How Virgin Hotels Glasgow created the perfect cocktail menu
From picking the comfiest beds to pitch-perfect décor, the Virgin Hotels team knows all about crafting the ultimate experience – and that includes food and drink. Many of the Virgin Hotels properties around the world have a Commons Club restaurant and cocktail bar with curated menus reflecting the host city and local ingredients, from Edinburgh’s Breakfast in the Highlands to Dallas’ Green Hornet with spicy tequila.
Virgin Red spoke to Bar Manager George Collinge who oversaw the creation of the Commons Club and Highyard menus. Here’s what he had to say...
“I approached the menu for both venues with an aim to use only fresh, homemade ingredients in everything from the garnishes and syrups to infusing our own spirits. I wanted to grasp the culture of Glasgow and shake it up a bit, incorporating the sweet palate we have here and adding bitter and sour flavours,” George told Virgin Red.
“I was told I could have fun with the menus and I had a great time coming up with the tongue-in-cheek cocktail names that nod to our vibrant culture. I even had the chance to get involved with the design and say how I wanted the bars to be while the final touches were being added – very Virgin and quite stunning.”
While Executive Chef Jean-Paul Giroud has extensive experience as a chef in hotels and restaurants as well as the private sector, the team across food and drink worked together following the same ethos. “Whatever I do I try to keep ahead of the curve, and that means always aiming to produce the finest food and drink with the freshest ingredients – following trends while trying to make new ones ourselves,” George explained.
While Scotland is famous for its whisky, George was keen to push the envelope and not restrict the menus in any way. “Some people don’t like to mess with tradition, but I say why not? Let’s have fun with what makes Scotland, Scotland – drinks and dishes related to the best of the country,” he said.
One way they did this was to split the cocktail menus into two sections ensuring there is enough variety for everyone when visiting Virgin Hotels Glasgow. “The classics nod to our traditional side where someone can come in from the cold, Glasgow rain and have an old fashioned or hot toddy,” he explains. “But if you want a taste of the unknown, then our contemporary section of crafted cocktails is for you.”
Highlights of the contemporary menu include Grow a Pear, which mixes pear and ginger with Lillet Blanc, and Disco Pisco, a fruity tall drink with a lingering taste of sweet apricot liqueur, with the latter proving particularly popular. "Disco Pisco has stood out to me as I thought people would be put off by the pisco and yuzu sake, but once they taste it there’s no turning back,” he says.
“For a party I'd offer some of our fun vibrant cocktails we have in Highyard as that’s what they were designed for – the Rhu Paul cocktail, for example, is perfect for sipping at a bash. For a nightcap I’d offer one of our dessert-themed cocktails like 'Charlie’s Poison', a banana coffee old fashioned-style cocktail or the Dark Side, a boozy, cherry chocolate gateaux slow sipper.”
With so many tastes and flavours George has trouble picking a favourite. “It changes from time to time, but my heart is set on the Tonka X in Commons Club; a perfectly balanced whisky cocktail with a sweet, nutty finish from the Lucky Liqueur Tonka Bean,” he says. “In Highyard it’s got to be the ‘Feisty Senorita’ as the combination of the smoke from the Pensador Mezcal and spice from the bird’s eye chillies coupled with a grapefruit liqueur is delicious.”
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