On October 18th, I hung out at the bar of Raging Bull Chophouse waiting for Marian Beke to arrive. I’d heard a lot about him and his awards and his mixing skills. Mr. Beke is known for his innovations with cocktails, and I remember dropping by his bar in Old Street and opting out because of the obscene queue out front. I’d be the first to tell you that I am easily impressed by a good drink, and while I’ve had some pretty imaginative drinks in my day, I also know that most cocktails follow a standard 2:1:1 ratio (that is, 2 parts spirit to 1 part sweet to 1 part sour). Like a weary, over-exposed post-graduate student, I got myself settled with a menu in hand, thinking that if the sketches were any indication, this night would be one of the most laid back of my week.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Marian Beke is a beast.
He sprang into action as soon as the first order was called. From that point on, the man was an almost constant flurry of movement, throwing bottles and finishing his drinks with what could only be possibly be thought to be a flourish of unicorn dust, and I guess when you move at that speed it’s absolutely important that your workstation be almost obsessively kept.
More than that though, there was the matter of the actual drinks. The pictures were pretty and the contents of his workstation promised an interesting time, but I found myself cautiously optimistic until I realized his drinks stayed pretty close to how they were depicted.
There was absolutely nothing about Marian Beke that’s formulaic, and absolutely nothing about his work that is typical. He had been working in the industry for more than a decade and over the last year and a half built his reputation with the Gibson. The drinks on the menu were only among the tens being served in his London bar, all of which were built around the most unexpected stimuli: an unusual ingredient, a broken vessel, a, “What if?” between him and his friends. The man built magic with his hands.
As the night wore on and the crowd came and left and new people came in, I realized there was a soothing rhythm to his work. The quiet buzz of the ticket machine underwrote the rhythm of his one-man production, and he made easy, amiable conversation with anyone who wanted to know more about him. There was so much I asked, and so much more I wanted to ask, but it was pretty clear that these drinks, this presentation, were a good representation of how he sees his medium and his creative process.
Thanks to Marian Beke for sitting through all my questions.
* Photo credit to Eush Tayco for taking some steady photos when my hands were beginning to fail me.