Mixologist Interview: Theo Von Ungern-Sternberg

Franco Milazzo
By Franco Milazzo Last edited 85 months ago
Mixologist Interview: Theo Von Ungern-Sternberg

This summer, Rebel Dining Society have re-united with Pernod Absinthe for "Green Hour 2.0". The story goes like this: five courses prepared by the Rebel Dining chefs are paired with five cocktails prepared with Pernod Absinthe (the green liquid that, at one point, was banned by the US, France and even the easy-going Dutch) hopefully with a happy ever after or at least a bearable hangover. Which cocktails you get on the night changes - possibilities include the Green Beast, Death in the Afternoon and the Absinthe Opium Pipe - along with whomever has their hands on the cocktail shaker.

We caught up with one of Green Hour 2.0's expert mixologists, Theo Von Ungern-Sternberg. After some time as Bar Manager at Zuma, Theo is now the General Manager of new Hipsterville bar McQueen.

Tell us about your signature cocktails. Do you have any signature cocktail-making moves?
Our signature drinks at McQueen are based around a classical menu. We're trying to keep the drinks original, interesting and seasonal. I don’t really have any signature moves, I just try to keep abreast of new techniques and to add a little personal touch.

Mixology: what's the proportion of art to science?
I think they come at differing measures during the learning process. If we are talking molecular then obviously the science needs to be mastered first before you can go on and get creative. Then over time, you master the art. If we are talking mixology then the science is in experimenting with different products, finding your palate and getting creative from there.
They are also many different facets of mixology. The liquid and the mix itself, presentation, vessel choice, garnish each having varying degrees of science and art depending on what level you are at.
I think art is where the passion comes from, the desire to make great drinks and the science is where this is perfected.

Which bars around London do you hang out in when off duty?
Casita, Callooh Callay and the Nightjar are my most frequented bars at the moment. All offer a unique experience and I would strongly recommend them.

What are the latest trends in cocktails based on what your clientele are asking for?
Bartenders and mixologists are really making it interesting for London drinkers and setting the trend worldwide with their approach to researching and developing their drinks. The variety is huge at the moment and the trend towards prohibition style drinks has been taken a step further into the Victorian era being explored for its unique tastes and palate. The recreation of some lost and forgotten products and flavours is also lighting up the scene.

If you had to create a "London" cocktail, what would be the ingredients?
That is quite a broad and sweeping question and would require a lot of thought and research but due to the history London has with gin, it would more than likely be gin-based.

What are you conjuring up for Pernod Absinthe at The Rebel Dining Society this week?
I am coming up with a selection of five cocktails that I feel evoke the versatility of Pernod Absinthe. It can be enjoyed in any number of ways and I hope I demonstrate that. You’ll have to get a ticket if you want to find out exactly what’s on the menu though.

What advice would you pass onto an aspiring mixologist?
Don’t be put off by having to start at the bottom. This is a practice used in many bars and has been for a while to home grow their talent. If you are willing to put in the hard work, there are many great bars that are willing to put the effort into you. And enjoy yourself while you’re doing it.

Links

Our review of the original Green Hour in 2010.

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Last Updated 24 June 2011