The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David A. Embury was first published in 1948. Offering a conversational and oft-times witty take on the fundamentals of mixology, it is one of the most referenced and cited cocktail books, and responsible for influencing a generation of cocktail enthusiasts including Frankfurt-based Dominik M.Falger. Inspired by his background in, and love for, mixing drinks, Falger has recently opened Embury Bar, Drawing from his own private collection, Falger has created a venue that encapsulates both the growing zeitgeist in Frankfurt for high quality well-constructed cocktails, as well as a veritable mecca for whisky lovers, with a selection as deep as it is broad.
The Dramble visited the newly opened Embury Bar and spent some time with Falger, learning about his background, his love of whisky and where he sees the industry developing over the next few years. We were impressed not only with the fantastic space he has created with Embury, but also with his depth of knowledge and real passion for both high quality drink making, and whisky appreciation. One thing’s for sure, we’ll be visiting Embury every single time we’re over in Frankfurt!
What were you doing before you created Embury Bar?
I started what you might consider a classic career in the hospitality industry aged 17. I completed a two and a half year apprenticeship in a small hotel and quickly graduated to work as a bartender in a variety of 5* hotels around the world. I worked in Seefeld Hotel Klosterbräu in Austria, the Burj al Arab Dubai in UAE, Widder Bar at the Widder Hotel in Zurich Switzerland, Mauro’s Negroni Club Munich Germany and both Vai Vai and Sullivans Bar in Frankfurt. After 10 years of bar work and travelling I decided to take on a different role in the spirits business and became a Brand Ambassador for Diageo’s World Class Portfolio. Whilst working back in Frankfurt for Diageo I got the opportunity to open my own bar right in the very heart of the city centre.
Embury Bar is stocked with many bottles from your own private collection. Could you tell us about collection – how did it get started and what bottles are particularly special to you?
I started collecting spirits back when I was 18 and working in my first bar job. Back then, I already had the idea of opening my own bar one day, but I knew that both experience and money is necessary to do that. I first travelled the world and honed my craft. By the time I was 20, I had already started to focus on rare spirits whilst working in the Sky View Bar at the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai. That passion and interest grew further when I started working with Markus Blattner at the Widder Bar in Zurich. I have always enjoyed aged-spirits, but my time at the Widder allowed me to focus and specialise even more in to both whisky and well-made drinks.
We currently stock over 1,100 spirits at Embury, mainly aged and with a particular emphasis on whisky and rum – it’s around 60% of my private collection and mainly bottles I duplicates of. The remaining 40% are sealed and won’t make it onto the bar shelves due to their value these days! I always like Talisker and Lagavulin and we stock a couple of rarities from those particular distilleries. Likewise, I think that both Pittyvaich and Linkwood are both good examples of great whiskies.
Embury has been open for just two months now – how has the launch gone?
We started with a soft opening, followed by a two-day official opening event. We’re still evolving and we’re getting busier every day. We held our first soul and jazz evening recently and that too was a great success.
What does a ‘normal’ day look like at Embury – and what is your favourite aspect of your job?
A normal day at Embury includes setup with my crew – so 120kg of ice block harvesting and downsizing it according to the glass sizes, preparing shrubs and syrups and getting everything ready for another busy day ahead.
My favourite aspect about working within the bar industry and with spirits is that no single day is the same. Every day we host a variety of different people, whether they want a glass of whisky or a cocktail – we’re there to make them comfortable and offer them a pleasant time. Frankfurt is quite unique and a very globalised city – guests are looking for, and demanding high quality drinks, service and ambience. Therefore we aim to be completely on point and surpass our guest’s expectations with a memorable time at Embury.
What has changed during your career in the spirits business?
When I started my career over 14 years ago, knowledge wasn’t that easily accessible. I had to spend more time, and a good amount of effort to obtain it! These days, knowledge is readily available on the Internet – which makes me wonder why a great number of young bartenders and hospitality employees don’t fully take advantage of this? From my perspective, the younger generation needs to take more time to get the most amount of experience – it’s not just about having certain knowledge – it’s about having the skills and maturity to put yourself in the best position to successfully manage a bar.
If you weren’t working in the drinks industry what would you fancy doing instead?
I would probably still work with people – so maybe traveling the globe exploring new frontiers. Although, I have to say, there’s no better place to be then where I am right now.
What news plans do you have for growing and developing Embury do you have?
From my point of view, it’s all about the very moment – you can plan for the future, and learn from the past, but life is always about surprises. So our first goal is to always keep our quality and ambitions high. We’ve got plenty of ideas!
What do you see as the most significant developments in the whisky industry over the next few years?
Well, the whisky industry learned from the mistakes it made in the past and demand is obviously increasing. All kinds of spirit producers are expanding their capacity for the future. Whisky will become more recognised globally and we can expect plenty of new stuff – hearing that Brora, Port Ellen and Rosebank are being reopened and rebuilt is exciting. It’s a pity it’ll take a fair few years before we can taste it!
If you could only take one bottle of whisky to a desert island, which would it be?
That’s a hard one, but most likely Lagavulin 16 year old. It has a very unique complexity and maturity – it’s never let me down when I’ve had a dram.