AIL talks to London Nightlife Entrepreneur Gerry Calabrese

Nightclub impresario and noted mixologist Gerry Calabrese talks to us ahead of the opening of his new West End club, INK.
AIL talks to London Nightlife Entrepreneur Gerry Calabrese picture

The son of legendary cocktail barman and mixologist Salvatore Calabrese, a career in the club and bar business was always destined for Gerry. With the Hoxton Pony and his very own Hoxton Gin already under his belt, he is set to open new venue INK this September. Partnering up with Stephen Manderson aka Professor Green, the new 5th floor Leicester Square venue promises to bring something new to the West End nightlife scene. We caught up with him to get his thoughts on the East-meets-West adventure.

Hi Gerry and thanks for taking time out to talk to us. So, you’re about to open a new club - INK - with Stephen Manderson aka Professor Green. How did you meet him and what made you decide to partner up and open a club together?

I met Stephen through him regularly hanging out at the Hoxton Pony. My brother and myself became friends with him and he became a great customer over a period of about 3 years. We decided to partner up because we share a mutual love of great music and great cocktails. We also love a good tattoo hence the concept and name of the club - and we are all good East End Boys.

Ah, the East London thing. That seems to be a big part of the selling point behind Ink. What do you think East London has that you’re trying to add to the West End?

I think East London is a microcosm of everything that is good about London – its diversity, its creative culture and the fact that we are a world leader in the fashion and music industries. It’s also a great cultural centre and a melting pot for ideas, people and creatives.

The club is named INK and we know you guys have a bit of a penchant for tattoos – can you tell us a little more about how that affects the club?

The club is intended to represent a kind of tattoo studio meets Shoreditch warehouse. We’ve got two world famous tattoo artists creating installation pieces – Neil Ahern and Nikole Lowe – and we also have a vintage tattoo chair which has been spray painted by a top graffiti artist. We have an impromptu tattoo studio and images of tattoo art displayed around the club. We took our design inspiration in general from tattoos as it just so happens that some of the coolest places in East London are tattoo studios.

From what we hear, Professor Green will be behind the music and you’ll be the man taking care of the cocktails. What can we expect to be drinking at Ink?

Although they will be a big feature, I will be taking care of more than the cocktails… The cocktail list will be a throwback to our offerings at The Hoxton Pony, creating a seasonal list of drinks all made from UK sourced produce.

You are of course, a well-respected mixologist. Is there a particular cocktail that you would always serve up for a special occasion?

As part of the services we offer at Calabrese House, we create bespoke menus and fashion cocktails around our clients and their taste profiles. At the end of the day a special occasion is unique to the individual and you should be drinking what you enjoy – so it all depends on the person!

With a star musician playing a big part in INK, expectations of DJs and acts are bound to be huge. Do you have any special guests lined up and what can we expect the music policy to be like once you launch?

We want to be a bastion to credible music in central London. The music policy will be a mix of rock and roll and urban with a little bit of house splashed in for good measure. As far as forthcoming acts and entertainment, that would be telling wouldn’t it?

If you could have any DJ or musician, past or present, play a regular residency, who would it be?

You’ve got to have a bit of Elvis Presley in your life don’t you? But the Vegas Elvis...

Good choice! It definitely sounds like INK is going to offer something a bit different to the West Ends venues. How do you feel about the state of London clubbing as a whole? Is there anywhere you love that more people should know about?

I love Le Baron in Masons Yard. I think it’s a really cool, understated and quirky venue with a great clientele and music policy - and it’s open late, which is always good.

Finally, we like to ask this of our interviewees. It’s launch night, you’re dressed to impress, smelling like roses, what song do you play to get you hyped as you walk out the door?

I love a bit of northern soul. I have the lyrics to Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ down my arm, or maybe The Smiths... Or you can’t beat a bit of Bob Marley.

Published Aug 30, 2013
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