Henrik Baecklund, the new head bartender at La Serre Bistro Bar Dubai, reveals the secrets of the venue’s new cocktail menu
What experience do you bring to La Serre?
With a professional background in hospitality, I have worked in many bars and nightclubs around the world, gaining solid experience in high-end cocktail crafting. I therefore bring a strong background in cocktail development, with an emphasis on creating cocktails tailored to individual requirements. I like to add a friendly and welcoming vibe to a bar.
Why did you accept your new role?
Having spent time managing a number of large-scale events here in Dubai, I decided to go back into bar tending and focus on the fine art of cocktail making. At an establishment like La Serre, I am given the chance to use the finest raw materials, including freshly squeezed fruit juices, homemade sugar syrups, and top quality spirits. I work with a very knowledgeable team that helps me drive the cocktail bar forward.
How have you developed the new cocktail menu?
By picking up regional ideas and trends and combining these with my personal tastes. I love to experiment with flavour and texture and the menu sees the use of fresh herbs, berries, fruits, fresh fruit juice squeezed in-house and high quality ice blocks and hand-cut spheres. The bar features interesting and high quality spirits, including house spirit infusions such as blueberry vodka, which is a key component of one of our signature cocktails, The Parisian 769.
What are the latest trends in cocktails and ingredients?
I can see an emerging trend of working with scrubs (fruit or herbal), which is a way of macerating sugar, vinegar and fruit for a longer period to make a type of sugar infusion which is used as a sweet or savory ingredient in cocktails. Another trend is to infuse spirits in oak barrels with pre-batched cocktails to enhance the flavours and aromas, for example, with the Martinez, Negroni, and the Old fashioned. In addition to this, more and more bars are developing their own recipes for bitters and mixers, such as ginger beers and homemade tonic waters. There is also a strong emphasis on the type and shape of ice used in each cocktail, which can be either in block shapes or in spheres to give that extra-special presentation, while keeping the cocktails chilled to perfection.
Do you face any challenges when sourcing cocktail ingredients in Dubai?
There are no huge challenges when it comes to finding good raw materials here in the Middle East as most of them are available either for regular import, special import or can even be found locally. However, the spirits offering is much more limited in comparison to Europe. I think over time we will see an increase in the availability of speciality spirits and with this, a steady demand for the less commercialised spirits. If the ingredients are not available, it forces bars to develop their own bitters, syrups and mixers, which is healthy for the progression of the bar and drives the cocktail scene forward in Dubai.
What is your signature cocktail?
One of my favorites at the moment is the “Chocorange” which is a twist on the popular Old Fashioned. It’s made with a delicious variation of Diplomatic 12 years, Cointreau, Mozart dark chocolate liquor, homemade dark cherry syrup, chocolate bitters and orange bitters all stirred and served in a crystal glass on a hand-cut ice sphere. The last crucial thing is to grate some French premium Valrhona Chocolate on top of the drink with some orange oil from orange zest to create that finishing touch. It’s sublime!