Matthias Ingelmann on KOL’s progressive cocktail programme

pub & bar

By Joe Lutrario contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo credit: Eleonora Boscarelli
Photo credit: Eleonora Boscarelli

Related tags: Kol, Matthias Ingelmann, Santiago Lastra, Mexican cuisine, Cocktails, London

The Marylebone Mexican restaurant took home the Cocktail List of the year award at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards last month.

As one would expect, high-end London Mexican restaurant KOL mixes a mean margarita. What might be less expected is that it does not contain one of the classic cocktail’s key ingredients - lime. Yes, chef-patron Santiago Lastra’s policy of only importing a handful of ingredients - including corn, dried chillies and chocolate - applies to the bar too.

Having no access to many of the things other bartenders take for granted is quite a task, but one its team have more than mastered with the Marylebone restaurant recently picking up a gong for Cocktail List of the Year at the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards. 

Launched in 2020, the venue has two separate cocktail offers. For the upstairs restaurant, Ingelmann has created a tight selection of cocktails that are designed to match the flavours of Lastra’s food (many are riffs on classics to keep things straightforward and accessible).

As the name suggests, the subterranean KOL Mezcaleria offers a huge list of agave-based spirits as well as Mexican-made rums, gins, and whiskies. The menu is concise down here too, with a handful of drinks available that showcase different flavour profiles. Unusually, each one is available as a non-alcoholic option and the bar team will craft anything a customer wants, too.

We caught up with bar manager Matthias Ingelmann, who recently took over from fellow German Maxim Schulte. 

KOL-bar

Tell us about your background prior to joining KOL
I am originally from Germany. I worked in several well-known bars in Europe, including Untitled (part of Drink Factory) and Les Grand Verres in Paris. I’ve been with the KOL team since the opening in 2020. 

What changes have you made to KOL’s cocktail offering since you’ve taken over from Maxim Schulte?
At KOL Mezcaleria, we’ve always kept our cocktail offering focused on delivering Mexican flavours with British ingredients, changing the menu and key flavour combinations seasonally. We also want to put a big focus on small batch mezcal and other agave-based spirit producers as well as taking some things in-house. Recently, we’ve developed a Sloe and Nettle Negroni in the Mezcaleria based on a Sloe Mezcal we make in house and a Corn and Chamomile Old Fashioned for KOL upstairs based on a rich Mezcal made with an agave variety called tobala. 

What else are you working on at the moment? 
We’ve also developed a Quince and Chilli Raspado based on agave salmiana, which is served over shaved ice. The word raspado roughly translates to ‘scraping’ and we have our own kakigori machine at the Mezcaleria that we shave the ice with. For KOL, we’re also working and improving our non-alcoholic offering as well as our upstairs cocktails including our KOL House Margarita as well as our mezcal pairing for Santiago's tasting menu. We’ve also developed a Fig Leaf and Gooseberry Gimlet as well as a Strawberry and Scotch Bonnet Old Fashioned.  

KOL-Paloma

Tell us about KOL’s ingredients policy
KOL is focused on British ingredients - we only import corn, chills and chocolate. This policy extends to the bar so it is a challenge but it pushes you to think outside of the box and question established rules to come up with new techniques and solutions. For example, with no imported citrus like lemons and limes, we needed to find a substitute. We landed on verjus (unfermented grape juice) to give the acidity we need. I’ve really enjoyed the creative challenge.  

You’ve presumably inherited a well-stocked back bar – is there anything in particular that’s exciting you at the moment? 
I’m especially excited by all the Mexican products that are not agave based. We recently were able to get our hands on some Mexican eau de vies which are really promising. At the same time, we are working on some super-exciting collaborations on the agave front. Some great things are going to be released very soon. 

The Cocktail List of the Year award is sponsored by Tito's Vodka.

Related topics: Pub & Bar, Business Profile

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