Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Based at award winning cocktail bar, Lab 22, Matthew Jones takes a daring approach to cocktail making and challenges the rest of the industry with his skills and techniques. Lab 22 is a speakeasy bar in the city centre of Cardiff, well known for mixing eclectic flavours with science and technology to create an experimental beverage that will blow your mind. The expert reputation the bar has built has a lot to do with the masters behind the bar, working personally with customers to create bespoke and skillfully created cocktails. The Lifestyle Guide catches up with Cardiff's expert mixologist himself, virtually of course, although we look forward to our next visit to Wales, to share a cocktail or two in person and see if we can be tempted by a cheesy special!
1. Can you tell us about your signature cocktail?
THE bars (Lab 22) signature is most definitely an Espresso Martini! We make a damn good one too, biased but, also yes. Our motto is, focus on the quality of the coffee, and the drink looks after itself. We source ours from Uncommon Ground, a great coffee house not far from Lab, and leave it to cold drip through, ensuring top flavour in every drop.
2. If you could have one drink for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The constant internal battle is evident here, it massively depends on what mood I’m in for sure. But mostly stuck forever wanting both Espresso Martinis, Grasshoppers & Garibaldi’s. Or all three at once...
3. What do you believe the next big drink trend is? E.g Hard Seltzers, Kombucha?
I think the next/current trend is less a product, and more a style. Simpler, sleeker, more modern minimalist styles/serves, are becoming vastly preferable to over complicated faff. Evident from hotel bars across London to your favourite neighbourhood cocktail bars in Wales, to five star dive bars in Barcelona. I think it stems from guests wanting to know more about what they’re drinking, and doing away with the overcomplication of serves and ingredient lists helps that.
4. After a heavy night, what is your go to hangover cure?
Nothing like hair of the dog. But typically coffee, OJ & a particular pizza brand normally does the trick, followed by a rainy & windy hike to blow away the cobwebs! Get amongst the natures.
5. Which cocktail makes you roll your eyes when someone requests it?
Honestly gotta bust out the cheese here! Never rolled my eyes at an order, never will! Taste is subjective and who are we to sneer. If someone wants 8 mojito’s when we’re 8 deep on a Saturday, they’ll be the best 8 mojito’s that they’ll have that evening.
6. What do you love about your job?
People. People make what we do, it’s about the guests' experience from the start of service to the end (and everything we do outside of it [service] too). Whether it's curating an appropriate playlist to capture the mood, getting the lighting just right, or nailing that obscure cocktail call. It’s all about the guests' experience as a whole. People are an integral part of what we do.
7. What are the strangest ingredients you've put in a cocktail?
I think cheese in drinks has become my weird sort of legacy actually. Managed to squeeze two cheese drinks into two separate menus now, and you may not believe it, but they were #notshit! Midori melon liquor & feta was born to be together, just saying.