Chris Moore pouring the Board Room cocktail at Coupette (image: Facundo Bustamante)
No one knows a bar better than the people behind it. For “My Bar in 3 Drinks,” the people running the best bars around make and discuss three of their bar’s most representative cocktails.
London is a city of many faces. In the wake of Brexit, in a town where the inequality feels more pronounced with each passing year, local identity can be a loaded gun. In other words, it’s not the easiest place to open a new bar.
Launched last spring, Chris Moore’s Coupette has made a splash in Bethnal Green, a diverse working-class East London neighborhood. “At the end of the day, Bethnal Green is a neighborhood still,” says Moore. “For a bar to be part of your neighborhood, you have to feel comfortable and relaxed there, not dictated to. That’s very much what we’re trying to achieve.”
Once through its sturdy blue door, the space takes on a sincere but sensual feeling, with brick walls lined with modern art prints and a bar designed around a mosaic of old coins. This unshowy aesthetic is typical of the French culinary style that inspires the former Savoy bartender. For Moore, France’s drinking heritage is also a treasure chest of tastes and ideas waiting to be unpacked.
His cocktail menu abounds with Gallic flavors, from truffle to rose and vanilla. Even French absinthe sneaks into the mix in the Cocoa Collins cocktail. Much like the bar itself, the drinks at Coupette strike a balance—thoughtful without being intimidatingly clever, sophisticated without being elitist.
“Our two guiding philosophies are simplicity and discovery,” says Moore. “When you get one of our drinks, we want it first and foremost to be a really nice drink. If you want to know more about it, you can, but we don’t want to impose on our customers.”
(image: Facundo Bustamante)
Calvados of the month, apple of the month, cold-pressed and carbonated
“This is what I would choose to drink if I were a customer,” says Moore. “It’s just so simple: sparkling, homemade apple juice, essentially. But to get such complexity and intrigue from two ingredients is what I find really interesting. Bartenders do use calvados but often as a generic product. Actually, it’s a whole category, and there are hundreds of different producers and styles. I don’t know any other product that focuses on the raw ingredient as much. All that producers talk about is preserving the flavor of the apple itself. About 220 different types of apple can go into calvados. We want to celebrate that.”
From the nostalgic milkshake glass to the fresh velvety-smooth sweetness of the mix, the Champagne Piña Colada is an instant feel-good treat. The Champagne twist also sums up Moore’s push for unpretentious discovery.
“I love it when you make a cocktail and think, Why has nobody done this before?” says Moore. “In that moment of discovery, it seems so obvious. With this Piña Colada, I was struck by the familiarity of it. It’s like comfort food; we all want to eat it.”
“I’ve always written menus that move from crisp and fresh to dark and rich. The Board Room was designed to be the last drink on the menu. It got me thinking of after-dinner digestifs, particularly those that would be traditionally consumed by the British aristocracy—things like port, cognac, claret, Madeira, etc., something you drink while sitting and smoking a cigar. This conjured an image of “retiring to the study” and really brought around the final image of the drink, one with red leather wingback chairs, walnut paneling and antique globes.
“The cocktail itself uses cognac and Dubonnet as a base, both French products. There’s an element of decadence to French culture, and this drink really encapsulates that. The French eat and drink for pure pleasure. The smoke element is delivered through the glass; rather than smoking any element of the drink, the glasses are smoked in a box, so we get a subtle, aromatic waft rather than the big hit you get from smoking a liquid.”