C HELSEA bred Charles Harrington-Clarke's beloved QPR may well be at the bottom of the Premier League but when it comes to making cocktails, Charles is in the Champions League, hence why he has been taken on to shake up and stir the bars at the acclaimed Fosh chain of restaurants in Palma.

Charles is a natural cocktail maker and is fascinated about the history of cocktails but, while he loves shaking a traditional cocktail, he is also very interested in bringing the experience of eating and drinking cocktails closer together and that is what he is going to be working on as bar manager for Marc Fosh's restaurants.

30 -year-old Charles first began working in bars just over ten years ago. “I started working in a cocktail lounge in Fulham as a bar tender and, as a quick learner, soon realised I had a flair for the job and cocktails and I worked at it for about two and a half years before I came to Majorca on holiday. A friend was booked to come on an allocation on arrival holiday but had to pull out at the last minute so I filled his place and we ended up in Pollensa. “I guess that was about 2001 and I loved the place and, although we were part of quite a big group, a friend of mine and I missed the flight back - we'd had too many shandies the night before - so we ended up staying. “I worked in various places, mostly British-run bars - which I now regret because that did nothing to help me learn Spanish or anything about the local culture - but it was such a lovely place to live and work and I gradually picked up the language as I went along. “Then, after about three years, I decided to take a break and go backpacking, get off the island because I wasn't sure if I wanted to be here, so I headed off around Asia - China, Cambodia and Thailand - before making a final decision about what I wanted to do and where and I eventually decided to return to Palma. I knew the lay of the land here in Majorca and, to be quite honest, I didn't want to go back to London. “But this time, I opted for Palma because there wasn't enough work in Pollensa. It's a beautiful place but it's limited by the season and out of season, there's not much going on. So, I ended up in Palma working in various bars in La Lonja and Santa Catalina and then I ended up at the Portixol Hotel where I worked for the past three years. “It was great place to work. I managed to improve my Spanish and it also opened a lot more doors because I was meeting a lot more people involved in gastronomy and cocktails. “And that's an environment I feel comfortable in because from an early age I've been in bars and restaurants and my parents owned a hotel so I've always been in and around the world of hospitality. “I never trained as a cocktail maker, I just picked it up as I went along. I learnt on the job, was really lucky to have worked with some great bar tenders and I quickly realised I had a flare for it. Over the years I've developed my own cocktail menu and style by experimenting with new ideas and ingredients. I also started getting into the history of the cocktail which is extremely interesting,” Charles explained. “It's great when you're working in a profession that you love which is steeped in such great history - it's a noble art,” he added. “And now I am looking forward to this fresh challenge. The way I see my role is bringing the kitchens and the bars closer together. “With Marc Fosh, the standard of the food and service is absolutely excellent and the three locations are great but I would like to see those same standards offered at the bars and that's going to be my aim. I think that the bar and the kitchen, while being different entities, should really work together and, as bar manager for the Fosh Group, I intend to produce Michelin star cocktails to match the Michelin star food. “We're going to start at Tasca this week. I will be making cocktails every evening from midweek. We're obviously going to make a few changes to the existing bar and eventually transform Tasca into a gastro pub where people can come for a drink, a cocktail, some tapas, a light snack or a full meal and I want to eventually develop a small menu of cocktails which will complement certain dishes on the menu here. “Marrying food and drinks is not something I've seriously worked on before, it's going to be exciting but, for example, I've been playing around with a Japanese style Bloody Mary which could be served with Asian style food. There are so many possibilities playing with food and drink, the combinations are endless really and it's all about making the cocktail appealing and making it with love - that's my secret. “There are so many cocktail bars here in Majorca which lack the love and they're not cheap,” Charles said.
However, one thing Charles was quick to underline that, while he has the flare for making cocktails, he is not a Tom Cruise-style bar tender. “OK. I do like to make a bit of a show of it but when you're working with flare, you should always have a limit. When you go into a bar for a nice drink, you don't really want to spend 40 minutes waiting for it while the bar tender is busy throwing bottles around and setting fire to things. “If I do a bit of a show, it's to speed the process up but my main emphasis is on producing a quality product,” he explained. “To start with I'll be working on my own and to be honest, that's how I like it because working up a team takes time, especially when you want them to be able to produce high quality cocktails. Consistency is king but I guess eventually we will have a small team, especially when we've got the three bars up and running. And of course, apart from the classics, I've got my own cocktails. I love taking the classics and give them a new twist. I enjoy playing with fresh herbs - basil and pineapple work really well together for example - and this is going to help in bridging the gap between the kitchen and the bar and, of course with Fosh's organic farms, we're going to be making some organic cocktails with local produce when possible. I also use different teas. I make a gin and tonic using Rooibos for example. “And I've got my tribute to the Balearics which is made up of kumquats, lemon juice, Xoriguer gin, Mediterranean tonic and orange liqueur from Soller. “We are also thinking of having a menu of mini cocktails so people can come in and try a selection if they are not used to cocktails. What we want is people to come in and have an enjoyable experience which they will remember and cocktails can be enjoyed any time, not only on special occasions.” Thirsty? Then let Charles mix you a cocktail at Tasca from next week.