There's no question that Mark Hix—"OG of the British gastronomy revolution"—knows his (round-bulbed, British Centurion) onions. Heading up a London restaurant empire that includes HIX Soho, steak-and-chicken joint Tramshed, and the original HIX Oyster and Chop House, the chef is known for his celebration of seasonal British food and classic regional dishes. As Hix prepares to open his first standalone bar at The Old Vic theatre, it seems his approach to booze is just as innovative.
Have you ever heard of that old saying "don't over egg the pudding?" Well, that applies to cocktails too.
At HIX, we're all about fresh, inventive, and—overall—simple flavours that complement one another, not an overcomplicated mess on a plate. There's just no need for it. Generally our dishes contain no more than three ingredients, it's a formula that works and it's not something we plan on changing anytime soon. The same goes for our cocktails.
The key to a proper cocktail is simplicity. A cocktail isn't supposed to look like a rainforest so when I see a drink served up with a bunch of leaves and twigs in it, I get quite frustrated—especially when there's sugar or some other granulated crap on the rim of the glass. Do people really want to get bits of their drink stuck all over their faces? It probably doesn't make for a great night out.
Another thing that gets my goat is the term "mixologist." There certainly is a special art to formulating the perfect cocktail but calling someone a mixologist makes them sound like some sort of mad scientist.
So, much like our food, the drinks we serve are generally created based on three key ingredients. For example, one of our new signatures, Vic's Punch (a zingy little number) contains these ingredients: Tangier gin, lemon sherbet, lemon juice, soda, and fresh mint. The lemon and mint work alongside the gin to create a refreshing zesty mix, while the soda gives the drink a little carbonated kick. No million ingredient gimmicks, no nonsense—just a damn good tasting cocktail.
Classics are classics for a reason, although to be fair, some classics should be wiped off the face of the Earth. But as I said at the start, the moral is: don't over egg the pudding. Next time you're thinking about putting together a cocktail or browsing through the menu at the bar, put down the garnish and look through the sales pitches.
That way, you have a real chance of drinking a proper cocktail—and let me tell you, there's not much better than that.
As told to Dan Hughes.