Ye Gods and little fishes… where to begin? As you can tell from both the length of time since you last got one of these and by this e-mail’s sheer bulk I have been dreadfully (but enjoyably) busy since my last update… to try and keep your interest I have, as promised, jazzed this missive up with current and past images using hi-tech means… all these excuses add us to an apology to all those who have emailed me to say “Where the bloody hell is my newsletter?!”… now 807 of you!
London & Bar05
Oddness that makes me smile
So it is off again on my Scandinavian Campari Tour. Although we were running the Essential Bartending Sessions which I do around the world it was to a whole new nation of bartenders: eight cities in 10 days… eek! The trip started off rather inauspiciously with BA managing to lose my baggage with all my clothes and bartending equipment in! Nice one BA!
I have trained in Copenhagen before and remember quite liking Denmark. There were some cool looking bars, they shut whenever the last guests rolled out, there is a high design aesthetic and they drink! But as is often the way that was the capital and the story changed somewhat ‘in the sticks’.
The most popular drinks seem to be Irish Coffee and some sort of ‘vodka shot’ called variously "Navy Shot", "Fisherman’s shot" or even more bizarrely "Seaman’s Shot"… as well as Cuba shots… all basically between 20% alcohol to 35% and shot often… I was also unfortunate enough to be served a Mexican Style Spirit when I asked for Tequila (neutral alcohol with agave flavouring)… the things I do in the name of research. And anyone with any sense of decency should on the whole avoid Alborg which is the Danish equivalent of Newcastle in the UK or Majorca in Spain… if those mean nothing to you then count your blessings and stay ignorant.
But there are little pockets of quality. Kupe in Aarhus had Brambles and Cucumberinhias with a wonderfully moustachioed Torben
and a very nice bartender who had won a Reality Bar Show in Denmark some years before. One of the very few bars to use ‘freeflow’ pourers rather than the electronic pouring systems that 90% of Danish bars use they put pencil erasers over the end when not using them to keep the fruit flies out… rather than cling film or golf tees as elsewhere which was a nice touch.
Copenhagen was where it really got fun tho. When I was last here four years ago with IPB I met a Brit bartender called Gromit who has metamorphisied into The Man in the Copenhagen Cocktail world. He now runs Bar Rouge (http://www.hotelsktpetri.com/barrouge/intro.html) in the St. Petrie Hotel and also a consultancy called Mojito Group and is doing great things. He acted as host, fixer and bartender to us and is truly a Friend of Alconomics. He took us to the Oak Rooms (ask for paul the stroppy Brit , Bar K (where Kirsten runs the joint... awesome lasy bartender with some awesome infusions and a liking for Suze), El Mercante and of course Pussy Galore’s Flying Circus when not dosing us up on fine cocktails in his place. The Excessive Product Loyalty (that’s a hangover to you civilians) that I was suffering from was entirely down to his sterling efforts behind the bar one night!
All in all I do still like Denmark but trying to teach cocktails to 6 people who have only had 3 hours sleep and are not allowed to make cocktails in their bar is a tad difficult… we will go back but focus a bit more on the larger cities methinks…but the people are still lovely and Copenhagen is well worth a short break in.
So it was a case of land in London at noon and leave for Sydney at 10pm… nice. Not just a social trip this but a critical meeting with Australian On-Premise outfit Barmetrix to set up a UK Barmetrix. Perhaps the single most useful and awesomely fun bartender training and testing program. Expect to see much much more about this system in the future as it changes the landscape of bartender training and evaluation at least here in the UK (yes, bold claim I know but yes I really do think it is that good and revolutionary…)
When I was not doing corporate things it was a chance to catch up with some old friends and stop off in some cool bars and enjoy some wicked drinks. I also took over a few bottles of Rum to the founders of the Rum Club Australia… our first overseas chapter of The Rum Club (www.therumclub.com)
Notable bars and people were hanging out with tequila guru Phil Bayly at Café Pacifico
Winchester, Grassl and Bayly
with Martin Grassl from Porfidio ‘tequila’… a contentious product this that technically is not a tequila but an agave distillate, it was good to see the new bar at Café Pacifico, catch up with bartenders like Ben Davidson (more funky facial hair!) and ex New Yorker Manny Terron.
Naren Young is still shaking up a storm over at Bayswater Brasserie.. I particularly liked his Cecil Baker: him and the bartenders wanted to invent a drink named after someone but could not think of anyone they felt like honouring so called the drink Cecil Baker. When anyone asks “Who is Cecil Baker?” the bartender is obliged to make up a story, different each time, for each guest. Thus he has been the name Robert De Niro checks into hotels under, Naren’s Year 9 Pilates teacher, Kylie Minogue’s bikini waxer’s dog walker… you get the idea.. the more extraordinary the better. Nice hustle guys… And the drink… a mix of gin, chartreuse, lemon juice and passion fruit syrup build like and old fashioned and garnished with a rosemary sprig is divine.
After 23 awards and 3 years Grant Collins in moving on from the Water Bar to consult on the new Zeta Bar at the Hilton leaving only Mr Duell in residence there… expect some fun at Zeta tho’…
I also spent time with James Martin, the man from Miller’s gin and generally a great laugh and good image for the brand (short, cool and filled with gin!)
London & Bar05
Now it was land in London at six am and run a tequila training session at 2pm for some of London’s best bartenders and attended by Julio Bermejo and Tomas Estes (the world’s only official Tequila Ambassadors)… eek! From apricot infused tequila drinks to silk panties we saw it all that day. I was gratified to be able to show off La Batanga, a drink invented by Don Javier at La Capilla in the town of Tequila… gratified as I have met the man and seen him make it as he invented it 50 years ago… here is a pic of him and crazy Frenchman Charles Vexenat
Charles Vexenat and Don Javier, the inventor of La Batanga from La Capilla, Tequila.
(and Phil Bayly gave me a video he shot of 15 bartenders making drinks for him and other Tequila luminaries when we visited)… its basically a Tequila Cuba Libre with a salt rim… mmm.
Glen Hooper bought up his idea for the origin of the Margarita. Rather than the various stories for Carlos Herrera, Pancho Morales, Senora Sames or Johnny Durlesser he opined that as a margarita is basically a Tequila Daisy and the translation of Daisy (the flower) in Spanish is Margarita was that not the easiest suggestion and origin? Anyone care to comment?
Then Rum Club that evening… see below for the madness and the Joy and the rums that all the international bartenders in London for Bar05 brought to the night…
Bar05 brought lots of bartenders and experts to London from as far away as Taipei, San Francisco and even Glasgow…for the second year I did very little – making a single Mai tai using a 17 year Old Wray and Nephew that was bought over from Jamaica especially for me was truly divine… we figure that’s the first time in maybe 40 years its been done – hurrah! It was great to see some old friends tho’ such as Jacques Bezuidenhout and Eric Johnson from San Fran – thanks for the rums and tequilas guys…
To be honest the rest of the week is a bit of a blur… Jacques Cousteau may have said that jet lag was his favourite drug but I have to disagree. The WorldWideCocktail Club’s Luxury Margarita competition sponsored by Don Julio Reposado (where I was a judge) was notable for its lack of a true Margarita but some very creative ingredients and tasty drinks. But the nice people over at www.hoyit.com have some pics from the show and other goodies for you…
And now its Sunday at noon and I was getting on a plane to Helsinki… a hectic month of travelling even by my standards. Four cities in five days in the land of the Midnight Sun… but more Campari so yummy!
I had been to Helsinki before, but only as a guest on a jolly with Finlandia. And I must have been greatly ‘over-served’ that night as I did not remember much about Finnish bartending. This time was much different. There is a fine tradition of training in bartending and use of IBA styles when making drinks. They chill Boston glasses and tins as well as glassware in order to reduce dilution but then merely strain off any melting rather than use fresh ice etc. I would be very interested to know people’s opinions as to if this is still valid or better to chill and then start with fresh ice… email@example.com
In general the ‘standard’ of bartending seemed higher with several bars using fresh citrus juices and sugar syrup and them making the Irish Coffee with real and not spray cream (some of my tests for bars) tho oddly very few of them had cocktail lists, despite making lots of cocktails… they were fascinated with the concept a la Match Bars that you are encouraged to take away a menu for later perusal but preferred to keep the menus “in our heads”.
The whole “its sunny all the time” during their Summer is very odd. I can understand why it happens but sitting drinking a beer and reading a book in sunglasses and bright sun at 3am is odd… as a bartender/owl/vampire having no darkness was very stressful.
Nice bars I went to would be Slingin in Helsinki (http://www.slingin.fi/) which has a computer and database of 700 drinks that you as a guest can search through and they can make (oddly tho it is located in a shopping centre atrium) but if you drink all 31 house cocktails (1.2litres of alcohol in total) in a single night then you get your name on a brass plaque (Peter has done it three times apparently… for gods sake why?). And the Giggling Marlin chain of bars was oddly good for a large chain…
And for those people who think Finnish people are just ‘crazy Russians’ are wrong… they are friendly and charming and apart from their IBA fixation are caring bartenders…
The Rum Club is in rude health and we are having a lot of fun each and any night. We have 7 people who have drunk all 36 rums and are now working their way through the other 50 House Rums we have accumulated since we began as well as the now full Members Only Shelves… 25 year old Ron Zacapa XO for £10 a shot? Yes please! A shot of real Cuban Matusalem rum for £5? I’ll have a large one. Khukri Coronation from Nepal in special knife shaped decanter? Maybe not but it is a cool bottle…
At the last meeting we had George Johns from Angostura Rums and Joy Spence from Appleton. Imagine how fascinating they were to listen to as they expounded on rum and rums if 60 thirsty bartenders and civilians from around the world say transfixed and silent for nearly 3 hours… and the bottle of unblended 17 year old Wray & Nephew to make Mai Tais with is a fantastic gift and addition to the club…
The Club operates every night Trailer Happiness is open and costs £10 cash to join… but if you can’t get over (and nearly 450 of you can’t) then go virtual at www.therumclub.com
I have been drinking many luscious liquids on my travails and get sent lots of nice recipes… here are a few with creators if I can know them…
Copper Illusion (unknown)
Still my favourite new drink… I have taken to just telling bartenders that it is gin, campari and cointreau and leave it at that. So I have had it stirred and strained; built; shaken; rocks; up; flamed; bittered and in many many balances. My fave so far has been
40ml Millers Gin
stirred and strained into a chilled cocktail glass with a lemon twist.
Toronja Smash (Douglas Ankrah)
40ml Don Julio Reposado
10ml fresh lemon puree
25ml grapefruit juice
5ml homemade rhubarb puree with ginger
10ml Licor 43
1.5 barspoons of vanilla sugar
Method: Shaken and poured into a cocktail glass and garnished with fresh rhubarb sticks.
El Corazon (Andrea Montague)
Winner WCC Don Julio Comp
50ml Don Julio Reposado
25ml fresh squeezed lime juice
2 barspoons Tommy’s Agave Nectar
5 pink pepper corns
2 dried hibiscus flowers, (gently crushed)
Method: Shaken and strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a hibiscus flower petal.
Julio Bermejo and I judging Margaritas...
Honey Pepper Margarita (Kai Weller)
50ml Don Julio Reposado
6 slices of fresh pineapple
the juice from half a squeezed lime
25ml of 50/50 Orange blossom honey water
10 grinds of black pepper
Method: Shaken and strained into a cocktail glass and garnished with a piece of peppered pineapple.
Lemon Buttered Rum Old Fashioned (Shae Silvestro)
in a double old fashioned glass add:
1/2 barspoon lemon butter
dash angostura bitters
10ml maple syrup
mix into a past
add 50-60ml of Matusalem 15 Y/O and ice in the traditional old fashioned
manner. garnish with a lemon rind.
Jamaican Black Strap Buck (Matt Bax)
in a collins glass add:
10ml spiced sugar syrup
10ml pomegranate molasses
dash fresh lime juice
2 dashes orange bitters
50ml dark rum
churn with crushed ice, add a splash of ginger beer and top with more
crushed ice. garnish with star anise.
Church Street Cobbler (Paul Aron)
in a collins glass add:
1 wedge each of lemon, lime, and orange
2 pinches of cardamom powder
10ml sugar syrup
40ml Havana Club Anejo Riserva
10ml Poire William
10ml Grand Marnier
churn with crushed ice then top with more crushed ice. garnish with a pear
Oddness that makes me smile
Congratulations to my good friend Pond from Bed Supper Club (http://www.bedsupperclub.com/home.php) in Bangkok... a great chum and very keen bartender who recently entered the Bacardi Martini Grand Prix in Thailand and won second place... I am very proud of him and here is his happy smiley self with a huge cheque..
Although I am occasionally referred to as the Tiki Geek that title probably sits better with BeachBum Berry and his drinks books on all things rum... it is good that he now has his own website too which is well worth a visit
The gents at New Zealand Vodka have been ruffling some feathers recently with some of their online advertising campaigns... this one mocking us Brits (http://www.42below.com/flashad/britain/) has been roundly praised as one of the funniest pieces of drinks advertising seen for some time...
Word on the street is that The Rum Club has started off a bit of a trend with a soon-to-start Whisky Club based at Albannach in London... we wholeheartedly support sampling clubs and are 'quaiching' with anticipation...(teehee)
In a nutshell the pitch is:
"The Whisky Club: “Aqua Vitae” is open to all and has for objectives to promote Whisky (all whisky- from Scotch to American, Irish, Canadian, and Japanese…), to educate people, share knowledge on whisky in a relax atmosphere and to unite people that have whisky as a hobby, interest or passion."
I always like some sort of idea or theme behind a drinks program or menu. Thus the Match-nificent Seven at the Match Bars (great drinks paired with the actors from the Film) or the list at FINDS in Hong Kong being named after famous Scandinavian personalities. Thus I can't wait til someone uses this as a hook...
Also I have always liked 'challenging' spirits and liquids and odd stocking policies. While I was in Finland I noted that every bar, and I mean every bar, stocks Parfait Amour... very odd. Chartreuse has always been a fave of mine as has Fernet Branca. And this picture of Dre Masso in the R Bar in San Francisco reminded me that in SF the 'bartenders' shot of choice is Fernet.
Look not at Dre's homeboy look but all the empty Fernet bottles behind him... its the bartenders' shot of choice in San Fran
We like that. Has anyone else got some freaky house shot? And does anyone know why SF and Fernet?
I recently spent a very enjoyable evening at this fabulous small hotel and bar:
A great small place, with Richard Gillam (ex Shaker UK) in control behind the bar and two great brothers running the hotel. If you like Blanch House in Brighton then this is another must-stay and must drink venue... the Bloody Marvellous (a champagne Bloody Mary) was fabulous, but the My Martini with a dry, slightly dirty Zubrowka buckeye is a tad challenging...
So I had better wrap this up. Please let me know if this HTML bit is worth it or we should just go back to good old email?
My next moves are to get TestCentre up and roaring.
To those who are unaware of it TestCentre is a computer based testing and training system for bartenders, focussing on knowledge, pouring accuracy, memory, numeracy and speed. Paired with regular bartender and manager training sessions this product will, I believe, will radically change Bartending in the UK. It provides a Win-Win-Win situation where the guest gets a 'better' drink, the owner reduces variance and the professional bartender gets their just rewards. And its awesomely good fun.
Expect to hear much more very soon.
I am also on the verge of possibly becoming an Owner myself. If all goes well expect to see a collaboration of myself and Pete Kendall and an enlightened Taiwanese bar owner in the Taipei area soon...we may well require short term bartenders for 3-6 month stints so if you are interested, could hold it down in the face of temptation and make the best drinks in East Asia then get in touch...