In this instalment of his drinks column, Great Irish Drinks, Oisin Davis meets Adam Walsh, General Manager of Peruke & Periwig, on Dublin's Dawson Street.
The Halloween decorations are down and the fairy lights are up. What most people call "Christmas" is nearly upon us, but for thousands of bartenders around Ireland, it's the "silly season". Excessive drinking, highly questionable festive fashion statements and general pandemonium will soon be the order of the day in the nation's bars and restaurants. So in an attempt to shine a little light on the humble barkeepers of Ireland before the madness starts, I have decided to dedicate my next two columns to a drop of good old fashioned Q&A with some of my favourite Irish bartenders, starting with Dawson Street's finest, Adam Walsh of Peruke & Periwig.
Meet the shakers, folks, and when you see them out and about over Chrimbo, show them some love!
What's your position at Peruke & Periwig and how would you describe the bar?
General Manager ( but Captain also works). Peruke is a strange bar, from staff to layout, which is what makes it so special. Whether it's having the kp (kitchen porter) area in the basement and the kitchen on the 3rd floor, to all of the folk I work with, each and everyone has oodles of personality, and I know that's one of the main reasons our guests love our place so much. We believe (or at least we like to think we believe) that cocktails don't need to be taken too seriously. We let our hair down, make fantastic craft cocktails, and keep people happy. This last point extends to all our guys/girls, I can guarantee, no one doesn't enjoy coming to work.
When did you start there and how do you find working at Peruke & Periwig in comparison to previous bars?
I started here three years ago. Aaron Hayden, a friend of mine who was running the place at the time, asked me to come in over the Christmas period while I was in between jobs. That was 9 November 2016. Yes, those seven weeks have turned into three years which has been the timeline for a bet we made. I wasn't allowed to cut my hair until I quit or took his job. I still have yet to cut it, three years later. I think that sentence in itself tells more about our bar's culture than anything else. That's the relationship we have with each other and I think it's that attitude that has helped us stand out from other bars. There's so many other great things about the place, even down to our guests. Some of our regulars have surpassed the point of even remotely being customers, for example, one gent in particular hosts a BBQ every summer for all the bar staff of the bars he frequents in his music studio. It takes a lot to get to that level with a neighbour let alone a guest!
What are your biggest sellers with the cocktails?
We have over 40 signature cocktails on our menu, we don't update it seasonally as we do concept menus so they do take a bit of time to put together. Depending on the time of year, certain styles of drinks will flourish more than others. All of our cocktails are puns on famous song titles, so this also has an impact, The Back In Black or Sage Against The Machine are always good go-tos.
Do you enjoy working with Irish spirits and if so why?
Of course, I love working with Irish spirits! There's a couple of really cool things over the last few years that I think have helped give us a global standing in spirits again. There is so much creativity in the market, even at distillation level, it's quite an exciting time for Irish spirits. Whatever about the whiskey and gin, people are producing Irish rum, apple brandy - even mead has started resurfacing. I'm certain if someone 20 years ago asked for investment for any of these they would be met with a blank stare and a recommendation to go see a doctor.
When you look at the Irish gin and whiskey markets, you can't be anything but in awe how they have really pulled their socks up. We have some Irish gins that are competing on a global scale comfortably in quality and the whiskey, well, it's been promising so far, I imagine it'll only get better in 5-10 years when we have an influx of all the expansions and new distilleries that have been opening that past few years. Something that I think is most interesting and exciting, at least for me, is that there are finally some big distillery names playing with double distillation and peat. Personally, that's what's keeping me on the edge of my seat.
What are your favourite cocktails for each of the seasons?
Spring: Sage Against the Machine, a lovely high-ball of Glendalough Gin with our rhubarb cordial, a splash of Dry Vermouth and some sage & soda water really makes this perfect for spring.
Summer: The Back in Black - see recipe below.
Autumn: Sazerac - a classic cocktail and the official cocktail of New Orleans, I think it's a perfect way to embrace the end of Irish summer, when you're on the fence about if it's too early to light the fire or not on a Sunday at home.
Winter: Blue Blazer - Traditionally made with scotch but sub in your favourite Irish whiskey and definitely ask a bartender to make it. I highly don't recommend making this at home.
What was the craziest shift you ever worked in your life?
As I'm sure you might have gathered Peruke is a rather quirky place, So one of the most dreaded things in any bar is burning a well. That's essentially when a glass smashes into your ice well. You have to dump the ice, clean the well of glass, rinse it down and fill back up with ice which on a busy Saturday night, isn't ideal at the best of times. I think myself and John still hold the record of burning a well seven times between us in the ground floor bar on a Saturday night. You might be putting two and two together as to why we serve the Back In Black in a tin.
The craziest shift that I've ever witnessed here happened to a colleague Oisin. So Oisin found a helium balloon one night after work, and couldn't resist the temptation of bursting it. Unbeknownst to us, it was being kept for a 30th birthday party the following day. Searching high and wide, he found another similar balloon. One condition: he must admit to the birthday girl what he had done to her innocent balloon and serenade her with a birthday song, with the benefits of helium. Peruke's upper lounges are rather intimate and so every guest having dinner was in full witness of this and joined in. He sang Can't Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams. And yes, we still have the video.
What are your essentials for getting through a long shift?
I can't give enough credit to shoes for this. Think substance over style. For silly season, I recommend that every bartender invests in Trek runners with ankle supports that I would normally use for hiking. They aren't cheap but neither is fixing your feet after a 12 hour plus shift for the guts of a month and a half.
What are your essentials for decompressing and chilling out after work?
Our tradition is pizza on Saturdays after we Brasso the bar counter and always a tin of Orchard Thieves. For some reason we can't figure out, it tastes 20 times better from a tin: less sickly sweet, and about the amount of a half-pint.
What bartenders/brands and drinks writers are you into at the moment?
This is interesting and it changes so much as every year there is another explosion of content in every different aspect of our trade. Lately, some cool reading material I've come across is a book by Charles Spence called Gastrophysics. Charles is the scientist who gave Heston Blumenthal his first lab in Bray across from the famous Fat Duck. The book is pretty raw into their early days together, and things they noticed along the way as well as some ridiculous failed experiments. Dave Arnold, owner of Existing Conditions & author of Liquid Intelligence; has always been my go-to for inspiration. Dave was an engineer originally, then focused on hospitality. His techniques are generally ahead of most people's thoughts, he's redesigned both bar and kitchen equipment for commercial sale and made them affordable. I really can't give that guy enough credit.
One to try: Back in Black
35ml Teeling Single Pot Still
25ml Lemon Juice
15ml P&P's Cinnamon & Date Syrup
We shake and dump it into a julep tin with mint and garnish it with mint sprigs and a lemon wedge.
It always surprises those who have it for the first time as its so refreshing but packed with spice.
Peruke & Periwig, No31 Dawson Street, Dublin 2
Author: Oisin Davis
Oisin Davis works on a global level as an Irish drinks evangelist and producer. He is the founder of nationwide drinks festivals that celebrate Irish spirits in the best bars and restaurant in the 32 counties and to top it off he is co-owner of Poacher's Premium Beverages, Ireland's only all-natural mixer company. F&W is delighted that Oisin has joined our contributing team with his column "Great Irish Drinks."