Warm thoughts and Cold drinks
It is impossible for me to convey the sense of mortification that I found out that its been nearly seven months since I last sent out a Newsletter. But it is also impossible for me to properly describe the most awesomely cool time I have been having in my mariachi bartending life. So I figure in the grand scheme of things those two things balance out and we need to just move on
Asia will get its own specific update in the next few days…
So how can I try and summarise such a long and interesting time?
Well I could tell you about all the fascinating, inspiring and deeply influential people I have been lucky to come across. In no particular order my top five would be:
1. Pierre Gagnaire: together with Herve This a father of Molecular Mixology and really nice (if very French) guy. He not only likes Campari (always a plus in my book) but when he arrived in Hong Kong to set up Pierre in the Mandarin Oriental immediately went behind our bar and proceeded to sniff all the bottles to see how he could use some of the exotic (to Hong Kong at least) liquids he could use. Sagatiba and Appleton Extra both took his fancy and now appear on his menu. He then helped us perfect our Foamed Cosmo that is winning such plaudits and interest nice man.
2. Brother Cleve: hard to explain exactly what Boston, Martinique and Mumbai based Cleve exactly does other than inspire those around him. A very cool musician cum bartender he includes Combustible Edison (the house band of the Cocktail Nation) and Bostons B Side bar among his achievements and is considered to be the Godfather of the Boston bar scene. A legend.
3. John Burton: one of the founders of the Santa Rosa School of Bartending and the curator of the largest collection of Cocktail Books I have ever found maybe I am more jealous of him but wow 4 copies of Harry Johnson? Wow
4. John Gertsen: merely his title Principal Bartender made me like him as well as his inclusion in Playboy magazines Top Ten US bartenders but meeting him and enjoying his mix of very old school drinks and very new wave drinks made me glad I had gone to Boston. Personable, passionate and precise my definition of a great bartender.
5. Bill White: the master brewer from Canada is a local legend and also suffers from the same book fetish that I do he cannot see a book (about beer) he does not own and not buy ithelping to convert Canadians to real beer (joke: why is American beer served so cold? So you can tell the difference between it and urine.) and willing to talk beer with anyone who shows an interest top bloke.
(honourable mentions must go to Daniel Madhavian and his wine biz Refuel Consultants; Xavier Padovani and his new job as Hendrick’s gin Global Ambassador; Gary Regan and David Wondrich for several fab nights out; St John Frizzel for his drinks and Charles Baker fixation; the Two Neils for their Barwizards vodcasts; Jim Meehan and Naren at Pegu Club and Gramercy Tavern; Dale DeGroff and Tony Abu Ganim with Finlandias Finnishing School, the ex Finnishing School maestros Soulshakers and their wicked DIY Cocktail Database and finally Alex Fitzsimons for single handedly proving me wrong about his ability to sell Arrete tequila…
I could also tell you about the wicked bars I have been to in my recent time again in no particular order:
1. Mahiki: a modern Tiki Club in London that I was slightly involved with crazy cocktails served in upside down diving helmets, treasure chests and coconuts with small holes drilled in them; design by Cheeky Tiki; an awesome bar team including Paul Mant, Papa Jules Gualdoni; Alex Fitz and Rich Hunt and lots of drunken celebs and plebs behaving badly nice
2. Death & Co.: if you put together an owner inspired and trained by DeGroff, Wondrich and Pacault (via BAR); bartenders with Pegu etc on their resume, a decent write up on the day you open by e-gullet and a wicked back bar then you get a big hit and thats what this place is (small in size tho another prequisite of potential). When I walked in they were having a tasting of six Absinthes (something you rarely see if NYC as its still illegal) and were making cocktails with high end Mezcal the thought of it still lingers
3. St Germain: now I helped set this place up so can be considered biased but I have a very strong soft spot for it. Set up by my dear friend Neil who managed to get himself knocked off his motorbike three weeks before opening and still opened on time this bar is not a mixological playground but is a bar that remembers that it is part of the Hospitality industry personality and (as one lovely lady said) not staffed with good looking young stud muffins (we had myself, Alex Turner and Alex Kammerling working that night). They do popularist drinks as well as some great forgotten classics like Bamboos and Aviationsand it finally made me like Absinthe (but only as we/they serve it)
4. Pegu Club: okay so its been open ages but it was the first time I had been and its everything I had heard and hoped for: small glasses for perfect potions; great bartenders behind the stick, dark enough to make even me look good, the lovely Audrey in control and every time I go there I get introduced to someone interesting: Ed Hamilton of Ministry of Rum fame and John Myers from Drinkboy spring to mind. In a recent poll I put it in my Top Three favourite drinking holes in the world.
5. The Tiki bar in Melbourne: some may remember that I talked of this crazy little bar in Melbourne that was in the corner of am Argentinean Tango dance studio in Melbourne. Well SOUSED Kevin took my advice and took over the drinks there and it seems it has worked a great place and again fits my criteria for good bars (small, quirky and well (but not overly) stocked back bar)
(Again honourable mentions must go to Montgomery Place with Nidal and Ago in Notting Hill, The Grill Bar in the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, No. 9 Park and Green Street in Boston and the getting-better-every-day-if-thats-possible Trailer H under Rikki Brodericks expert handling)
I could also tell you about some of the lovely drinks I have been lucky enough to sample and share
Top of the list would be making 40 of the Worlds Most Expensive Cocktail. Forget the debates a Mai Tai made with the Original Wray and Nephew 17 year old Special Trader Vics selection is officially the worlds most expensive and will spoil you forever for Mai Tais. I have been doing some reading up and Jamaican Rum changed fundamentally in the 1950s and as such cannot be recreated so the last 12 bottles of this stuff are truly unique with a very intense smokey flavour. I was proud to make the first one for 45 years at a London BarShow a few years back and recently was asked to give a talk on it and make 40 for incredibly special guests here in Toronto figure that gives me the honour of the Worlds Most Expensive Round!
After that everything else just pales into comparison but a Pisco Mojito with a Fernet Branca foam, a Kill Devil with Barbancourt, lime and Black Strap Molasses and also a Mezcal Old Fashioned also ring bells as being outstanding
I could also tell you about the great books I have been reading recently in order to continue to learn and also as I am building my Library back up after losing it all to IPBartenders. Thanks to Abebooks and my various agents such as MD I am now back up to 600 and Doc Cocktail has even promised to create me a book plate!
1. And a Bottle of Rum by Wayne Curtis is a great book that takes Rum and the USAs history and divides them both up into 10 drinks that manage to give an insight into why it is such a great spirit. Awesome book about the background of rum if not full of tasting notes and technical history a good read.
2. Mondo Cocktail by Christine Sismondo also taught me some interesting things and also gave me a whole slew of books in the bibliography I had not heard of (and hence just had to buy). Again chatty rather than technical its well worth a read
3. Hemingway & Baileys Bartending Guide to great American Writers manages to sum up both my bibliophile and mixophile tendencies by pairing recipes with quotes with great writers nice.
4. The Bartenders Book by Townsend and McBride is a history of sundry alcoholic potations, libations and mixtures relating certain adventures that befell those that mixed them containing related prejudices and theories from times to the present daytogether with charts, recipes and tables to make the everyman a proficient practitioner of the noble art of mixology and in doing so charm his soul with a variety of humours, allegories, jokes and ribaldries enough said!
5. Miss Charmings Guide for Hip Bartenders and Wayout Wannabes is one of the few modern Bartending books I love (after Craft of the Cocktail and Joy Of Mixology) and is up there with the Art of Bartending as a must read for the Professional Bartenderwell worth investing in.
Honourable mention must go to Bev naps… as some may know I am deeply intrigued by cocktail napkins (yes, I know I need a girlfriend badly) so I was delighted when I found this… the Napkin Fiction Project.
Finally I should tell you why I have moved to Schomberg (pop 4000) in the blasted wastes of Canada and become the de facto Director of Training for Barmetrix globally. If you have read this far then you must buy into my opinions and in my opinion Barmetrix will be deeply ingrained in the future of Modern Professional Bartending and more profitable Hospitality. I wont get too corporate here but as a manager, a trainer, a bartender and a drinker I am totally sold on the products they have created and the services they provide. Taking care of the tangible elements of the bartenders job such as pouring accuracy, speed, technical proficiency, drinks presentation and memory/Numeracy and creating a way of measuring them all simultaneously while developing ways of coaching bartenders is bartending for the 21st century. Bookmark the website now and await its total overhaul in the next few weeks and get ready for the future Canada now and then the USA and Europe I feel it has the potential to leave behind a legacy big and awe inspiring stuff.
Being in Canada of course means that I am mainly drinking Caesars. Although some 250 million Caesars will be drunk in Canada this year the global sales are about 250,000,005 as seemingly no-one outside Canada either has Clamato or the recipe. As I have become quite addicted to them (especially as Geezers) read on all non Canadian bartenders:
Canada’s signature cocktail is the Caesar tho some arguement rages about if it also known as a Bloody Caesar. The drink was created in 1969 by a bartender, Walter Chell, to celebrate the opening of a new Italian restaurant in Calgary. He took his inspiration from the well-known Bloody Mary and the Italian dish Vongole, replaced the tomato juice with Mott’s Clamato Juice (tho some say he actually invented his own tomato and clam juice mix) and added a celery stalk. Chell’s masterpiece became a Canadian phenomenon. Each year about 250 million Caesars are served. Since for each cocktail about 1.5 oz (45ml) vodka is needed, this amounts to over 10 million litres of vodka. But wait … what about Clamato Juice? Yes, not less than 40 million litres of this stuff goes into Canadian Caesars each year, which amounts to about 70%-80% of the total production. Except for a few pockets elsewhere, nobody in the world has even heard of Clamato Juice. Clamato Juice is a blend of tomatoes and clams, invented by an American called Duffy Mott in 1962. Other companies produce a tomato-clam beverage also, but Mott’s registered the name. As a result, it dominates the market.
1 1/2 oz vodka
4 – 6 oz Clamato juice
6 drops Worcestershire sauce
1 dash of Tabasco
Pepper & celery salt
lemon and lime wedges
Directions: Spread plenty of celery salt and fresh-cracked pepper on a saucer. Run a wedge of lime around the rim of a tall glass, invert the glass onto the saucer and twist to coat the edge with the seasonings. Fill glass with ice-cubes and add Worcestershire sauce, vodka and Clamato juice. Add pepper, Tabasco, lemon and lime wedges. Stir with celery stalk and garnish with lime wedge.
There are plenty of variations by using other spirits instead of vodka. With Canadian Club Whisky you will get a CC-Caesar; with Gin a Geezer; and with Tequila a Teaser. The key to it seems to be the Celery salt rim on the glass and to use a celery stalk with leaves etc on it…
So I should toddle off now and let us all get on with our lives, work and interests. Again I apologise for not being in touch some 300 of you have signed up since my last email (which now means more than 1700 of you in 42 countries… so you say eh Bolivian Tai?) and may have been wondering what the hell Alconomics was all about many of you will now be looking for the unsubscribe link! But I promise that the next newsletters will be shorter, sweeter and filled with what you want but only if you let me know what that is! Drop me, Sam or Pete and email and share the love
I am still doing the international stuff tho… a day in Dublin beckons as does a 7 days sprint around Germany with Mixology Magazine and then another visit to the Auckland BarShow as Special Guest, the 42 Below World Cup as Judge and lurking around the Sydney BarShow as MC extraordinaire and heckler of Mr Reed…
By the by… we have added some videos to the site and also a search function so you can just get what you want rather than have to troll through my drivel… tho of course if you haven’t trolled through my drivel then you won’t read this…
Until the next time I wish you warm thoughts and cold drinks!