Overseeing three venues at the prestigious Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre, Raven Rudolph is the Bars Manager for Bull and Bear, St. Trop & Peacock Alley. Looking at current trends in beverage, Raven takes us behind the bar to share what’s most in demand this year.
A love for hosting was born in Raven from an early age, from setting the table at his grandparents house every Sunday to later waiting tables and working in catering whilst he studied hospitality.
Reflecting on his journey, Raven recalls being inspired by what chefs were doing with flavour combinations and how they impressed guests.
“As all that was happening the new age of cocktails was emerging and the timing was meant to be. The perfect mix of experimenting with flavours, hosting and entertaining people was born and I was hooked,” Raven tells.
Building a relationship with guests, becoming part of the theatre, ambiance and aura of a dining experience was something that drew Raven to a career in bartending, and he hasn’t looked back since.
In a one-to-one with us, here’s what Raven shared:
What are some of the signature cocktails available at Waldorf Astoria DIFC?
We have different themes in the different venues. Bull and Bear is based on the stock markets in New York, and therefore the menu is designed to be twists on classic cocktails that are familiar. We have gin and tonic twists with sloe gin and marjoram, a tequila and chocolate twist on an old fashioned and a fantastic twist on the negroni with earthy flavors of mezcal and cynar liquor and a flamed orange zest for garnish.
Peacock Alley is a different style of service of mixed drinks with an attached Cigar Lounge, The drinks are more experimental and are based on the personalities and celebrities that were seen to visit the Waldorf Astoria in New York in its prime, such as the Monroe which is a sassy pink cosmopolitan style drink with mixed berry, and berry tea. We have the Sinatra which is a New York sour style with cinnamon, Jack Daniels whisky and a touch of Port wine as well as the Hepburn which is a pineapple and chilli martini.
St. Trop is all about the gram, this is a venue made for selfies and digital photography. Here we have south of France inspired drinks like the french flirt – a passionfruit and mint flavored martini, and we have had a prosecco and candy floss cocktail, which keeps it playful but tasty too.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with behind the bar, and why?
Herbs and tea, without a doubt – I love the variety of herbs and the environmentally-friendly ways it is used. They are used for the flavour, the smell, as well as the look (garnish) of the drink. Tea is my go to in my cocktail programs and Avantcha Tea has definitely exposed me to the wide variety of flavour possibilities, and the ability to easily infuse these into spirits like vodka and whisky etc. allows you to add flavour but also the ability to make non-alcoholic versions of this drink when necessary instead of relying on the same old virgin mojito.
Looking at current bar operations, what spirits and cocktails are most in demand at the moment?
Gin is still the crowd pleaser for the masses, and all the varieties popping up. In Dubai, I feel anything with aperol is a crowd pleaser. Although there is an interesting low ABV demand making use of vermouths. We try to use as many fresh and natural ingredients as possible, fresh is best and natural sugars from a fruit is always a better flavor than a synthesised syrup or purée.
What do you predict being the next cocktail trend?
The crystal ball question! I do not believe that gin cocktails and negroni love is going anywhere in Dubai any time soon. I do not have an opinion for the entire world as I firmly believe that Dubai is a place of its own trends. We are still observing a growth in low-alcoholic cocktails and actually testing the waters with non-alcoholic mixed drinks, but in a more experimental and creative fashion, I am by no means saying that it is taking over the cocktail trend and that alcohol consumption will drop, but it is definitely a phase that we see the consumer dabbling in much more.