CLASS editor Hamish Smith introduces the Autumn 2023 magazine
If you’re not familiar with our Autumn magazine cover stars – Matt Arnold, Eve Green and Tommy Mathews – you’ve really not been paying attention. They’re the owner-operators of Birmingham’s Passing Fancies, which to my mind, and a great few others (it was voted New Bar of the Year at the Class Bar Awards), is one of the most exciting venues in the country. Ah, I travel a bit – let’s say world.
Modern bars can sometimes fall short on fun, but Passing Fancies has personality in bundles. There’s a spontaneity about the place, with service feeling natural, not choreographed. Although there are rotovaps and centrifuges churning away to make them, the cocktails aren’t overwrought experiments, nor do they come laden with cringy back stories. To borrow a little from the Tommy Matthews phrase book, “the bevies are bangers”.
I interview the trio about them – and their own explosive arrival. Hospitality isn’t a game of perfection, of course, but Satan’s Whiskers’ Kevin Armstrong has made a career out of getting as close to mastering the bar experience as most. There are basic rules, he says in his debut Class column, but you have to know when to break them. Acoustics are so important too – the not-so-silent killer of any bar atmosphere – and on this Hannah Lanfear comes with advice you need to hear.
But of course, new thinking on drinking is what we major on in this autumn edition of Class. Monica Berg returns with a guide to infusions, Anistatia Miller & Jared Brown are experimenting with shiso and lemongrass and Tyler Zielinksi reports on the latest ingredient trend – it’s tomato’s time, he says.
Ellen Manning is also on cocktails – she comes with advice on how your menu should describe them – while Professor Charles Spence delves into the new umami – kokumi.
Something of an ongoing mission of this magazine is to see supply become more localised. And to that, we have Blythe Robertson reporting from north of the border about bars bottling their own scotch, while Rachel Hendry tells us how UK bars are exploiting their natural bounty. Few have gone further than Lewis Parry at his bar Pal in the north of England.
He tells us about how he created a programme of almost entirely native products. What’s more, we have features on the lesser-known agave spirit bacanora, the fast-growing English whisky category and the spirituous phenomenon of Angel’s Treasure. There’s plenty, plenty more.