Introducing: La’Mel Clarke, Drinks Distilled Non-Alcoholic Guide
We caught up with the Spirits Guide who brought the deliciously complex and smoky CROSSIP Dandy Smoke to our attention – La’Mel Clarke.
Read on to find out why La’Mel selected Dandy Smoke and his top tips when it comes to selecting non-alcoholic spirits…
La'Mel is Floor Manager at Seed Library, the newest bar created by Mr Lyan and team, based in the One Hundred Shoreditch. He has been a part of the Lyan team for just over 4 and a half years, having previously worked at Lyaness (when it was sitting at the top of The World’s 50 Best Bars).
Over the last 9 or so months he has been touring the UK with Bacardi Martini’s educational programme Jigger Beaker & Glass, to talk to bartenders about the importance of having a strong non-alcoholic selection in your bar, and tips on how to create better non-alcoholic and low alcohol drinks.
La’Mel was also recently nominated for the Emerging Bartender of the Year award at the annual Class Bar awards 2022, and prior to that reached the national finals of the Patrón Perfectionists competition in 2021. Before he joined the Lyan team, Clarke worked at bars including Trailer Happiness, Callooh Callay, and the Queen of Hoxton, as well as being part of the team that opened the bar for Dishoom, Carnaby Street.
When he’s not making drinks, La’Mel is a dancer and choreographer and also does a little bit of writing on the side.
Why Did You Select Dandy Smoke?
This smoky yet sweet spirit has an incredible amount of texture and flavour for a non-alcoholic option.
Whilst it hasn’t been designed to mimic alcoholic spirits, it’s a great alternative for fans of dark, smoky spirits when served with or without ice.
Don’t let that deter you though, it’s so versatile that it also works as a flavourful ingredient for mixing into long cocktails with or without alcohol.
What Are the Most Common Misconceptions People Have of Non-Alcoholic Spirits?
That you can only enjoy them with simple mixers such as tonic water. In most cases, there's other ingredients that you can add to them to create really interesting drinks, such as non-alcoholic vermouth and even beers.
I also like to experiment with mixing them with full strength spirits. Crossip Dandy Smoke can be mixed with a 5ml measure of whisky, rum, mezcal or tequila (and other ingredients of course) for a delicious low ABV serve for example!
What's Your Top Tip for Picking Non-alcoholic Spirits?
I always like to look at the flavour profile and think about what I want to do with the product. Am I looking to create lighter serves like a Spritz or a Highball, or do I want something richer that's more of a night cap, like a Manhattan?
The most common mistake people make when picking a non-alcoholic spirit is to only look for a substitute version of gin or whisky. Really they should be looking for something that provides a flavour journey that they really like and will allow them to create a bigger variety of drinks.
Where is Your Favourite Place to Enjoy a Non-Alcoholic Cocktail?
Some of the best non-alcoholic drinks I've had have been at Lyaness as there’s a huge range available and there's so much care taken with them. You don't feel like you're getting less of an experience just because you are having a non-alcoholic drink.
La'Mel's Top Home Bartending Tips
Good ice, fresh citrus and sugar syrup are key. Citrus and sugar can make a world of difference to a cocktail. For example a little bit of sugar can really add body and texture to a drink, whilst allowing the main flavours of the recipe to shine.
Avoid store bought ice and instead use large blocks where possible and lots of it so that your drink will dilute at a good pace.