THERE’S maybe no better place in Scotland to have witnessed changes in on-trade tastes than on a stool at The Old Toll Bar on Paisley Road West in Glasgow, which first opened its doors when Queen Victoria was on the throne.
What was until recently something of a traditional pub has been overhauled, with a firm focus on premium spirits at the heart of a revamp which saw The Old Toll born anew in October.
With Mido Soliman at the helm, whose spirits credentials include a stint working with training firm Liquid Academy, and his first lieutenant JD running things behind the bar, the drinks offer at The Old Toll has been completely changed.
The venue now offers a drinks list that’s bursting at the seams with premium spirits, as customers are invited to choose from over two dozen gins and upwards of 50 whiskies as well as a healthy selection of rums, tequilas and Cognacs.
“With the drinks offer, we were looking for premium products,” said Mido. “Stuff a bit different that you can’t get in other bars.”
Part of that premium offer is a new cocktail offer and mixed drinks are firmly in the limelight at The Old Toll.
Each of the venue’s ten house cocktails, all modern twists on classics in keeping with the bar’s heritage, has a dedicated page at the business end of the bar menu offering plenty of detail on each serve.
And with everything from bespoke glassware and barrel-aged Manhattans to homemade bitters and hand-cut ice, the team at The Old Toll Bar is committed to ensuring customers are provided with the best premium cocktail experience possible, and that includes the guidance of knowledgeable staff.
The more understanding you have the more you can sell something.
“I’m a firm believer that bartenders aren’t just people who put liquid into a vessel and punt it out,” said Mido.
“They can influence the guests.”
With so many spirits and serves there’s a lot to learn at The Old Toll Bar, but JD reckons customers are more than willing to take things on board.
“Drinking culture has changed a lot; people want to have something that’s not the norm,” he said. “The guests that are coming in at the moment are already asking about drinks.”
Faith in bartenders is something many in the trade have worked hard to foster over the years and both Mido and JD reckon it’s an idea that’s gained traction with customers.
JD also reckons the drinks brands and reps can share some of the credit for improvement in staff knowledge across the board.
“The training has been getting better from the drinks industry recognising it’s the bartender that is talking to guests,” he said.
“The more understanding you have, the more you can sell something.”
Understanding is something that Mido plans to foster at The Old Toll Bar with a number of drinks-focused events on the horizon, kicking off in the beer world with Fallen Brewery pitching up at the bar tonight (December 8) and a selection of spirits-themed events scheduled for the weeks ahead.
And the overhaul of The Old Toll Bar isn’t finished either. The next step for Mido and his team is to create a 35-cover adjoining restaurant next to the main bar which is expected to open out onto a 20-cover courtyard area in time for next summer.