Our LDNER defo knows what it takes to shake up a great cocktail as he’s won the Bombay Sapphire ‘World’s Most Imaginative Bartender’ Awards, he’s overseen the drinks at Sushisamba and is Head of Spirit and Cocktail Development at Duck & Waffle. Meet Rich Woods…
Where do you live in London and what do you like about the area?
I live in South London – Streatham. Over the years of being in London I have gradually moved further and further out, preferring space and peace and quiet over the proximity to town. It’s great though, as Brixton is a brief walk and Clapham, Balham and Tooting are also only a short distance. Not having a tube stop has meant Streatham hasn’t progressed at the speed of other South London areas, but this has meant house prices have been kept reasonable.
How did you get started in the drinks business?
It was an accident. I wanted to be an architect. A part time job pulling pints and mixing up the odd drink at the weekends saw me drawn to the hospitality sector. I loved meeting people and also being able to positively affect someone’s evening. The rest as they say, is history. I started a new career path in this field – working my way up, but my interest in making drinks didn’t really come to light until I started working in Soho.
What inspired you to create the new ‘Origins’ cocktail menu at Duck & Waffle?
‘Origins’ takes the ideas and cornerstones of our previous menu one step further. Not satisfied with using just leftover or wasteful produce, showcased in our previous ‘Urban Decay’ menu, I wanted to show the various levels and complexity of flavour that could be obtained from multiple elements of a single source. I think sometimes we get lost when creating, using all and everything and sometimes at great expense. I just wanted to show that it is possible to reign it all back in and still achieve great flavour and balance. The freedom to create is sometimes easier with the more produce and ingredients you use. Working with so little was a trick as the cornerstones of a cocktail still had to be appreciated.
Aside from Duck & Waffle, where are your favourite places to go for cocktails?
I’ve been back and forth to Amsterdam opening a new venue over the past month, so no doubt I’ve missed another fifty or so openings. That said, I absolutely loved the fairly new Coupette bar in East London. Their Champagne Colada is all over Instagram and rightly so. However go and try the Apples cocktail – in my opinion it’s one of the best cocktails around. Swift in Soho is another great bar; well balanced cocktails served with a side of class and hospitality.
Describe your perfect day in London.
I love that there are so many different places to explore in London and not any day is the same. The perfect day definitely involves a little food, and maybe some drinks in the early evening while catching up with friends. My latest favourite spot is Burnt Toast Cafe in Brixton for breakfast – I love that every table has its own little toaster, no more cold toast for me! Generally enjoying all our great city has.