Robb Collins

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Barman Robb Collins approached the craft by utter chance when he was in need of some fast cash while pursuing a master’s degree in sports science. It took him a couple of months to realize he enjoyed the creativity that the job offered, and he has never looked back since. “Fortunately, I managed to talk my way into working in a very nice bar that had an excellent cocktail offering,” he explains enthusiastically. “I worked side by side with one of New Zealand’s top bartenders, Fraser Pollard, who taught me a lot and opened my eyes to the endless possibilities of the cocktail world.” He never finished his degree and embarked on a cocktail-filled adventure instead.

His international upbringing (born in the United Kingdom, he grew up in Hong Kong, Cyprus and the United States) made him comfortable with being constantly on the move, and he was happy to carry on living this nomadic life into adulthood. After moving to Australia at the age of 22, Collins lived and worked across three continents, going from Australia’s Gold Coast to Miami, New Zealand and Brighton. And he is currently still living in the British seaside town, where he heads up the 400-room Hilton hotel bar, The Waterhouse Bar and Terrace.

His passion for the craft gained him a whopping six awards in the past two years, including, most recently, the UK Bartenders Guild’s Grand Prix, the country’s most coveted mixologist’s challenge. His winning cocktail was a personalized take on a Mai Tai (a classic, Polynesian-inspired rum-based cocktail).  “There’s Honey on My Tie” is a tongue-in-cheek named concoction of homemade gingerbread syrup, honey, fresh lime, orange and aromatic bitters, held together by an aged rum (Collins’ spirit of choice, for its fascinating history and practical versatility). The finishing touch is the garnish, a fresh piece of honeycomb placed inside a lime hull and coated in a flamed orange zest. “It’s always a talking point when the drink is made,” Collins says. Entertaining the customer is one of Collins’ stronger beliefs on the job. “It’s not enough to be good at making drinks,” he explains, citing his cocktail-making philosophy. “You need to be able to engage guests and entertain them visually. In my eyes, being a bartender is all about the customer. You need to make them feel at ease right off the bat.”

It doesn’t surprise that his mantra when mixing seems to be“surpassing customers’ expectations,” and for SOMA he created a fresh yet intense combination: called Perfect Harmony, the long drink’s name is inspired by the pear and ginger beer’s idyllic union with the REMY VSOP cognac.

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Perfect Harmony

50ml Remy VSOP Cognac
20ml Freshly squeezed lemon juice
20ml Fresh pear puree or muddled pear
10ml Honey
5ml Benedictine
Ginger beer to top up

Shake and strain ingredients (except ginger beer) over cubed ice in highball glass, top up with ginger beer and garnish with fresh pear, chopped ginger and grated nutmeg.

Text by Rosa Maria Bertoli
Photography by Olga Rozenbajgier

THE SPRING ISSUE

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