Julie Carolan recently caught up with Chris Dennis to find out more about Sovereign Loss, the cocktail bar above the Prince of Wales.
Tell us about how Sovereign Loss started:
My business partner and I worked together at a previous bar, and we knew for a while we’d be keen to branch out on our own. We came up with an idea for a bar and went for it when we heard about an available space within the Prince of Wales.
The [Prince of Wales] building was finished in 1936 and so we used this as the theme for the bar’s interior design. Many of the original features are still visible, and rather than removing them, we’ve revamped many of the furnishings to give the whole bar a 1930s glamorous English feel.
What are your signature drinks?
Classic cocktails and drinks / cocktails that were popular in the 1930s, such as fruit spirits, Cognacs and Armagnacs. The latter are out of favour now, but it’s such a wonderful category, there’s so much going on, and when you talk to the French about Cognac, it’s as if it’s a living creature!
We also have a strong identity with classic vermouths, we have 15-20 here at the bar – one to suit almost every palate. It has been a classic for decades for very good reasons and it’s great to see customers rediscovering the spirit. From a bartenders’ perspective it’s such a great ingredient because it’s so versatile – but it works equally well simply over ice with soda water.
What are your favourite ingredients?
Pomegranate, homemade grenadine, poppy liqueur, Cremant sparkling wine from France – the list is endless…
How do you like a G&T?
Lots of ice, Whitley Neil gin for its tasty citrus flavours, slice of orange, big glass and Schweppes tonic water.
Where do you stand on The Great Debate – gin or vodka martini?
I like a martini very wet. Lots of vermouth (Dolin Dry) and Whitley Neil gin; however, my favourite cocktail is The Last Word which is equal parts gin, lime and maraschino cherry.
What’s the strangest thing a customer has ever asked for?
When I worked in Camden I used to get asked all sorts of bizarre questions. I remember one evening a customer was asking for directions to an animal sanctuary because he wanted to get a cat at goodness knows what time of night it was. I just poured him a whisky.
Any top tips around upcoming trends?
The rise of the unknown categories is really exciting – customers in London are now drinking mescal, pisco, American gins and many Londoners are keen to learn more by trying unique products – and a good bartender is always able to help. I even recently received a bottle of a Cornish pastis – a spirit traditionally made in France. I never thought I’d see the day where this kind of spirit would be distilled in the UK – it’s such an exciting time to be working in the drinks industry here in the UK.
Where do you like to eat and drink in Brixton?
The Shrub and Shutter is a fantastic bar. Seven is seriously fun. There are some great Mexican places. I love Wings and Tings. Pop Brixton also has some cool things going on. It’s a privilege to have so many wonderful, unique places nearby and to be working in the vicinity of so many passionate entrepreneurs.
Is there a cocktail recipe our readers could try at home?
Well, like everyone, I’m praying for an Indian summer, and, if it arrives, a Tom Collins is the perfect way to enjoy the sunshine. And a great way for bartenders to be able to beat the heat without getting drunk.
- 50mls of good gin, such as Beefeater
- 25mls lemon juice
- 25mls sugar water (just sugar dissolved in water)
- Schweppes soda water
Combine all the ingredients in a highball or pint glass – or jug – and add lemon wheels if you’re feeling fancy. Drink.