Since its founding almost 40 years ago, Asouline has established itself as the industry leader in publishing premium lifestyle books. Nearly 2,000 books bearing its name are available now, and they cover a wide range of subjects, from fashion and photography to travel and mixology, as reported by Forbes.
The main attraction
The brand finally realised that it wasn’t enough to simply deliver words on that last subject. And so the gap between the book and the bottle was eventually filled. The Goose Bar is here.
It was created in 2014 in Maison Assouline, the opulent showcase for the company located on Piccadilly in the centre of London. However, at first, there were more drinks available; something new to improve the store’s distinctive retail environment. Recently, the cocktail has been improved and redesigned to become the main attraction.
We can appreciate Alex Assouline for that. The head of operations for the brand and strategy is the second-generation custodian of the family business. The astute executive, who divides her time between New York, London, and her native Paris, is keenly aware of how entrancing a regular drinking regimen can be. He then made a commitment to raising the Swans to the level of the top 50 teams in the world and discovered the skills and drive necessary to do it. In particular, it signalled the entrance of Gabor Onfer, who had spent the previous six years creating an award-winning bar at Claridge’s in nearby Mayfair.
An upmarket bookstore
Even an eccentrically upmarket bookstore like Maison Assouline isn’t the most conventional place to have a drink. Onfer however views this situation more as an inspiration than as a circumstance. Together with Alex, the duo is already creating waves in the industry. In a city that is well known as the cocktail capital of the world, this is no small accomplishment. The two men had a conversation with Forbes to discuss their formula for success.
Alex Assouline, second generation steward of the family brand.
Assoline is known as one of the world’s leading book publishers, what brought you into the beverage space?
Alex Assouline: “The idea was to develop an oasis of culture through books, but also to look at objects and furniture from different eras or regions, all from a perspective, and what we—the family—love and what inspires us. There was also a hospitality component involved. The upscale Swans Bar, which we’re really proud of, serves the drinks we love and the light bites we love. This is the most wonderful place on earth for us to be in. And Now with the recent involvement of Gabor Onfer and his team, every aspect has been upgraded even more and the cocktails are quite impressive.
Talk to us about the beverage program at Maison Assouline. What defines it? Is there a unifying theme?
Gabor Onfer: “Our drinks program is heavily influenced by the harmony between our unique location and Asouline ethos. As you enter Swans Bar from the hustle and bustle of Piccadilly, you are greeted by a relaxed, casual atmosphere and spacious open spaces filled with books, art and curios. venues. We aim to capture that change in atmosphere by encouraging everyone to take a break and celebrate the moment at Swans Bar. To achieve this, the drinks we serve are palate-pleasing and are both spontaneous, bright and enjoyable in execution. They are interesting and elegant, but not complicated or gimmicky. We also place a lot of emphasis on our backbar, where you can find vintage Japanese whiskeys in Martinique rum casks or tequilas and French prime reds. One can find Scotch finished in wine barrels. Like the Asouline family – who are avid collectors – The Swans Bar collects the finer things in life, but in liquid form.
What inspires you in terms of art, design, cocktail events that help inform the space?
AA: “The name and atmosphere of Swans Bar comes from a book we published a few years back Hans: Legend of the Jet SocietyFeaturing Truman Capote’s famous entourage, with images of the New York elite in the 50s. You can see these pictures framed on the walls of the bar. This is a culture lounge with perfect music curation, ambiance and the perfect place to unplug in bustling Piccadilly.
How did the relationship with Gabor develop?
AA: “James Duncan, director of Maison Assouline, joined the company during the pandemic and was here to take on the challenge of rebuilding the team, finding the right person to run the bar and take it to a new level. He has done an incredible job and has put together the right team. Gabor Onfer was one of them, coming in with a real passion and approach to storytelling. He has structured the operations, working with his team to create a stunning cocktail list and experience. Sometimes when I go to London, I just sit at the bar and explain to the customers every little detail of the creations they’re about to pick up, and it’s electrifying.
What are your favorite types of drinks to make?
Go: “One of a kind drinks that will bring a smile to our guests’ faces. While we take great pride in our cocktail and spirits selection, we always follow a tailored approach to taste with every drink request we receive. This bespoke Experience means we have loyal customers who know they can always find their favorite cocktail at The Swans Bar. At The Swans Bar we offer two menus that are refreshed annually – with cocktails inspired by our bestselling travel books a Travel Series menu, and our regular menu, featuring a carefully selected selection of cocktails paired with fine wines and spirits. We also enjoy developing limited-edition cocktails to celebrate cultural moments, ensuring There’s always something new and innovative to discover at Swans Bar.
What are some of your goals for the future of Mason?
AA: “Gabor and his team are working on a seasonal travel series cocktail list that changes twice a year with scintillating creations. We are also looking to take the hospitality experience to new heights. Hocker will be expanding the Swans Bar to the mezzanine level and has now launched a private dining space on our top floor, which we also use for cultural events.
Go: “Like a luxury library that prides itself on housing rare books, we also want The Swans Bar to be a premier destination for exquisite and rare spirits. This part of our program is growing, and we are currently working with Glenmorangie and Ardbeg are delighted to offer a selection of rare spirits from Distilleries. We plan to develop this into a unique collection over the coming months, which is very exciting and a taste of what is to come at Swans Bar.”
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