Getting To Know Zoe Burgess, Head of Research and Development.
Describe your average day?
I don’t really have average days. I usually get into Drink Factory around 8.30 – 9 am, where I’ll check my emails, have a coffee and catch up with Dimi our lab assistant to see what’s on the agenda for the day.
After that it’s all go, especially at the moment with the opening of our new bar Untitled on Kingsland Road. I have meetings with contractors and designers, as well as tastings where we add the final touches to the drinks menu.
If I’m not working on Untitled, I’m working with the teams at both Tony’s bars, Bar Termini and 69 Colebrooke Row as well as consulting with the bar staff at Grain Store and Zetter Townhouse. The staff visit the Drink Factory lab once a week to brainstorm and try out new ideas and I’ll visit each of the bars once a month. I do a lot of tastings but not a lot of drinking! I aim to finish work around 6pm, in a non-inebriated state.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
The fact that it’s varied and the challenges that it brings. There’s a lot to juggle, we work with a lot of people and I’m never bored.
Can you tell us about the most exciting ingredients you’re working with at the moment? What have you learnt from working with them?
Enoki mushroom. We are working with it at the moment for one of Untitled’s drinks called Snow. We wanted to achieve an earthy note that you often find in snow and came across the enoki mushroom while out in Norway earlier in the year. Since then we have been experimenting a lot with mushrooms. We have used shitake and porcini for the umami taste in the past but enoki is being used for its aromatic qualities.
If you could say one thing that you have taken away from working with Tony and the team at Drink Factory what would it be?
Passionate people have a lot of fun. Being passionate is fun.
What would your advice be to any budding drinks and flavour enthusiasts?
Don’t be afraid to fail. Some of the best things come out of mistakes in terms of coming up with different flavours, even if you don’t achieve the correct result. Also don’t force things, sometimes if things aren’t going well when working with a new drink idea we leave it and come back to it later down the line. Every drink is a puzzle and you can often find a new technique or flavour to fit in after time.
You’re studying a postgrad in sensory science at Nottingham Uni at the moment, how’s that going?
It’s very different to work life at Drink Factory. It’s a more commercial approach, with lessons on how to run and manage tasting panels. We do touch on the biological side of things too but at the moment it’s mainly stats. It’s good to see the other side of things though and really helps when consulting with bar clients.
What’s your favourite drink? And can you give us some helpful tips on how to make it the Drink Factory way!?
Deep down it has to be the Spitfire, as the first drink I ever had at 69 Colebrooke Row, it was something very special. It’s a sour and I love sours, because they’re a type of drink I never make at home and feels like a treat.
Tips on how to make a Spitfire from the cocktail book Drinks by Tony Conigliaro…
Combine 40ml cognac, 25ml fresh lemon juice, 25ml of egg white, 15ml sugar syrup and ml crème de pêche in a cocktail tin.
Dry-shake and then shake over cubed ice. Strain into a large, chilled coupette and pour in the 25ml dry white wine last (this avoids aerating and diluting the flavour of the wine through shaking).