Mike Sager, Sager + Wilde21st March 2018
You’ve managed Milk & Honey and The East Room, but you’ve made your name in wine bars. Let’s kick off with an aperitif: Cocktails or Wine?
Because it allows me to connect with the culture on the ground, speak different languages and meet the makers directly. In spirits. this is just a lot harder. I’m actually also working on an independent, small batch bottling project…
Oh yeah? With who! I’m jealous
So you should be!
I’m working with Marcis Dzelzainis and Alex Wolpert from East London Liquor.
We’re starting with tiny batches of Destilado de Agave, and hoping to expand into other spirits globally next year. All really small batches, from 40 litres up.
I think I cut you off – where were we?
Cocktails! I was going to say, sometimes I drink Negronis, but that’s generally because I just don’t trust the wine in some places.
Opposed to most people that find wine much more trustworthy, no?
Maybe. But to me, if the temperature of the wine storage, the quality and cleanliness of the glasswear, how the wine has been managed once opened, or the wine list is simply shit…there’s plenty of times that a Negroni is far safer.
So where do you go for a Negroni? Or any other drink?
I live and work in East London, so I go out there. Actually, I tend to drink APAs with a shot of something delicious. Ideally Mezcal.
You’ve been at the forefront of the wine industry for a few years now. What’s changed since you first opened Sager & Wilde?
Luckily, we’ve seen an influx of new wine-centered concepts, which is super exciting. Places like Noble Rot, Laughing Heart and P Franco have changed the game.
What do you think these venues are doing right?
They do a great job at engaging new, younger drinkers. The margins are really low – they make it accessible.
You do a fantastic job of celebrating up and comers in the wine industry. Who should we be looking out for?
Honey Spencer, at Nuala – where you guys are basically – is doing great things. She’s running the wine programme there and is a former Sager & Wilde GM. Definitely one to look out for.
And where do you think the industry is headed overall?
To the best place its ever been, honestly. Consumers are becoming increasingly educated and price savvy, so greedy, outdated operators are forced to change. It’s pushing everyone’s margin down.
And then there’s just so much more natural wine, which is great too.
Last one. Help us out. We’re in there all the time, but is it pronounced ‘Nu-ala’ or ‘Noola?’
Noola. Get it right.