Agave gets a fresh look at Deano Moncrieffe’s new bar

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Drinks: Drinks, Tequila
Location: UK
Other: People

Buckle up, kids, for a unique style of agave bar is coming to London, and this time it’s being brought to life by Deano Moncrieffe.

The always-smiling, ever-charming Diageo Reserve European tequila brand ambassador wants to harness his decade of experience working with agave spirits to bring the various categories to life for the punters of London.

‘I’ve travelled and seen so many different tequila and mezcal bars. Anything that incorporates Mexican culture, I’ve seen it in its different guises around the world,’ he exclusively explains to Imbibe. ‘I had this burning desire to do something new in the category and to make it exciting and unique.’

So what will make it different?

‘One of the things that I’ve seen with tequila bars – and this is great by the way – are back bars with 250, 300 tequilas, and I was wondering how many of them people try, because it’s a minefield.

‘My thinking is to create a specific list of 25 agave spirits that constantly rotate, like a wine bar or craft beer bar. People love their beers and love to discover new things. I realised that’s the way to get people to try new stuff: keep it short, keep it unique, and when one or two bottles of that tequila, raicilla, sotol or whatever are done, then we’ll bring in something new. I want the bar to be a journey of discovery for people in a way that’s super approachable, contemporary and welcoming.

‘The bar will be completely opposite to current tequila offerings – it’ll be clean, uncluttered, unfussy… the back bar is going to be a shelf of 25 numbered bottles.’

It’s set to be called Hacha, after the axe that distillery workers use to cut the agave piñas into pieces before they’re roasted.

‘When you see the axe come down and it splits the agave open, there’s something really rhythmic about it, and you get that agave aroma, that for me is when the journey of creating a magical spirit has just started,’ enthuses Moncrieffe.

Located on Kingsland Road, a five-minute walk from Three Sheets, Hacha will have 40 covers inside, and is set to open its doors in April.

The menu set to shake things up

What becomes apparent when talking to Moncrieffe is that, in this bar, he’s striving to encapsulate his entire decade of experience introducing consumers to agave spirits.

One of his most exciting ideas is the plan for each bottle to have a ‘flavour enhancer’ paired with it. ‘All of the flavour pairings will be different. Some will be food-based, some will be drink-based… There’s an oloroso pairing, sorbets, pear chips, a spiced vermouth and triple-citrus popcorn with salted butter. I’ve just been playing around a lot.’

Moncrieffe is aiming to place flights on an equal footing with cocktails. The cocktail list will feature 14 drinks – 10 made with agave, and four with other spirits. He’s hoping to make a quarter of the options low alcohol: ‘We’re giving people an opportunity to discover tequila, to change their perception from it being an aggressive spirit.’

Three of the drinks will be twists on classics: the Batanga, which sounds highly unusual, combining añejo tequila with homemade cola with a Guinness float on top; a Tequila Sunrise, which is likely to be made with clarified orange juice and a pomegranate and plum shrub; and the Margarita, which is set to be the bar’s signature cocktail.

Called the Mirror Margarita, it will be a mix of blanco tequila, malic acid, cane syrup and a spritz of Cointreau and grapefruit tincture. ‘It’s going to be a bit lighter. I love using agave syrup, but cane syrup doesn’t mask the herbal notes in blanco,’ Moncrieffe explains.

Onto the elephant in the room: as a Diageo brand ambassador, will running an agave bar be a conflict of interest for him?

‘Obviously I know that I’m working for Don Julio, and the challenge will be juggling that. But I know that the tequila community in London and Europe is so tight. People love getting together.

‘My plan is that every single brand will be equally represented. I would love all of the brands to have activation there as well, doing tequila Tuesdays takeovers. I want them to feel like it’s their bar as well. I’m specifically thinking about making it as accessible as possible. For me, the DNA of tequila is about community. My ambition in creating this bar is to bring people together.’

To us, it sounds as if Moncrieffe is aiming to do for agave what Black Rock did for whisky, changing perceptions and opening the category out to an even wider audience. ‘I would love Hacha to be the equivalent of what [Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson] have done. They challenged convention, and it’s a real discovery place. They energised whisky and gave it a real contemporary look, with a nod to the places it comes from.

‘I do love being in a bar environment, and the idea of talking to people about tequila even more than I do at the moment actually really excites me,’ he laughs. ‘Ultimately, I really want to help contribute to the category.’

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