Meet Your Mixologist: Tony Conigliaro of 69 Colebrooke Row

By Karen Loftus

Tony Conigliaro has long been sipping on the cutting edge of cocktails. London’s trailblazing tippler puts a mad mix of creativity in to every project and pour, fusing his art, history and fashion background together with his love of perfumers, scientists, chefs and alchemists to name but a few of his many muses.

After leaving his liquid legacy on many a bar from Isolo to Shochu Lounge in London and countless international cocktail fests and events, the wildly inspired spirits scientist opened his own bar, 69 Colebrooke Row, in London.

Far from your average joint, his Vintage El Presidente cocktail is made with Havana Club Barrel Proof, Martini Rosso, Merlet Triple Sec, Homemade grenadine and barrel aged for six months. His Honey Suckle cocktail is made with pollen liqueur (Transylvanian pollen, honey, honeysuckle) and topped with champagne. The Prairie Oyster is a true culinary cocktail with clarified tomato juice, reformulated to resemble an egg yolk, horseradish vodka, Oloroso sherry, Worcester sauce, pepper sauce, shallots, red wine vinegar and an oyster leaf.

We checked in with Tony C as he is known, the guy that kicked off the barrel aged craze, to see just what’s next on the spirit scene.

I love your sensorial approach to creating cocktails, which is often affiliated with molecular mixology. Why is it that you don’t want to be affiliated with that term?
Tony Conigliaro: It’s a term that has limiting implications. We work with a far wider inter-disciplinary outlook as we take on projects with designers, perfumers, chocolatiers, and architects to name but a few. To use that term implies we look at things purely through the lens of science, which is simply not always the case.

The minute you start defining things as this style or that style they become dead museum pieces. We are far more creatively dynamic than that. We are always moving, discovering beyond what we have already done and what is already out there by not following trends or styles – unless we are subverting them!

What is your greatest cocktail creation?
The Prairie Oyster is one of my all-time favorites. It was when the worlds of science, bartending and culinary skill collided for a moment. It’s a concept drink on many levels, from the drinking utensil itself, how it is consumed, the flavor pairings and how they travel through the mouth, to the subversion of an old drink, which turns any preconceptions on their head.

What do you think is next on cutting edge of cocktails?
Terrior! We have been distilling flintstone, clay chalk, etc. for a long time now and we are about to release our work on this. Terrior for cocktails!

Aromatics play a huge role in the culinary world, yet are rarely thought of it when it comes to cocktails. How does it affect the creation of cocktails and the experience?
It can completely transform the experience of the cocktail, giving it a whole new dimension. The more you look at the different senses and how they affect the experience, the better the experience will become. I have always been interested in smell and aroma. I used to put aroma in paints when I painted at art school.

A drink like The Rose was an important part of the development of how aroma in a drink could work. It is a food grade perfume that intertwines with the champagne in our version of the champagne cocktail.

Your sensorial approach is all-encompassing as was the case in creating 69 Colebrooke Row and Zetter Townhouse, your collaboration with Mark Sainsbury. What was the inspiration behind the two properties?
We always look at cocktails as dioramas. This just spilled over into the way we approach the bars. With 69 it was the Italian 1950’s film noir. Everything has a link to that. With the Zetter Town house we created a fictional character then built everything around that, from look, to drinks, to uniforms.

If you aren’t drinking at your bar, where are you most likely to be tippling?
My local pub! A nice pint of ale!

Who and what are some of your favorite bars, mixologists and chefs in the UK and abroad?
I tend to follow bar’s tenders rather than bars. I love the beautiful simplicity of what Cas Oh and Tiziano (Tasso) do at the Ivy Club in London. What Dave Arnold does at Booker & Dax is thoughtful, clever and fun. I love to eat at Bistro Bruno Loubet as he is a friend. Also his dishes are so sensitive to the nuances of flavor.

Who has impacted or influenced your approach to the bar?
Bruno (Loubet) as he taught me a hell of a lot when I was working with him 12 years ago. He showed me the ways of the kitchen. I then interpreted them for the bar. That has always stayed with me.

What are you drinking now?
Perrier with stuff in it!

69 Colebrooke Row, London N1 8AA

If you’re looking to tap in to Tony C’s creativity, dip in to his liquid lab, The Drink Factory, on the east side of London and in the same room where Pink Floyd recorded The Wall. It is pitch perfect if seeking your masters in mixology, a creative cocktail course (bourbon, whiskey, champagne, tequila and mezcal cocktail classes) or simply a few liquid skills to spill on unsuspecting guests. 

  • B Conigliaro

    Excellent, well done