Unlike any bar Aberdeen city has ever seen, 21 Crimes was established in 2018 with the clear intention of adding something a little bit different to the nightlife scene.
Located underneath Union Street, with a hidden staircase inside Vovem Meat and Liquor, 21 Crimes has created a uniquely sophisticated yet fun atmosphere - and although it’s still a mystery to many, it has been incredibly popular with cocktail and spirit enthusiasts across the city.
In time for their doors reopening this week, we caught up with the bar’s manager Dean to explore the experience they aim to deliver for their clientele, why he is so passionate about cocktails and what his drink of choice is...
What is the inspiration behind 21 Crimes?
“21 Crimes is a speakeasy style cocktail bar which is inspired by the Australian deportation era. This was similar to the ongoings in America during the prohibition years, where the sale of alcohol was banned and people found other ways to carry on drinking sneakily in bars like this.
“This inspiration is reflected through the interior design inside the bar, and our cocktails are all related to crimes that you could have been deported for in that era. As 21 Crimes is hidden downstairs and under Union Street, with old cell-like coal bunkers turned into seating booths, there’s a unique atmosphere which is different to anything you’ll find in Aberdeen.”
What is the experience like for a customer?
“I like to think their experience is quite intimate. We try to keep it pretty personal and love gaining a good rapport with customers. We like to find out what sort of flavours they like, what they are in the mood for, how they felt that day - things like that to really make them a perfect drink and something they will truly enjoy.
“Since our venue is smaller, this gives us the opportunity to really chat with customers, so whenever you next visit we really encourage you to have a chat with us. The menus are great as we spend around 6 months tasting and writing them, but never feel as if you are tied to them. We want our guests to feel like it's an authentic and truly personal experience - because it really is.”
What do you love most about your job?
“I love the creative aspect of the job and the customer interactions we get to have. The team I work with are incredible and are some of my best mates who make working behind the bar a lot of fun. I think this is really reflected in our work and makes the whole bar run really smoothly and creates a great atmosphere for everyone."
Why are you so passionate about what you do?
“I can become very obsessed with something I really enjoy and just want to know everything about it. This is what happened with alcohol - I needed to know what was in it, the history behind it, what it tasted good in.
“After working part-time as a bartender, I went on to find an amazing mentor who taught me so much, and with the addition of my own curiosities, it led me here.
“The job also comes with the added bonus of being really fun and meeting fantastic people along the way, plus I am surrounded by booze all day!”
What is your current favourite cocktail? Something you can make at home?
“When I am making a cocktail at home I don’t tend to drink anything too complex as I don’t like the faff - I don’t want to spend two hours making a syrup for one or two cocktails. I usually opt for a Manhattan which is fairly easy but tastes amazing.
- 40 ml Rye Whisky
- 20ml Sweet Vermouth
- 2 dashes or Orange Bitters
- 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Traditionally garnished with a maraschino cherry and served in a cocktail glass.”
What’s been your biggest achievement so far at 21 Crimes?
“Managing to keep the team together during these testing times and the business surviving is a big one for me, as well as reaching my year point on hogmany felt like a great achievement and something I am very proud of.
“It’s not as much as the singular moments but I am just constantly proud of what everyone on the team has achieved, both past and present members.”
Why do you think it’s important for people to support local?
“As much as I believe there is a place for chains and they can be good, they will always survive. If you love a local business there is no reason not to be supporting it as they could be gone in 6 months time, so it's important to enjoy them.
“Especially with what has happened and what it’s taught us, we have lost some incredible bars around the world and some amazing local businesses right here in Aberdeen. It’s more important than ever to help sustain these places before it's too late.”
What are some of your favourite local businesses right now?
“Tippling House, Orchid and Dusk are all fantastic bars in Aberdeen.
“I’ve also been loving Maggie’s Grill for a while now as well as AJ’s Pizza and Pasta Takeaway - I eat far too much from there!”
If you are interested in finding out more about 21 Crimes or looking to book a table email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01224 566566.