The sun set on the British Empire many years ago. In its place, you might say that the bar scene in London is becoming a cocktail empire, dominating its customers not with the threat of death by canon fire but rather by the more diplomatic means of extending them delicious drinks. 

One of the vessels in the empire’s cocktail fleet is Powder Keg Diplomacy, a Victorian-era restaurant and bar in St. John's Hill that has a penchant for craft beers and spirits as well as experimentation. The bar manager, Martin Friday, took a moment to speak with the Craft Gin Club about mixology diplomacy.

1. What’s the closest thing to gunpowder you’ve ever put in a cocktail?

I’ve actually never played with gunpowder, but one of our former bartenders did. It was a bit precarious so he had to let it go. We do deal with a lot of smoke. We started mixing a light spirit with hops that we smoked into the cocktail. Burning hops actually smells like pot so we had to cut the experiment when the manager received a complaint.

2. What gunpowdery drinks are you making for Christmas? 

Powder Keg Diplomacy bar

We’ve put together something called “Wet the Biscuit” which is St. Lucia spiced rum with a smoky flavour that comes from a hazelnut liqueur. It’s one of the Winter Warmers we have on the menu to fight the winter cold.

3. What music do you like to listen to as you mix cocktails?

It really depends on the mood I’m in and that we want the bar to be in. I’ll go anywhere from easy-going reggae on Sunday mornings on to Frank Sinatra over to Johnny Cash and finishing with more contemporary music. As I said, depends on the mood.

4. What do you like to do in London when you’re not mixing drinks?

I love to explore new bars and recently opened places. Being a bar manager means that you have to see what’s going on in the bars around you too. You get great ideas by visiting other bars. When I’m not in a bar I’m off snowboarding in the Austrian or Swiss Alps.

5. Where’s the place in the world that you would most like to drink a cocktail that you haven’t been to yet?

There are two bars in New York City I can think of: Employees Only and Please Don’t Tell. PDT is especially attractive because it’s a real speakeasy. You have to walk into a diner and go to a phone booth in the back, call the right number on the phone and say the secret password. If you get the password right, the back wall of the phone booth opens and you get into the bar!

Bonus Question: With your Powder Keg heritage, have you ever blown anything up in the bar?

Fortunately not! Obviously mixing some of the ingredients we mix can be dangerous and I’m not very good in chemistry. But we try to keep it safe.