Nico de Soto is young, handsome, very successful and very French. Usually found rocking a Breton top, he’s one of the undisputed kings of the cocktail shaker. He has been named as the most influential French mixologist and his New York bar, Mace, has just been placed in the World Top 50 Bars. The Handbook caught up with him at the Patrón Cocktail Lab at London Cocktail Week to talk about Cocktails, Brexit, Patron and how best to avoid a hangover.
You’re in the top fifty in the world, how did you get here?
What here? [gesturing to the bar], in a taxi…
What? No, no, how did you get into bar stuff? Like in the beginning?
So I finished my computer science degree and went backpacking through Australia and when you’re backpacking you need a job, y’know, so I decided to get into bartending because, well to be completely honest, I like drinking and I like women and so…
Er, nice one…
Anyway, I didn’t know the world of cocktails so I started reading books and tried to work in better and better bars. When I came back to Paris I worked at Le China, then I was bar manager at Mama Shelter before I joined the Experimental Cocktail Club and came to London, then finally I set up Mace in New York.
Ace for Mace! So what’s the big difference between UK and New York bar scenes?
In London it’s more about hotel bars and I think it’s more creative while in New York they depend a lot more on classics and neighbourhood bars. But the big difference is that here you have, like, all the people working from across the whole of Europe but in New York you need a visa and whatever so you just get Americans.
So Brexit’s a pretty big challenge if London wants to keep its top cocktail spot?
Yeah, totally. It will be, it will be for sure. You’re going to get a lack of staff, like, look at all the big name bartenders here, all these guys, they’re not from UK, they’re Italians, Greek, Spanish, you know? You’re not going to get those guys and that’s something we’re going to have to deal with unfortunately.
And away from the politics, what’s your favourite cocktail?
If you want to take something complicated then I’d go for The Clarified Milk Punch, but if you’re after a classic then a Daquiri.
What do you drink when you’re not drinking cocktails?
Water! Or cider. Right now my friend launched a brand called, like, Aval and it’s from Brittany and it’s a very very good kind of cider. You should look it up, it’s great.
[sipping our third glass of Curry Leaves, de Soto’s Patrón tequila creation] Out of curiosity, what’s the best alcoholic drink if you don’t want to get a hangover?
Vodka soda. When I go to a club I always drink vodka soda because it doesn’t have any calories, it’s basically water and it tastes shit, you know, but you don’t care because you want to get drunk and not have a strong hangover the day after. Definitely vodka soda.
When you’re in London what’s your favourite bar?
Ah, Dandelyan for sure, it’s a really good bar, one of the best in the world.
And how will Mace being named in the Top 50 change your life?
It won’t change much for me personally but it will change a lot for my customers, and it will increase my sales by 30%.
Wow, cash-monies. And here we are at the Patrón stand at the London Cocktail Festival, so what’s your favourite Patrón?
My favourite drug??
My favourite rum?
My favourite Patrón? Oh I think the Reposado. It’s really nice and it’s the inspiration behind my cocktail Curry Leaves, which is all about the Reposado. I wanted to have the nuttiness from the coconut oil, the nuttiness from the Pandan, and that kind-of-like harsh nuttiness from the curry leaves and put it altogether into one drink.
Well congratulations again, this [now on our fourth] is delicious! We’ll, like, probably put the receipe underneath or something. Oh, and actually, do you have any vodka soda?
40ml Coconut fat-washed Patrón Reposado tequila
20ml Pandan-infused Cynar
20ml Antica Formula
2 dashes of curry leaf bitters
1 – Add all ingredients to a mixing glass and stir with ice
2 – Strain into a chilled coupette
3 – Garnish with an organge zest