A few years ago I opened a drinks menu in a trendy restaurant in London and it greeted me with the biggest surprise. I'm not a big drinker and always look for the non-alcoholic options (which are often non-existent or uninspiring) and here was a whole page full of exotic liquid treats, each one looking and tasting more delicious and inviting than the previous one. Later, when restaurant Home SW15 started stocking Nauteas, I met the man behind the cocktail - Fredi Viaud, who is a true master of his craft and who has kindly shared a glimpse into his journey with us.
What was your inspiration for becoming a mixologist and how did it all begin?
Well.. Let’s try to make a long story short.
I started working in hospitality at 16, back home in France, whilst completing a catering school.
I was a shy and quite a clumsy boy back then. My boss, at the time, preferred to keep me behind the bar so I didn’t have to interfere too much with customers. I was dispensing drinks for the restaurant.
When I graduated, a couple of years later, I quickly realised that all I had learned was to dispense drinks…
That will be it then!
I packed my bag and flew to London. First, to learn the language, then to try my chance in cocktail bars as London is the best place in Europe to learn that.
My first job here was “commis runner” for a French restaurant. I was carrying trays from the basement kitchen to the first floor dining room, no lift. Which wasn’t an easy job.
Rome wasn’t build in a day… It’s been a very long journey before I could get to the top bars but I worked very hard for it.
I gained in confidence, skills and knowledge along the way and bartending became a passion.
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
As I mentioned, it has been a long journey with a lot of ups and downs.
It’s difficult to pick one particular highlight.
But let me tell you an experience that has changed my career perception.
At 25, I was tired of working long hours, often late at night and I was also partying a lot..
I had enough of my lifestyle, so I quit my job and I went travelling across central America, with a friend.
We stayed over there a few months, almost a year. Best time of my life.
One evening, at my favourite bar in Antigua Guatemala, I met the owner. He was about to open a modern French bistro in the city, he offered me a job that same evening. I remember being thrill by the offer.
Even if I only worked there a couple of months, it has been an eye-opener...
I realised that my job was more than just a hobby and that I was very lucky to be able to do what I love.
Then it was time to go back to Europe.
What do you do and where do you go to find fresh new ideas?
There are a couple of quotes from Picasso that I really like. He said:
“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” and "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an Artist."
I think it’s there, within those two phrases.
It’s a bit abstract but I’m going to leave it there, so everyone can meditate on it.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received from someone?
“Keep it simple and be original”.
I don’t exactly remember who or where I heard it in the first place. It’s my motto for everything I do.
I’m generally quite receptive to positive quotes, I like to read them - it gives me a boost.
What motivates you to do what you do and to follow your dream?
I’ve been doing this for such a long time that I believe it’s in me now.
When I’m not at work making cocktails, I’m still thinking about flavours combinations.
A couple of years ago, I independently published a cocktail manual, A First Understanding of Mixology, I then started an Instagram page dedicated to alcohol-free drinks - now I’m actually working on converting it into a little recipe book. From one thing to another.
You’ve created some amazing cocktails using the Nauteas blends, can you share a recipe with us?
I’ve made both cocktails and mocktails inspired by Nauteas.
Recipes are made to be shared, I’m happy to share them all.
Gin & Tea Party
London gin strongly infused with Heavenly Green Nauteas, vanilla sugar, rhubarb bitters and lemon juice
Maitre de Chai Hot Toddy
Cognac infused with Nauteas’ Elephant Chai, honey, lemon and boiling water
Nauteas Cherry Loves Rose, pomegranate syrup, lemon and egg white
Nauteas Herbal Bliss, sugar syrup, lime juice, rhubarb bitter and egg white