In conversation with Josh: Le Bar man
Since opening its doors to St Michael’s Street six months ago, Le Bar has quickly become a regular haunt for those seeking unique, classy cocktails and intimate, eclectic music nights. This was all made possible thanks to our lead barman extraordinaire Josh, who has helped Le Bar garner the same ingredient centric, sustainability sourced and flavour focused reputation that HB is known for.
We have good fortune to thank for bringing him into the Handle Bar family. Just as Le Bar was set to open Josh, a former Oxford bar-manager, had coincidentally arrived back in Oxford after working as a diving instructor in Vietnam. We wanted to get his perspective on what makes Le Bar stand out from the crowd.
It’s the little things
Although it may sound insignificant, we do often catch customers marvelling at the perfect, glossy, geometric ice cubes clinking around in their cocktails. While this would appear to serve a purely aesthetic purpose, ice-engineers Hoshizaki developed the perfectly symmetrical cubes to melt at an equal level, therefore diluting the drink as little as possible.
‘Good quality ice means that your drink stays just as good from the moment it’s made, to the moment it’s served; meaning you can take the time to sip it.’
Flavour of the month
We do take great pride in our eclectically stocked back bar, which both Josh and our suppliers at Amathus drinks work hard to fill with liquors that are fairly traded, consequently giving them more character, interesting backstories and unique flavours.
A favourite of Josh’s is the newly acquired Bobby’s Gin, made in a family owned distillery in the Netherlands with a unique blend of Indonesian spices and traditional botanicals, including lemongrass, cloves and coriander; perfectly suited to Le Bar’s cocktail menu.
A fresh focus
In a similar vein, Josh has a penchant for taking classic cocktails, which have over the years garnered a reputation for being sickly sweet, and stripping them back to their roots; replacing sugars and sweeteners with fresh cordials, hand made syrups and rich spices that he makes in house.
‘I’ve never enjoyed Mai-Thai’s however our Beau Mai-Thai is my favourite cocktail on the menu. I tried to revitalise it by adding Falernum, a Jamaican clove spice liquor with lime; grapefruit juice, to give it a sour bitter edge to bring out the flavours; fresh lime and mint.’
And of course, Le Bar isn’t just about drinks but also about the atmosphere. One would presume that a small space like Le Bar would be best suited for non-intrusive, background music, however, Josh is careful to encourage musical acts to be true to their own personal tastes.
‘Once I started telling people just to play what they like, and to not worry about what fits, the space totally transformed and you could feel the atmosphere change in Le Bar. We’ve even had people coming in off the street because they were so intrigued by somewhere playing such unusual music.’
An exciting start for Le Bar, and a promising future. When visiting, don’t hesitate to try something new and ask about the liquors in your drinks to discover their stories. And if you’re an act who think you might fit in with Le Bar’s philosophy, please do get in touch!
Follow Le Bar on Instagram: @lebaroxford