Master of the House – Duddell’s

in 飲食

BOOM chats to Mark Jenner, salon manager and ‘Man About the Bar’ of (semi) private club, Duddell’s.

Bacchanologist is how Mark Jenner describes himself, a nod to the Greek god of wine, drinking and, well, parties. Now the ‘Man About the Bar’ of Duddell’s, the 15 year industry veteran is looking to shake the cocktail world up in Hong Kong. “It’s important to be able to challenge our guests in the right way. Of course, you have to have the knowledge and belief in what you do to back it up, but it’s important to take a couple of risks.”

Risk, though, for Jenner means more than playing around with flavours (or ‘painting with colours’ as he puts it), it means establishing relationships with smaller producers to find exactly the right alcohol for each cocktail. “I love the big brands of alcohol, but with the smaller brands you can find flavours you won’t find elsewhere that balance better with the notes you’re trying to put in a cocktail.” When it comes to talking about spirits, Jenner is more than effusive. It’s clearly a huge passion, and one that he is trying hard to instil in his staff. “We stock a lot of the lesser-known brands here now, and I want my team to be knowledgable enough about them that if a guest were to come and to ask for a particular brand that we might not have, they’d have the knowledge to be able to introduce them to, for instance, some Venezuelan small production rum that, hopefully, the guest will love. It’s about giving love to the spirit itself.”

Getting that same level of excitement in his bar staff was no easy matter. “I was obsessive about finding the right team. They needed to have experience but not too many bad habits,” he laughs. “In the end, it’s about training, training and more training. My philosophy is, if you want to do something well, there’s no need to rush. Try things out first.”

His passion for Hong Kong goes back to 2011 when he first came to visit. “There were already the seeds of a tempting place for me to come. But back then, there was a huge influence of overly-sweetened drinks. Lychee martinis, Earl Grey Martinis, they were interesting and a good start, but still too sweet. Perhaps it was due to a lack of a full range of spirits. If I’d moved here back then, a lot of the small importers weren’t here and I wouldn’t have been able to do cocktails on a large scale.”

For his own innovations at Duddell’s, he’s looking at the flavour profiles of locally sourced fruit and vegetables. “I’m playing around with teas like chrysanthemum flowers and rose petals. I’m interested in the herbal and botanical sides, maybe even apothecary-style Chinese medicine.” Of the spirits produced in mainland China, he is a little hesitant. “They’re pretty fiery. I’ve tried to experiment with them, but it takes a lot of work to make a complex enough drink.”

In the end, complexity is the backbone of his philosophy. “When it comes down to it, you can make a cocktail in two ways. Either you choose something with a relatively simple flavour profile as the base and you work hard on carving out the rest of the notes to ensure a good balance and roundedness. The alternative is to use a fantastic base spirit with loads of flavours, you then analyze the full tasting profile of the other components to balance that up. There might be fewer ingredients, but it will have a full, rounded complexity.”

 

Duddell’s
Address: Levels 3 & 4, Shanghai Tang Mansion, 1 Duddell Street, Central
Phone: +852 2525 9191
Website: www.duddells.co