The philosophy behind new Mexican bar, Hacha in London’s Dalston district is simple and brave – less is more. Don Julio brand ambassador Deano Moncrieffe who has just made Hacha one of London’s trendiest new openings believes that
customers are bewildered by the choice on offer with a well-stocked back bar, so he is offering them just 25 spirits… and they are all agave-based. Moncrieffe also believes that people still do not know how to drink tequila and mezcal properly, which is why Hacha pairs these spirits with the most amazing combinations – tequila served with homemade agave-smoked bacon and mezcal and seaweed. Bettina Hepburn caught up with Moncrieffe to learn more about what is on his exciting drinks list, and what is in store for Hacha.
After 11 years working with agave spirits, Moncrieffe wants to make them more approachable which is why each one is served with individual flavour enhancers.
Tell us about the inspiration behind opening Hacha, and where does the name come from?
Hacha is the name of the axe that is used to split the agave piña (heart of the plant) in half in preparation for roasting and cooking the agave at the tequila distillery.
The inspiration was to try and do something completely different within the category that made tequila, mezcal and the other agave spirits of Sotol, Raicilla and Bacanora more approachable and less confusing. At the same time it had to be new, engaging and more of an experience.
I started thinking less-is-more which led to me coming up with the concept of an evolving list of 25 spirits, each one served with something tasty which helped customers understand the unique flavours of what they are sipping. By having a smaller list of spirits there is more chance people will try different brands. Sometimes it can be quite daunting if you go into a speciality bar and there is an endless choice.
Can you give us some highlights about what is currently on the drinks list? Can you also talk to us about the flavour enhancers and some examples?
It was a very specific and scientific process of looking at the chemical make-up of different agave spirits and the flavour properties of over 100 different food, drinks, desserts, chocolates etc. The evolving list means that there will always be a new experience for people every week or so, or whenever I decide to change a few of the spirits, it’s a very non-specific timeline.
Some highlights include tequila served with homemade agave-smoked bacon, mezcal with goat’s cheese, mezcal with a milky bar chocolate, aged tequila with char-grilled pineapple, tequila beetroot and pomegranate, mezcal with plantain chips, mezcal with seaweed and even tequila paired with Seedlip non-alcoholic spirit.
Where are you sourcing the tequilas from?
I am using a combination of specialist distributors and even going direct to some guys here in London who are also trying to build the category by importing unique agave spirits such as Sin Gusano and El Destilado
We have a small cocktail list of seven amazing cocktails and four of those are available non-alcoholic. It’s important that there is a balance in everything we do in life and that includes drinking at the right time. Whether you drink alcohol or not you will still be able to have an amazing time at Hacha and drink a cocktail with the same flavour profile as someone who likes tequila and mezcal.
Do you think there is an appetite in London for agave spirits?
I’ve been working in the drinks industry for nearly 20 years, specialising in agave spirits for the last 11 years and I’ve seen a huge change and appetite for agave spirits. Tequila and mezcal are more visible now in bars and on cocktail menus than ever before. At nearly every event I do for Diageo, tequila is always one of the most popular brands and usually the best-selling cocktail is made with tequila at most of our customer events.
Are there any misconceptions of tequila that you would like to disprove, or any attributes of agave spirits that you would like your customers to take away?
The one thing I would like my customers to know is that tequila and mezcal are the most versatile categories. The range of flavours and characteristics is incredible. From tequila tasting like whiskey, Cognac and rum, to mezcal tasting like gin. The misconception is that tequila gets you really drunk and it tastes really strong, but that is only because people drink it in the wrong way, that’s why at Hacha we encourage you sip tequila and agave spirits.
Tell us about your vision for Tuesday takeovers
Tuesday takeovers will be brand-led events where customers can have a unique tequila experience. We will work with brands to create a special cocktail menu, tasting session and masterclass. Of course we will also be serving food from our Mexican kitchen.
What would a successful year for Hacha look like?
A successful year would be more and more people discovering the fantastic variety that exists within this category and happy new experiences and fun in Hacha. I just really want to recruit as many new consumers into this category and give them the best possible experience.
We will be making an announcement in a few weeks about a very unique experience that we are planning of bringing the whole tequila community together.
Hacha is located on 378 Kingsland Road, London E8 4AA, open Tuesday – Saturday between 5 – 11pm.