Hey Robin, tell us about the path that led you to Three Spirit...
I was lucky to spend many years working in or managing some of the UK and the world's best and most creatively focused drinks teams; Bramble and Lucky Liquor in Edinburgh plus the Mr. Lyan empire in London. It's this creativity, attention to flavours and above all the customer, that I brought with me when I started developing product recipes for drinks brands. Since 2019 I've worked closely with Three Spirit designing the recipes for their successive releases.
You recently moved back to your hometown, (we miss you! but) are you loving it?
It's been really wonderful to move back to Edinburgh. It was hard to put a finger on what was missing from London life and I wasn't sure I would find it here. Turns out I just hadn't really seen Edinburgh with mature eyes before - the space, the camaraderie and the instant access to semi-wild places are all things I took for granted before leaving but definitely need now.
Since moving back I've been in the sea every week at least once - surfing or swimming - exercise daily and play golf on the top of one hill looking across to the walkers on the next.
Can you tell us more about your role in our latest project, Blurred Vines? What excited you the most in the process?
My task was to help take the seeds of an idea and turn them into fully fleshed products - and it's been extremely tough! The thing that excites me the most is the huge amount we've learned and appropriated from all sorts of different drink styles to create something absolutely unique. No one else in the world (that we know of) has done this before. In one product you have wine fermentation, field-to-bottle cold brew tea, field-to-bottle pressed juice, bespoke designed minerals, bespoke functional ingredients and extreme carbonation. All carefully joined together into a super slick manufacturing process while maintaining exceptional flavour standards.
What is your favourite ingredient in Three Spirit drinks for function and which for flavour?
The use of chillies such as Cayenne and Habanero across the products are my favourite for function. They seem quite basic compared to some of the others, but the rush and the glow they bring to your cheeks is a subtle and enjoyable perk and something everyone has easy access to.
For flavour, schisandra berries take the crown - they are mad little things that are bitter and sherbetty and aromatic and fruity all at once. They pull your mouth in all sorts of directions, and they have a great functional benefit to boot. You can find both Cayenne chilli and schisandra berries in Livener.
What is your process when designing a cocktail?
Designing a cocktail, or any drink, works back to front, you start with the situation it's going to be drunk in, what the mood that it embodies is and then you work backwards from there. Whether it should be short or long, some key flavours that work in that scenario, how you want it to look. There's balance to consider; what's sweet, what's sour, what flavours do you want dominant.
Then it's a case of choosing the smallest number of ingredients you can and balancing them against each other to the desired effect. Simple! it's easy to keep adding ingredients to make something 'complex', when most of the time it just muddies the waters. Rather, it's best to choose small numbers of high quality ingredients that are inherently complex - one of the reason Three Spirit products are designed the way they are is to give lots and lots of complexity without having to reach for lots of other stuff.
We need some industry secrets... what's the key to creating the perfect cocktail at home?
- Use as much ice as you can physically fit in the glass or shaker tin, and get your glass cold before you put anything into it. Even a world-class cocktail often tastes mediocre to rubbish when it's not cold enough.
- Get a nice tin on tin cocktail shaker with a hawthorn and tea strainer, and learn to use them properly - they are incredibly versatile, very hard to break and make the best drinks. They can seem daunting but it's a relatively simple thing to learn to hold everything the right way and how to open them - you'll look like a pro once you nail it (and your drinks will taste better for it).
- Last piece of advice is something that I have to teach even experienced bartenders - shake the shaker harder than you think you can, then shake it even harder, shake it like you want the ice to be smashed into hundreds of pieces.
Is there a bar, or even a bartender, who has captured your attention recently?
Native in Singapore is run by the nicest guy you'll meet, Vijay. They are 100% committed to utilising only produce that is native to Singapore and its surrounding land mass - this is inspirational stuff and provokes casting fresh eyes over what we do and don't import, and what has simply been ignored that's right under our noses.
Robin's top 3:
Bar: Seed Library, London
Bartender: Kyle Jamieson
Ingredient: blackcurrant - it's been so maligned for so long, the 'Ribena' effect will wear of shortly I think.