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5 Minutes with... Elliot Ball

We catch up with Brick Lane local and one third of the team behind Cocktail Trading Company.

DrinkUp: How’s life just off Brick Lane?
Elliot: I actually live and work here now, so yeah... great. Highlight of my week is the food market on Sundays. Lowlight is the 4 hour energy low afterwards, but I will literally never stop doing it.

Where will we find you most days? And what will you be doing?
You’ll usually find me on the bar at CTC, though there’s a little more travelling about nowadays.

How did you become a bar owner in competitive London?
I met the right people. Me, Andy and Olly all bring different things to the table, but the shared ideology is likely the most important thing. Goes for the rest of the team, too. I’m very lucky.

What’s life like as one third of a bartending super trio? 
Very entertaining. The ideology I mentioned largely pertains to ethics and sustainability (of the business/staff, not the environmentalism aspect), but also to our approach to hospitality and, correspondingly, humour. So yeah. Funny.

Have you ever had a hero?
Cliche, but my dad. Sadly, the world is full of examples of nice guys finishing last, but he isn’t one of them. He seriously won at life largely from being an absolutely stand-up bloke, when it wasn’t always necessary.

What’s the one drink we should order from you?
A mildly aggressive daiquiri. It’s a recent thing.

Where do you go after shift?
Callooh Callay, though also really looking forward to making Highballer a thing. Oh yeah, and Sun Tavern is open until 2am Thursday-Saturday, now. So that's dangerous. 

Where do you go for late night dirty food?
We actually have an awesome pizza delivery place. It’s quick, restaurant-quality, outrageously cheap and the drivers are a laugh. Seriously, someone needs to teach these guys how to be a typical delivery company in London. They’re missing out. 

What’s your favourite bar in London?
Real hard to pick. Callooh is a stalwart, Sun Tavern for my local, and a recent love is Coupette.

Are there any cocktails you hate?
If we’re sticking strictly to recipes, stuff like the Dry Manhattan. It’s annoying not because it’s a deeply unsatisfying drink (add 5ml sugar syrup and some salt and it’s better, though. We just don’t tell customers), but because it’s so frequently ordered under misguidance. 

Do you have a Desert Island drink? And bartender?
Ice cold lager and Patrick Kelleher. If things are good and plentiful, then dandy. If they’re not, the beer can keep me refreshed and watching Pat constantly face adversity will, too. Also, he hates lager.

Have you ever freaked out over a celebrity in your bar?
Nope. I’ll admit that I moderately loathe celebrity culture, so if anything it’s me telling myself ‘Don’t be dick, El, they’re probably lovely’.

If you weren't a bartender what would you do?
Mixologist. More seriously, my background is in Neuroscience – I’m sure I could have found some other way of making that fun, aside from booze.

Any hobbies outside of barrels and booze?
Not really, actually. I read a lot, but it’s largely relevant to the industry. I used to be a drummer and still occasionally have a session. Kinda busy nowadays.

If we asked you out, where would you be hoping we’d book a table?
Slim Jim’s. Sure sign of a keeper.

What was the worst flat you had in London?
The one me and Olly used to share. Really convenient location in Camden, especially for our first bar, but yeah... ropey. It was with two daywalkers who absolutely hated us at the time.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
Hard to say. A recent epic was my first time at Kurobuta – the food was just surprisingly incredible, I was catching up with two old mates, the service came from a bunch of hilarious ozzies, and a few Kirin and Nikka boilermakers burned off the last of a hangover and paved the way for a great night. Then they knocked the bill in half. I remember laughing a lot, eating incredibly well and drinking beer at a pleasing but breakneck pace.

What’s the most underrated food spot in town?
Another hard call, but I’m always blown away by Voodoo Rays. Everyone’s always comparing the giants of gourmet pizza, and they always miss it out. Just because it’s not fine dining doesn’t mean everything down to the dough isn’t stellar. It’s always casual and the drinks are tasty. Plus, enjoyment of food is frequently contextual, and I challenge anyone to enjoy something more than the slice of sunshine you can get out of Ray’s in Dalston at 2am. The hero we need, not the one we deserve.

What’s your personal bartender’s ketchup?
Ha. I made a syrup years ago to demonstrate the axes through which I explain flavour – it had sweet and sour, salty and bitter, and another dimension of bright-smooth (in this case, cardamom and vanilla respectively). It ended up being used to tweak so many drinks over the years, my team now refer to it as Elliot Mix.

What’s your favourite spot in London that’s not a bar?

Dandelyan is obviously a spectacular bar, but a large part of its appeal to me is the walk along Southbank from Waterloo. It’s lovely, in any season or time of day/night, and there are loads of spots to settle in for something.

We’re buying the shots – what are you having?

Whatever you’re having, ideally not Fernet.