David Piper, perhaps more than any other human on the planet, embodies and exudes the spirit of Hendrick’s Gin. Therefore, it is no surprise that he is the brand’s global ambassador. Over the past few years I’ve spent more and more time with David. I’ve come to know him both as a brother in arms, as well as friend. Mr. Piper is a gentleman, despite his well known reputation as the world’s most dangerous man. It was my pleasure to chat with him recently about some of my observations, as well as our shared love for gin and bar culture.
(Photo: Addie Chinn)
How has your personal journey linked up with what you do professionally? Have you found overlap between your social and professional paths?
I find it very difficult to separate personal from professional interests, because I’m lucky enough to have a job which, to a large extent, requires or allows me to do lots of the things I’d want to be doing anyway: playing with fantasy and turning it into reality, or perhaps the other way around, with an amazingly deep brand and across all sorts of experience. To do this job you have to live it; when I’m sitting at, for sake of example, Bar High Five in Tokyo, or Limantour in Mexico City, or Experimental Cocktail Club in London, enjoying an exquisite cocktail, in an atmosphere that not only makes me feel comfortable but somehow elevated, I think, “Who wouldn’t want to live this?” Likewise when I’m deep in the Venezuelan jungle looking for botanicals with a mad explorer, our master distiller, and a tribe of Indians, or guiding people through transformative experiences I’ve created…
In spending time with you, one thing I’ve been impressed with is that you don’t allow yourself to get distracted when in the company of others. Is being present something you have to remind yourself to do, or is it more of how you were raised? It’s something that has been lost on so many these days.
Ha! That’s an odd observation I think. To tell the truth, my mind can be an extremely drifty place, and I’m liable to get rather lost in daydreams and musings. I think I drift in an out of being present around other people; sometimes I have to put in a bit of effort, sometimes it flows. I’ve always had the dichotomy of enjoying both solitude and social situations. And I might not be using words like dichotomy if we were speaking face-to-face right now.
You travel a hell of a lot. Tell me about a place that you are always excited to return to, and another that you’ve not visited, but you feel you must.
Most of them are exciting in their way – but some more than others. I’m going back to Mexico in a few days, which I’m really looking forward to – there’s a heady magic there, colour, food, surreal imagery, life and death, ritual and beauty and wrestling. It’s a really interesting and seductive country. I don’t get to Paris as much as I’d like either – I lived there for two years and had a very special time, so it means a lot to me.
I haven’t ever been to Africa. Big place. On a personal level there is so much I’d like to see there; there is also a history of gin in Africa to be told – not always pleasant, as with the history of gin elsewhere, but often interesting. One of my best friends is Nigerian – where he is from, they bless new houses with gin. His uncle came and blessed my little apartment with Hendrick’s when I moved in.
You once told me the more gin on the market the merrier. Can you explain a bit about why you think all of that competition is a good thing?
It’s great that people are interested in gin and interested in exploring the possibilities of gin, which are practically infinite at the same time as being limited. Not all the new gins are excellent, but many are, and it is part of a general move towards a greater sophistication of palate, an ability to choose exactly what is right for you at this exact moment – which is one of my favourite aspects of the modern world.
Quite a few years ago now, I wrote an email to Hendrick’s, pitching this idea of a society of sorts. What is it about Turtleneck Club and Hendrick’s Gin that fits so snugly?
Deep down we both want to make the world more interesting, more fantastical, more like how it should be. And we both agree that mostly, it should be ridiculous, and elegant at the same time.
Do you have a favorite dark bar? The darker the better, of course. If so, where is it?
Oooh. Hard question, there are many: Happiness Forgets, Nottingham Forest, ECC (Paris, most of all in my heart), High Five, and on. But sometimes the bars you only visit once can form that perfect memory: Le Blue Note, in Hyères, in the South of France, was all fake greek columns and blue neon sign. The bouncer was also the DJ (and pretty good!), it took us several hours until we realised the girls in there where ‘hostesses’, and at 7am when they closed, the owner took us all for coffee and croissants in the morning sunshine. Wonderful, sleazy, surprising, and I don’t ever want to go back.
Tell me what attracts you to the martini. And why do you talk to your cocktails, if that’s something that we can talk about here?
The martini, properly made, consumed at the right time, and in the right frame of mind, does something a little bit extra to other drinks. It messes with the flow of time through my head a little, and somehow focuses my awareness to meet the cold, clear, strong liquid, and imbibe what can seem like distilled moonlight. It’s magic, basically. And sometimes that cuts straight through to my heart, and in an instant I’m feeling wistful and dreamy and tender, and if a small “I love you” slips out then so be it.
Join us as we gather at Joyeux Bordel in Shoreditch, East London, on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015.