Trading stories: Creating cocktail magic in Cask

Linked to Hotel Isaacs and Greene's Restaurant, Isaacs general manager Arthur Little tells us what makes the bar stand out from the rest.
Trading stories: Creating cocktail magic in Cask
At Cask bar Cork were Bryan McCarthy, Head Chef at Cask; Richard Evans, Proprietor at Hotel Isaacs; Arthur Little, General Manager Isaacs and Andy Ferreira, Manager of Cask. Picture. John Allen

How did the bar come to be?

While we were carrying out investments around the hotel, we upgraded our courtyard and created this winebar/cocktail concept, which became Cask.

It opens out into the courtyard, creating a real continental vibe. 

It's a uniquely Irish, Cork bar, but it has a real acknowledgement of the vibe of an international space as well. 

Andy Ferreira is the bar manager in Cask, and he has many years of experience running award-winning cocktail bars behind him. 

What sets the bar apart?

The key thing that makes Cask different is every quarter our team puts together a completely new cocktail menu. Those drinks are influenced by the seasons. To create a flavour based on what's happening is particularly challenging. In Autumn, for example, you have all the different fruits. 

We opened in 2017, so we have two full years behind us. There have been eight menus and their working on their ninth menu. 

Always, there is a real Cork signature behind them. There is always a bit of a reference, and a bit of a challenge to the customer too. Are they really willing to order a "Donkey's Bollocks"? 

Cask has its own separate identity from the hotel and restaurant. It knows what it's trying to do. 

Cask Bar interior shots
Cask Bar interior shots

Tell us about your staff?

They don't just want to work in a hotel cocktail bar, they want to work in a cracking, cocktail bar that's always driving the standards and rising to the next stage. 

There's a lot of cost involved in creating the menu. Cask is an expensive bar to run. If you were looking to make a quick buck and run a bar, it's not the model I would look at. But the result is, we really look after our guys. We send them off to master classes. We do bar takeovers. Last year we had four here, and our guys went over to New York to do two takeovers too. 

What is a bar takeover?

Usually what happens is a team arrives over from one of the 100 best cocktail bars in the world. There's a listing and I suppose our ambition in time is to be sufficiently good to be at that level. Our guys are definitely on that journey. 

Senior mixologists from that bar would come over and bring some of their signature skills or cocktails over, we'd make a specific menu for that evening, and coach our team on how to make those cocktails. Then it's opened up to the industry and the public locally. We do a lot of social media with it too. It's like a guest chef coming in. 

How did you get a bar takeover in New York?

One of our guys won an invitation to go to New York to one of the Dead Rabbit bars there. One of our colleagues decided to travel over too, and a previous employee living in San Fransisco joined too. So they had a mad idea of doing a takeover in Cork. It's a crazy idea that this little cocktail bar in Ireland's second city that most New Yorker's have probably never heard of. 

But we said let's get four of our team over and do a takeover. Classic Cork attitude, let's pick up the phone, what's the worst they can say? No. We did win Irish Cocktail Bar of the Year last year, so we don't need to apologise to anybody. So two bars stepped up and they did the takeover over two different nights, and it was a great success. 

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