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CLASS Winter 2023 launches

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CLASS editor Hamish Smith introduces the Autumn 2023 magazine

Our cover line, Devil’s in the Detail, wrote itself. Satan’s Whiskers, more than any indie bar I’ve known over the past decade, has mastered the minutiae of the bar experience. Service, drinks, lighting, sound – if you look after the pixels they’ll look after the bigger picture.

And, let’s face it, against the economic rumblings reverberating through the industry, there can’t be a bar in the country that wouldn’t benefit from getting back to the basics of the customer experience. It’s not a game of perfect, but we can strive to get as close to it as possible. In this winter issue, Kevin Armstrong talks us through the Satan’s Whiskers handbook.

Narrowing-in on the things that not only put, but keep bums on seats, is also Edmund Weil, who returns with his guide to bar success in 2024 – sage advice from another bar owner who’s weathered his share of storms. One way to keep custom coming is to focus on growing your local reputation, not through constant recreation but repetition of what you do best. Funkidory’s Sergio Leanza, says just this as he debuts with a piece called the Slow-moving Menu.Ellen Manning, meanwhile, has customer spend per head in her sights in her piece. Ask yourself, can you afford to keep on ignoring the potential of bar food?

As costs rise and inflation takes its toll, drink price is another lever. But how much is too much for a public with dwindling disposable income? Professor Charles Spence is here with a piece on the psychology of price. To paraphrase, to hike price, you need added value and for that you’d better have a good story. And in this issue of Class, we have plenty of those.

Dave Broom is in the Hebrides and explains how new Scotch distilleries are reversing depopulation at the same time as creating delicious drams. In the vodka world, Millie Milliken investigates the use of ever-more esoteric base ingredients that create a narrative beyond neutral and odourless, while Laura Foster reports on the most storied of rums – clairin – and Oli Dodd brings a piece on the ecologically kind calvados.

We try not to get too bogged down in festive drinks at Class, but Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown are raising a glass of wassail and Tyler Zielinski takes a contrarian view, looking at wintry alternatives to hackneyed favourites. Joe Wadsack’s festive fizz piece is called Cheaper than Champagne, Better than Prosecco, which sort of sums up where so many of us are right now: skint but with standards. 

All that and more. 

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