Angus, what the hell have you been up to?
Angus..what the hell have you been doing?
So I generally dislike television as, on the whole, it is nothing more than chewing gum for the eyes but they do have one neat little trick. The Dream Sequence. In this nifty little device the TV people can write out entire months from a persons life merely to explain away an unpopular story line or embarrassing event or merely when the writers run out of ideas. I could really do with a literary one right now as I have been wracking my brains trying to explain why I havent sent out a newsletter for nearly 6 months.
Well, as there tends to be a limit on the size of email you guys can receive so rather than fill you in on everything I have been doing (cos, yes it is generally that interesting) in my normal sesquipedalian manner I thought I would break it down for you into easy to digest bits. And so for your edification, education and enjoyment here are the best so far
I have been travelling…
I write this from Hong Kong where I have temporarily re-located from London. I have been training in Finland and Denmark, Germany and London and Australia. I have appeared at Bar06 in the UK, Restaurant and BarHK, Melbourne Bar Show and just recently in Auckland for their Bar Show. Add that to the work here in HK and you have some serious airmiles. And whats more I have liked all these places.
My favourite new place so far has to be Melbourne. Rather than the moneyed sophistication of Sydney, Melbourne has a more real feel to it with lots of small hole-in-the-wall bars that need to be discovered. Lots of owner operators doing it for love as well as money. Lots of really crazy creativity in cocktails that have led me to say publicly that Australia is (imho) leading the way in mixological creativity. I saw more molecular mixology here than anywhere else and some very funky drinks. The Campari-dusted chestnut Negroni (with desiccated Campari sugar on the rim) from Ginger and the Orange Custard Blood and Sand from Der Raum were memorable. Both bars should be visited. If you are looking for a drinking partner then you could do worse than Cocktail Kev, creator of the SOUSED podcast (soused.thepodcastnetwork.com ) and a part-time bartender at an Argentinean Tango School cum Tiki Bar I stumbled into (its that kind of city). Golden Monkey is a fine establishment with good bartenders and Section 8 is not fine as its two shipping containers dumped in a car park with pallets to sit on but it is damn fun and if its still there then pop in.
Berlin was very cool too, hanging out with the wonderful chaps from Mixology Magazine (www.mixologymag.de) and seeing what the Berlin scene has to offer. Some great bars would be the simple answer with my favourite being Victoria bar which has the right blend of serious bartenders (Goncarlo) and also quirkiness…many German bars will have an ‘owners’ corner where they put up all their favourite rubbish and things… nice touch.
I also met a guy who lives the life I want to by running Pop Up bars… here he a finds a space, either legal or not, and opens a small bar for a few months before moving on in terms of concept and venue… awesome idea and the Adidas bar he was running for the World Cup was a treat… its an idea that seems to be gathering pace and must only be lauded…
Auckland was quite a bunch of fun too but the best bit about New Zealand has to be spending quality time with Jacob Briars. He, of the moniker Vodka Professor from 42Below, is without a shadow of a doubt a truly nice man. He seems to be much of the driving force behind NZ bartending and there was no length he was unprepared to go to in order to help me. Even down to wrecking his Dodge Charger on the hunt for Pimentos for my Pimento Dram.
He was far from the only great person I met while travelling and Matt Bax, Peter and Marc from Der Raum must be mentioned, as does Franz Scheurer and his Australian Gourmet website. In general tho I see fresh shoots as well as seasoned timber in the world of drinks and drinking and it does my old heart good.
I have been drinking
Firstly I have been drinking lots of rum. I have now managed to find suckers, sorry organisers, to run chapters of The Rum Club in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and Amsterdam and New Zealand be coming along soon with Prague shortly behind it go to www.therumclub.com to keep up and find a chapter near you and the rums I have been enjoying? Well the new fangled Elements8 (www.e8rum.com/index2.php) is cool and the Seven Tiki (www.drinktrader.com/?q=node/129) is a whole heap of chewy loveliness. On the aged tip its English Harbour 5 year and also Inner Circle Black Spot both winning awards and plaudits as they go.
I have also been enjoying my vodka again with both Heavy Water (www.heavy-water.com/main.html) (made by mixological legends Miller and Brown (www.martiniplace.com/Welcome.html) ) and also Smirnoff No.55 (as the new Smirnoff Black is called). Lots of flavour when drunk neat as is my wont and unexpected flavours at that
I have also been flirting with Dry Martinis. It all started off with a certain Mr Hoshi and his house martini made with two types of gin and a chilled side shot of vermouth. Since then I have been on the hunt for the perfect Bi Martini pairing different gins together. That then turned into Martinis on Toast as flame zested martinis are sometimes called. That then led to the Martini Sandwich with a small glass of beer consumed on either side of the cocktail then it normally turns into a late night and painful morning
I also tried some of the new Fee Bros syrups with my chum Gromit (da man in Copenhagen) including a rock candy syrup… Mai Tai’s will never taste the same again…)
I have also been desperate to try Piolunowka which I stumbled on one day surfing (see also I have Been Surfing) which as far as I can see is a home made Polish vermouth/absinthe anyone with any kindly Polish grannies can gladly get in touch.
While here in HK we are consuming a fair amount of Sochu normally served from a tea pot with slices of cucumber or lemon inside lovely. Also enjoying the local speciality of the Gunner with ginger ales and beers mixed with bitters and lemon.
Also drinking lots of very old classics such as the Rose and the Bamboo and generally getting into vermouths they fit in so well with move towards lower alcohol drinks and if using good fresh vermouths (please all bartenders reading this care for your vermouths better its no wonder civilians dont drink the stuff judging by the oxidation and maderisation on your back bar I have also been drinking these Forgotten Classics because
I have been celebrating
The 200th Birthday of the Cocktail. (Well, actually the 200th Birthday of the first recorded use of the word cocktail). I personally think that Bartenders need A Day that they can use to promote their craft. For us to use a day in May as World Cocktail Day would be a good idea, even if Hallmark probably wont make cards. The event I actually managed to get to (see I have been Travelling) was in Edinburgh at Dragonfly and set a wonderful tone with five bars being asked to portray five Cocktail Eras. Men in bikinis was not really my idea of Tiki but Ian Maclarens Foamed Cosmo from the Future has already been incorporated into the Alconomics arsenal. Maxiuum really got behind the event as did MOTAC of course and the results can be found here www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org/Cocktail200/ and there is even a cheeky cocktail competition here www.bols200.com/
This date of course helped set the definition of a true Cocktail as being is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters but while on my Martini tip I came across this more modern and workable one a mixture of spirituous liquor(s), in equal or unequal proportions, to which non alcoholic beverages, fruit juices, bitters, and sugar may be added depending on the individual requirements of recipes (which may also specify the addition of egg whites or yolks, fruit peels and the like) and shaken in a cocktail shaker or stirred in a mixing glass with ice cubes, intact, cracked or crushed, providing that the strength of the said mixture does not fall below 28%.
I have been people watching
Not just the normal freaks and tweaks in most bars but people in my industry as they go round and around.
I suppose the biggest news would be that Alconomics has expanded to meet rising demand for awesome bartenders and trainers. Peter Kendall has been with me for a few months but the Mandarin gig (see I have been Consulting) gave me an opportunity to take advantage of Sam Jeveons itchy feet. They are both steely eyed and capable caterers (dressed in scamps clothing) and mean that Asia now has some new sheriffs in town. It has been suggested that my move to HK would make me FILTH (Failed In London Try Hong Kong) but one couldnt be further from the truth I am merely doing my international thing without paying London rent and the market and the vibe are awesome out here
Speaking of fresh pastures I see my dearest friend and media honey Sue Leckie has moved to join those erstwhile chaps at the Worldwide Cocktail Club as Communications Director. Nice move for all methinks. www.worldwidecocktailclub.com/consultancy/
I see also that Alex Turner has moved off from my old mob at ipbartenders and I hear his new company will be up and running shortly. As he is currently working with Douglas Ankarah I hope it is sooner rather than later. A shame to see him go tho but with their raft of new training programs I am sure Ben, Tai and Paul will be too busy to shed more than a tear. Ben has also added to his huge book back catalogue with his magnum opus (surely after such lightweight numbers as Sunshine Drinks) Ben Reeds Bartending Guideso maybe they aint that busy
I also get sent and collect CVs from decent bartenders keen to move and expand so if there are any enlightened owners out there I have great staff
I have been surfing
And have stumbled on to some beauties (I could stumble for England me).
This is my new favourite bar surface www.i-bar.ch/en/video/ very whizzy.
This is my new favourite blog sites www.thedailyration.com/
I am totally fascinated with Sport Stacking and then found this site for Extreme Hand Sports lordy its way cool www.superhandz.com/
42 Below have always made exceptionally successful viral web ads and this recent one is no exception (www.42below.com/flashad/retail/ ) perhaps the funniest thing on the web other than We like the Moon (www.rathergood.com/moon_song/ , First Drink of the Day (www.rathergood.com/first_drink/) (an old Barshow fave) and if swearing is your thing (forshame!) then this is for you www.rathergood.com/buffy/
I have been consulting
On a retail level I am involved with the refurbishment of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel here in Hong Kong. This is a huge project with well over $100m being spent on the refit. This for those that dont know is one of THE best hotels in the world with a hugely loyal following. The Legend is reopening soon and Alconomics have been training 60 staff and creating 6 new Beverage Programs as well as advising on all matters spiritual. Its been a whole heap of fun
Its too big for just one bartender so I assembled a team from around the globe with Pete and Sam becoming full Alconomics partners. Based here in HK we will be working throughout Asia on a variety of projects in the next few years more fun I am sure.
I cant really divulge anything right now but we have a mix of haute mixologisme together with ultra classics and some back bar products to kill for here in HK. We are playing with hydrosols and ice programs and deconstruction as well as a cool Bloody Mary and Martini listexpect to hear much more in the future.
I have also been deeply involved with Barmetrix. I spent a month sitting alongside the developers creating one of the most sharpest tools created for bartenders that I have ever seen. A kick ass Bartending Manual alongside a TestCentre unit that tests bartending skills (such as pouring, memory and numeracy as well as product and recipe knowledge) at the touch of a screen and we are filming short training videos as we speak to help bring the funny to improving. Driven by the mantra that we dont rise to the level of expectation but fall to the level of our training in pressure situations I have helped load 2500 questions that induct the newbie and challenge the pro. It has been seen and road tested by some awesome bar trainers in Oz and UK and they are all as blown away as I am.
I have been learning
I visited the Inner Circle Distillery and learned about the history behind the Inner Circle of friends who used to receive this great brand. More can be found here www.therumclub.com/worldwide_rums.phtml
I also saw some great presentations at the Bar06 show in London. Gary Regans talk on The Joy of Mixology and Audrey Saunders on using fresh seasonal ingredients were both fascinating and Miller and Browns run through of 200 years of the cocktail in 45 minutes was a marvel of timing as well as a wealth of information.
I also learned a neat trick while judging the Bartender of the Year comp in Auckland. With the trend towards foams in or on cocktails I saw a bartender take the coil off a hawthorn strainer and shake it and egg white/flavour in a shaker without ice. A good hard shake later and you have lovely frothy egg white foam. Nice.
I have also learned that a Ramos Gin Fizz does taste infinitely better when shaken hard by six strapping bar backs for 12 minutes as was the original recipe. I got six unwitting volunteers in Melbourne and showed them that the first Foam Drink was in fact the Ramos from the late 19th century rather than something Feran Adria invented.
I have also been reading lots with The History of the World in Six Glasses teaching me a fair amount and Herve This Molecular Gastronomy confusing me a fair amount…
So I will try to bring this to and end and promise that I will be more diligent with my updates. I have updated all the Knowdules with the current Alconomics Manual so check those out and am always keen to hear from you folks wherever you may be currently we have 1250 members with the following breakdown (UK 481, US 101, Oz 165, India 60, Denmark 81, Finland 66, Norway 76, and over 30 in Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Hong Kong and many many other places)