Five minutes with… Maxim Schulte

The man behind Kol Mezcaleria on what we can expect from the bar, his favourite Mexican spirits and why he’d drink martinis with Prince

Food and Drink 24 May 2021

Maxim Schulte, right, with Kol chef Santiago Lastra

Maxim Schulte, right, with Kol chef Santiago Lastra. Photograph: Haydon Perrior

What can we expect from the Mezcaleria at Kol?

The Kol Mezcaleria is an immersion into the world of Mexican spirits, in particular agave spirits, and a homage to the Mexican bar culture. It is situated on the lower ground floor of Kol restaurant in Marylebone, but will be a destination bar in its own right; somewhere that we would recommend people spend a good couple of hours and, if possible, take the time to visit on a separate evening to the restaurant itself in order get the most out of the experience.

We have created a really unique selection of seasonal signature cocktails, which will be changing regularly. As with the food in the restaurant, the drinks are inspired by Mexican soul but use British ingredients.

You can also expect a fantastic selection of spirits, focusing on Mexico and the diversity of products that come from there. Obviously, the majority is mezcal, but also tequila – Mexican rum and whisky are on the list.

Guests can also expect a home away from home. The interiors of KOL are somewhat inspired by the look and feel of traditional houses found in Oaxaca, and so is the Mezcaleria. We really want guests to feel relaxed and at home.

The drinks are accompanied by the delicious snacks from Santiago called ‘Antojitos’, which translate to mean ‘little cravings’ and gives the feel of elevated Mexican street food.

Sloe Grape Mezcal Negroni made with homemade sloe mezcal, Campari, Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth, Bava Uvantica Malvasia, with a pickled yarrow flower garnish. Photograph: Charlie McKay
Sloe Grape Mezcal Negroni made with homemade sloe mezcal, Campari, Cocchi Torino sweet vermouth, Bava Uvantica Malvasia, with a pickled yarrow flower garnish. Photograph: Charlie McKay

How did you meet Santiago Lastra and start working with him?

I met him on a beach in Italy actually, well, virtually via Instagram! He contacted me and told me about this amazing concept that he was going to open in London and wanted to see if I wanted to know more. I did. So now I am part of his dream. His food is incredible, the first tasting we had blew me away. Santiago and his team definitely inspire me. I find it very interesting how we can work together as some of the beautiful ingredients used in the kitchen can also form part of the drinks, therefore creating this subtle synergy between restaurant and the bar. I always love working with chefs, as they approach flavour differently, and with Santiago it is in the most creative of ways.

Apart from mezcal, what other Mexican spirits will you be serving at The Mezcaleria?

We will be serving Tequila, Sotol, Pox, Whisky, Rum and Gin from Mexico. There are some super interesting products coming from there and we cannot wait to showcase them.

What attracted you to Mexican spirits and made you want to open a Mezcaleria at Kol?

I have been interested in mezcal and agave for a couple of years now. Of course, I’ve now taken this to another level, but it is an amazing journey. I find mezcal so interesting as it has this sense of terroir and can be made from so many varieties of agave plants, in many areas with different climates. What’s especially interesting is the way it changes from Mezcalero to Mezcalero (a person who distills mezcal). No mezcal is like the other and that is what makes this category of spirit so beautiful. We are really looking forward to increasing knowledge and awareness of mezcal in London. It’s relatively unexplored considering the incredible bar scene in the city.

Kol Mezcaleria. Photograph: Charlie McKay
Kol Mezcaleria. Photograph: Charlie McKay

What is your favourite way to drink mezcal?

I prefer it straight up, possibly with a beer on the side. I mean it is also great in so many cocktails but tasting it neat is just heaven.

Can you tell us something we don’t know about mezcal?

I do not want to generalise but I believe the general way people understand mezcal is that it’s a ‘smoky Tequila’. This stereotype isn’t quite right though as mezcal can come in so many varieties. It can have floral notes and it can be very fruity as well. My favourite ones are the super funky ones that almost have the taste of blue cheese etc. Having said this, consumer interest in mezcal is growing fast.

Can you recommend a mezcal cocktail for spring?

The mezcal paloma is perfect for spring and summer. Take 50ml of your favourite mezcal, squeeze in the juice of one quarter of a lime, a small pinch of salt and then fill the glass with ice and top it up with grapefruit soda. We use Three Cents soda but Ting would also do the trick. You can add some sugar or agave syrup if you like it a touch sweeter.

Apart from mezcal, what cocktail ingredient can you not live without?

In terms of spirits it would have to be gin. I am a gin drinker, and it is just beautiful for cocktails and highballs due to its herbaceous nature.

Where are you most looking forward to travelling to when we can?

Mexico and Asia are definitely on my priority list. Mexico is obvious, I just want to experience everything there, and bring home inspiration. And I definitely want to go visit my friends in Asia, it has been way too long since I have been.

Who from today or history would you choose to drink a cocktail with, and what would you make them?

I think I would go for the one and only Prince. He is an absolute legend, and I would love to know what he is like, as the stories around him are incredible. I think we would have martinis – classic is always beautiful.

Kol Mezcaleria is now open;; @kol.mezcaleria