Lockdown has hit many industries hard, but the hospitality sector has taken it particularly tight these last few years... We cannot wait to get back out (when safe to do so) to our local bars and restaurants to enjoy the amazing quality of drinks and food available in Glasgow these days.
We're enjoying the takeaway and off license options being provided but we still have a little bit to go to till we will be frequenting our favourite establishments again, so what can we do for now to up our game in the home drinking stakes??
Enter stage Compound Drinks.
Darragh Meehan is using social media for good, sharing and showing people how you can do some pretty basic stuff at home, that can really elevate what you're drinking, whilst we can't go to bars at the moment.
We couldn't wait to catch up with him to discuss how Compound Drinks came about, what he thinks the future of the industry will look like and try some of his creations :-)
Darragh, thanks so much for taking the time to meet us! Let's start at the beginning of the journey, how did you get started in the drinks game?
I started working for a Cote Brasserie when I was 16 years old in the South of England, it's a pretty good chain and one of the things they try to do is focus on quality of service whilst making it accessible at a price point view. It's a humbling industry... a hard graft, but I found my people there.
My journey in the industry continued throughout my schooling and studies where I eventually landed in Glasgow, working in 3 cornerstones of the cities scene - The Ubiquitous Chip, Lebowski's and Paesano which are pretty reflective of what Glasgow has to offer.
After University I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I just absolutely love food and drink, I am obsessed with it, my parents are into it and that's how I have ended up in the industry.
And how did Compound Drinks came to be?
Compound Drinks for me was just a thing during lockdown. I was making drinks on my Instagram and sharing them, and people said to me, why don't you put these together and collate them. And I thought, why don't I document it?
Lockdown will have affected people in different ways, for some they will have more expendable cash, as they are not out so much or travelling and so they might want to buy a nicer bottle of wine or a bottle of something to try. At the other end of the scale others might be struggling but have a drinks cupboard full of items they aren't quite sure what to do with. I'm using Compound Drinks to show how you can do some pretty basic stuff at home, that can really kind of elevate what you're drinking whilst we can't go to bars at the moment.
Is there anyone in particular who has influenced or inspired you along the way?
I've had a lot of incredible managers and people that I've worked with throughout the years who have influenced and inspired me from my first manager Russell White, who taught me the tricks of the trade, all the way through to the team that I'm working with at the moment, Aidan Marshall, who's heading up the drinks, and Chris Donnachie the general manager, who have unrivaled knowledge and experience.
The current chefs I work with Lorna McNee, who's the Head Chef and Colton Dinner, who's sous chef also influence me - having the chance to work with their palette is pretty amazing. You get them to try the drinks, and they are able to make suggestions or suggest techniques, because there is a synergy between cooking and drink making, a chemistry to some degree.
At a higher level I really like what Fergus Henderson has been pushing for a long time from St. John's in London. His philosophy is eating from nose to tail. If you're going to butcher a pig, you shouldn't just take the nice pork belly, how do you eat the trotters? The snout? How do you roast the head? And I think I've tried to bring that in to other areas, especially with drinks and say, how can we use as much as possible? If you're juicing a lemon, can you do something with the rind? If you're making a syrup for one drink, how can you use it in different ways? We should use everything because there's good in everything.
I also watched a lot of food and drinks shows growing up, and Anthony Bourdain, Parts Unknown is amazing! If you watch his approach to meeting people, and eating and drinking with them, there's a great energy and a lot of love. He just wants to learn and I think that's great, as food and drink is so important for shared experiences.
It's been a really difficult time for your industry, but we are always looking to find positives where we can. Do you think there will be any positive changes that come out of the back of the pandemic?
I think there are two main ones that I see. I think one will be short term, and one will be long term. I think that in the short term, one will be that people will be a bit more grateful for hospitality. People will be thankful for having a social space where they can meet with friends, whether that be fine dining or a treat in coffee shop. In the UK, we eat out and drink a lot, especially drink - I think it'll be a big thing to go watch the football, or have a night with the girls or whatever it is that you do and there'll be a period of time where people are really grateful for this.
The long term thing for me, personally, which I was a bit skeptical about before, is that I think a lot of some of the older institutions, restaurants, bars, cafes, they maybe didn't survive this. I think that having this long break, will have really have destroyed some businesses, because they'll have so much stock, they'll probably living paycheck to paycheck even, and they won't be able to reopen, which is a massive shame. On the flip side of that is that it gives a lot of opportunity for innovators, or new people doing what you're doing in a sense, which is like taking a different tact. There'll be space for that now. There are people that I know and from a wider network who are thinking or planning on starting up bars, restaurants, cafes. There will be a revival and that's an interesting thing to be a part of.
The reason we met is that you love your clothes! What is the one key piece that you think everyone should have?
I talked to my mum about this today, because my parents are my style icons. (We can confirm Darragh's parents are cool AF). I've always loved clothes and my parents have helped to facilitate that in me. I know that I should say a pair of jeans, I know that I should say a really good pair of Levi 501s, or if you can afford it Japanese Selvedge but if i'm being perfectly honest with you, the thing that I gravitate to is jackets. I love jackets. I've got so many jackets because I think that they can elevate an outfit and make whatever else you are wearing look suddenly cool. A simple outfit of jeans and T-shirt can be completely changed by a quality jacket.
We are delighted that you have kindly taken the time to create a drink for us all to enjoy alongside the arrival of Spring! Can you tell us some more about it please?
I devised this drink for you, Orzel, to reflect what people may be drinking in the Spring time during a pandemic. I picked a blend of Gin Liqueur (that you’ve probably bought your mother for mothers day but haven’t been able to deliver yet), and Amontillado Sherry (there’s probably still half a bottle left over from Christmas) in a spritz which is light and perfect from some March sun. The Sherry brings with it that Christmas spice rack of earthy, sweet flavours like cinnamon, cardamon and caramel but gets a slap round the knees from the bright fruit forwardness of a Gin liqueur looking at summer and licking its lips for a party. It's the perfect go between for the run up to Easter.
Lastly, as part of the series we are going to ask everyone the same three questions to start to build up a nice little list for people to check out. Please can you tell us what you are listening to, reading and watching at the minute please?
I’ve been listening to quite a bit of rap recently, MF Doom, Action Bronson and Loyle Carner have quite an eclectic catalog. I also play guitar and love a funky little riff so Tom Misch is always on my regular places.
I have a hectic mind and can never read just one book. I’m reading a fiction book called Where the Crawdad’s Sing by Delia Owens. Set in the American South, it's an interesting love story set within a heart wrenching tale of loss and isolation.
Apart from that I love non-fiction and am currently reading a lot of books about booze as you can imagine. The wine magazine
Noble Rot had a book called Noble Rot, Wines From Another Galaxy which is a fun dive into everything wine based and the culture that surrounds it. I am also reading Jim Meehans Bartending Guide which is an almost encyclopedic guide to all things bartending. There’s as much in the book for the casual as the professional.
I don’t watch a huge amount of TV but I’m enjoying Blood Lands on BBC which is a crime drama set in Northern Ireland. If I’m looking for something easy, I love It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia for some light relief. If I have a spare minute most of my TV or YouTube selections are about food and drink, how-to’s and listening to experts. It was a passion before it was a job.