Inspiration

Hannah Lanfear

Hannah Lanfear is an extremely good drinks maker. She’s tended some of the very best bars this fair city has to offer and now she’s letting you in on some of her secrets with her new drinks education project The Mixing Class. We know you love good quality booze as much as us, so we asked her all about it.

What’s the Mixing Class all about Hannah? It’s more than just a cocktail school innit?
Hi Josh Jones! The Mixing Class is more than a cocktail school, yes. On the face of it you can sign up to one of our WSET courses and come and learn all about spirits. But more than that we are hoping to begin an incubator for young Londoners to come and learn hospitality skills. It’s the most amazing industry! I joined with nary a few GCSEs to rub together – so the buy in is pretty low, but if you work hard there’s no limit to what you can achieve. I’ve worked in some top cocktail bars and travelled the world, and drunk so many free drinks I literally don’t ever want to drink anything ever again (not really). I want to get people excited to come and work in it, and the motivation is that cities are ever changing, with more and more nice places to drink in our neighbourhoods. The cocktail and spirits industry is stretching out of the traditional nuclei of Soho and Mayfair, and with it we need to better integrate with the communities we inhabit. What better way than bringing people from diverse backgrounds into hospitality and offer them employment opportunities. So I suppose in a nutshell I am looking to influence the hiring practices of the hospitality industry towards greater inclusion, and for greater focus on education for the whole industry. 

Is it for the industry or can I call up some friends together and come and learn? 
Absolutely it’s for everyone. I am currently fascinated with the academic concept of cultural capital and how the ways we display our taste define us – it’s why some of us shop at Heal’s for a sofa and some of us at Laura Ashley, right? And it’s the same with drinking. Just as with wine, once you start learning about spirits you can better appreciate and understand them. What I love about delivering the WSET Spirits courses is that they zero in on why does that taste like that? And then you look at the raw materials and production method and discover how the flavour came about. It’s a really valuable approach to learning about spirits. I think for anyone that’s an enthusiastic imbiber of quality beverages, or that has an enquiring mind, they are just brilliant. But it’s a rabbit hole I warn you, it easily becomes an obsession!.

What kind of health is the London cocktail scene in? Is it rude? 
Okay I’m going to be controversial and I might well regret this, but, I actually must confess I thought London had gotten a bit smug at how good its cocktails were. Like it’s great to have a dozen exotic flavours that sound very cool in your drink but are they well defined and can you taste them? And do they taste nice, most importantly. I’ve travelled the world and the level of attention to detail that goes into mixing drinks in every nook and cranny where there are proper cocktail bars is astonishing. People fight to be good and to get the key shifts in the best cocktail bars in the US for instance. I think that we don’t necessarily have that culture across the board here, maybe we rest on our laurels a little bit cause people don’t get paid enough and we have deplorable management training in hospitality BUT BUT BUT I’m gonna add that there have been a few openings that have changed my mind, and yes, there are some banging cocktail bars out there right now. Those that strive to be good here are chuffing amazing. 

What are the three cocktails us general public should all know how to make well, to be an excellent person in life? 
A GREAT QUESTION JOSH JONES. Learning how to order and make a martini is pretty much an essential life skill. I truly believe that children should be put to work to make martinis for their parents as soon as they master basic motor skills. And I will say this, that I also believe that every bartender should have that experience of making only classic cocktails over and over ‘cause nothing teaches a bartender how best to handle liquor than having nowhere to hide, and that is essentially what a classic cocktail is, a gentle touch to make a liquor sing. Ugh. This is very challenging. I am finding it very hard to choose. Perhaps an Old Fashioned, cause that’s one you can rustle up at almost any home providing you have cocktail bitters. Definitely one that the public can master. Oh, and a bowl of punch. Bowls of punch make you so goddamn popular at a house party. Load that massive saucepan up and put a ladle in and go have a sit down, your work is done. My preference is for a classic like Philadelphia Fish House Punch (cognac, rum, peach brandy, lemon, sugar and water) or maybe just a tropical rum punch if you’re feeling fruity.

It’s my round, what are you having? 
A delicious beer please. Oh if we’re going to be fancy about it I’ll have a Roosevelt Martini, it’s my all time fave. 2 parts gin, 1 part dry vermouth, a bar spoon of brine and a dash of orange bitters. Cheers!

Interview: Josh Jones
Photo: Tom Medwell