With summer here and the temperatures rising there’s no better way to stay cool and celebrate the lifting of lockdown restrictions than with a delicious cocktail. We speak with renowned mixologist Sly Augustin and owner of the award winning Trailer Happiness bar in West London – who gives us his take on the importance of ice in cocktails, which is the on-trend spirit this summer and his recipe for a delicious Portobello Rum Punch.
In the nine years that Sly has owned the community-spirited bar, he has trail blazed a rum-heavy menu with tiki and mid-century influences, crediting his strong sense of pride in hospitality as a key force behind Trailer Happiness’ success in the global bar scene. Under Sly’s stewardship Trailer Happiness has pioneered the resurgence of tiki bars and has created a global reputation for hospitality and excellent customer service, as well as an award-winning menu. Well established amongst the international trade, Trailer Happiness recently gained industry recognition with Imbibe’s ‘Rum List Of The Year’ and Tales of the Cocktail ‘Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar’ awards.
- Tell us about your bar?
Trailer Happiness is a Tropical Mid-Century lounge with a strong 60/70s retro vibe. We specialise in Rum and Tropical Tiki style cocktails. The bar was founded in 2003 and really pioneered a style of service that had disappeared in the previous decades. Fun with a serious twist, we like our customers to feel like they just walked into the best house party. I took over in 2012 and have been lucky enough to see it grow and evolve into an even more impressive institution.
- In your opinion what is the upcoming spirit being used in drinks this summer?
It’s no surprise to hear me say that rum is definitely the upcoming sprit that everyone should be using in summer cocktails. It’s one of the few spirits that’s covers virtually all spirit profiles from rich and smokey to vegetal and citrus, you can find the perfect rum for every drink and if you really want to take things to the next level, you can even blend rums yourself. This adds an incredible range of flavour to a drink. Rum represents great value, and the quality to price ratio is unmatched.
- What is your favourite cocktail to make and why?
For the summer my favourite drinks usually involve crushed ice. I’ll probably go with a Portobello Rum Punch because it’s such a great summer drink that is fun but complex.
Portobello Rum Punch
25ml Don Q Gold Rum
25ml Blue Wray & Nephew Over-proof Rum (Add Blue food colouring)
25ml Sugar Syrup 1:1
25ml Lime juice
3 Dashes of Angostura bitters
Shake and serve over crushed ice.
- How do you go about purchasing spirits for your bar?
We will try all spirits we’re not familiar with, often brands reps will visit us with them so we don’t have to go out looking. If we like them, we will get them from our supplier. If our supplier doesn’t have them, we will badger them until they do.
- How important is ice when making a cocktail/ drink?
Ice is incredibly important when you are trying to make consistently good drinks. One of the most important elements in a drink is the dilution and the temperature, without good ice you can lose control of both these elements. Then, if your cocktail is served over ice, you don’t want that ice to disintegrate in seconds and ruin the drink.
- Would you recommend Hoshizaki ice makers to other operators?
I own two ice machines (crushed and cubed) and both are Hoshizaki. My Crushed ice machine has been going strong since before I bought the bar in 2012. I thought about trying a competitor cubed ice machine to save money but soon realised that sometimes cheaper is false economy. Ultimately, you lose out in the long run when you settle for an inferior product.
- How do you ensure ice hygiene at your bar/restaurant/hotel?
It’s incredibly important to clean your ice machine regularly in-house but also to have it regularly serviced by a professional. Ensuring that every stage of the process is clear of obstruction and contamination will give you great ice and save you money. I just wish some of the other bars on our street would stop coming round to borrow ice 😊
- In your opinion, how can bartenders enhance the experience of customers returning after the lockdowns?
Most customers don’t have good ice at home so a recipe they found on the internet just isn’t going to taste quite right. Our bartenders are great at communicating with guests to find the right drink for each individual. Not having to think too much is often the best feeling for customers coming back from months and months of stress and isolation.
Our thoughts are with Sly and the Trailer Happiness team as their premises were one of the many that were devastated by the flash flooding which has affected parts of London. We will be supporting Sly on rebuilding his amazing business and we will share details of when Trailer Happiness is ready to reopen and bring more joy to its patrons.