or olives
18.4g of alcohol* (according to ml of the serve)
We offer our signature Connaught Martini with a choice of gin or vodka, and then we have a selection of homemade aromatic bitters to tailor it exactly to our guests’ tastes:
Lavender – floral and aromatic with a rosemary-like flavour that tastes amazing with olives.
Green cardamom – balsamic on the nose and dry on the palate with a citrus aftertaste.
Vanilla – silky on the nose with a lingering, bitter finish.
Coriander seeds – elegant with spicy and citrus aromas
Bergamot and ginseng – elegant, woody notes with spicy, citrusy aromas
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(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)
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