So its been a woefully long time since I last sent out one of my updates and for that I apologise but I have been busy and so have most of you no doubt plus I have spent so much of the last few weeks with my fingers either clutching a cocktail shaker or wrapped round some fine glassware that I couldn’t get near a keyboard. Mea culpas all round and away we go…. Well, away I went.
< I type this some 3 weeks after starting it and but have not just apologies this time but also Celebrations!! I had a prune out of old addresses that I know are defunct but still I now number 1001 persons who receive this email. And despite the fact that I am not updating the site as regularly as I should we still get 10,000 hits a month which makes me proud. Maybe we all want to say Hi to number 1000… its Stig from Denmark. If you open this send him a hello and make his day… or really freak him out? Hee hee…. firstname.lastname@example.org >
First stop Paris. One of the many joys I have in my job is that I can pull the bartender card out when I need to in order to get something or play the journalist card. Now lets be honest, a bartender is someone who sells drinks for a (impoverished) living. I don’t do that any more full time so more and more it’s the journalist card that gets waived… and it was with my press hat on that I blagged my way into a Molecular Mixology seminar, organised by Bols and attended by the great and the good of world bartending. When I saw the attendees I couldn’t not go: names like Audrey Saunders, Eben(s) Klemm and Freeman, Tony Conigliaro as well as Colin Field and Herve This and the mere mention of it being at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz in Paris… c’est formidable.
The attendees of a recent Molecular Mixology seminar arranged by Bols with bar chefs from around the world and held in the Hemingway Bar in Paris
A fine dinner of Molecular Gastronomy at Pierre Gagnaire set the tone for the whole concept. A fantastic range of flavours put together in certain ways and in various guises but to be honest not all to my liking and not always ‘successful’. But with our appetites sated yet our thirst for knowledge still unsatisfied we awaited the next day…
Funky drinks and high tech cocktail making machines and lots and lots of science all done Gallic style. Molecular Gastronomy is about science. It aims to formalise recipes by ‘form’ of ingredient and ‘preparation process’ and uses that logically to create new pairings. Nothing I saw told me that MG was about ‘flavour pairings’ or the nature of flavour at a Molecular level. Add to that the fact that alcohol behaves differently than fats, sugars and oils and many of MGs ‘learnings’ applies to cocktails, more to the garnishes such as foams and the like.
Having said that the use of liquid nitrogen at –230 degrees was way cool. Take a Hemingway Daiquiri and strain it into a pool of liquid nitrogen and out comes Papa’s Popcorn with literal popcorn sized frozen solid alcohol… a Dry Martini sir? No problem.. mine is so dry you need a spoon to drink it. And the considered use of gelatines can create odd textures and effects such as gin and tonic canapés produced by Eben Freeman, drink god at WD50 in NYC.
There is a lot of interest in Molecular Mixology at present from many quarters. Writers who want to highlight the Next Big Thing, flavour bartenders who are half drawn to the kitchen anyway and technical bartenders who have more of a logical bent. But I have yet to see a customer yearn for a foam drink or ask if we do anything with gelatine. All that I have seen of MM in practice is great tasting drinks that only real anoraks can appreciate for what they are (tho the masses will love them too) or represent or an interesting range of alcoholic amuse bouche to delight drinkers or entice diners. Now this seminar was to introduce the Molecular bit of MG to creative bar folk and it will have a follow up to see what it inspired. There were far better bartenders than me on the trip so I wait to be proved wrong…
Then it was off to Finland for session two of my Campari sessions that has allowed me to meet some great people and see a fairly unique bartending style. Five sessions in four cities made it all a bit hectic but Helsinki is a fairly fun town with some great bars. Check out The American Bar if you want the Finest of the fine but if Pimp My Champagne! is more your thing then head over to Mecca (www.mecca.fi) for some serious lounging. We played about with some Grog style Campari drinks as Scandinavia is Irish Coffee mental and I also unleashed Dave Nepove’s Spanish Rose cocktail on them after the success of his Sweet Heat wherever I teach that… he does more than just make great muddlers…
Its always interesting dealing with foreign bartenders as you normally learn as much as you teach, not only about ‘national characteristics’ but also about what they think about yours. On one hand while I was talking about Campari using cochineal as its colourant and that although it was obtained via the carpaces of some insects it was perhaps not the best selling point “Its made from insects”. But no… in bars in Finland the fact that it is made from ‘crushed up bugs’ seems to be a hit and those people who normally would not appreciate the bitter-sweet qualities of Campari, as a ‘challenge’ shot it worked fine… how odd.
I also had a chat with the guys in The American Bar about how they had had to change one of their drink’s name from Death in New Orleans to a New Orleans Royale and they asked if it was true that a Manhattan should now be garnished with two cherries as a 9/11 tribute. Anyone heard about this?
I was also told that in pubs in Britain it was tradition to have one bottle on optic, covered with paper. Drinks from that bottle were free, apart from the last shot – the unfortunate owner of which would receive a bill for the whole lot. I have never seen this but it sounds a jolly wheeze.
It was then off to rush up and down the West Coast of America. Now I have traditionally been an East Coast kind of guy, having worked in NYC for 18 months and never really got the California thing… too sunny I think but still.
But since meeting Julio Bermejo and being afforded entry into the San Francisco bartender community it has grown on me considerably and I have been able to meet some awesome new people as well as tick many boxes on my “ People I want to meet/be served by before I die” list. And I have wanted to go up to Seattle since I developed an unhealthy love affair with Starbucks. And because guru Robert Hess, aka Drinkboy (www.drinkboy.com) resides and drinks there. This trip gave me a chance to do both so off I went.
San Francisco will always taste of tequila to me…but the best tequila. I am technically a tequila Demi-God in the Agave Appreciation world. I have drunk at least 80 tequilas of varying styles, pass two difficult exams and visited at least one distillery. So when I heard that Julio Bermejo and others were opening a new bar while I was there AND it was the 14th annual TequilaPalooza I just rubbed my hands in glee, lined my stomach and cleared a sleeping space in Julio’s house with fellow tequila head Charles Vexenat.
Julio's kitchen cupboards...
Tres Agave is a very cool spot. Totally different from Julio’s parents place Tommy’s (that still sits in my Top 10 bars of all time) it is large and modern Mexican in style. But the love of all things Mexican, especially the liquid stuff is still exactly the same. An awe inspiring back bar, a smattering of nine litre engraved bottles filled with rare tequilas and good team of bartenders makes it a whole lot of fun.
TequilaPalooza was fun too. An annual event, this was the 14th (I had to hang my head in shame when I heard that… and me a spirits geek!) but the first with the proceeds going to charity. Only Tequila Masters of the Agave Appreciation society are invited with a guest. A $40(?) dollar entry fee buys you seven tequilas and the range is pretty awesome. It was quite an odd time meeting fellow tequila Demi Gods (there are only 50 of us in the world) and getting leathered on fine tequila in what is going to be a Tequila Museum behind Tres Agaves… and the best bit is as you only drink good tequila you don’t feel bad the next day as it is so ‘pure’…
the boys behind bars at Tres Agave, San Francisco.
Other highlights of San Fran were numerous: finding a shop that sells 1800 Millennium for $80; meeting a kooky bartender called Alberta (aka Flighty Hostess) who loves Green Chartreuse as much as I do; spending a Negroni-fuelled evening with my pal Mary and her pal Tony Abou Ganim (another box ticked and acquaintance made… I’m not worthy); finally seeing a bottle of Skyy 90 (tall thin, ultra-designed bottle filled with vodka anyone?)
Then up to Seattle. I was up working with my friends at Kerry and Da Vinci syrups to throw a party to celebrate the opening of their new Flavor(sic) Space. What this meant was five days in Seattle with two nights playing with exotic tastes and flavours and showing off behind a bar… nice. So I chose some of the funkier drinks I had been lucky enough to sample recently and set to work. In general the drinks went down a storm and it was only when I was being asked for ‘six grey goose lemon drops and two belvedere dirty martinis’ that my cool demeanour may have slipped somewhat…but thanks to Dave Nepove, Audrey Saunders, Soul Shakers, Jamie Stephenson and Julio for their liquid masterpieces.
It also gave me a chance to meet Murray Stenson. Now I have been reading about ‘Murray’ for some years now via Drinkboy and Paul Harrington and had always wanted to meet him. A quick email to Robert Hess bought the map for a whole Cocktail Safari of Seattle plus the location of aforementioned Murray at the Zig Zag café. Now he used to work at Il Bistro but was lured away by Kacey Fitch and his partner Ben Dougherty to work with them and the place has pretty much set up to Murray’s specifications… the Five Bank speedrail is truly awesome. Its very much an old school kind of bar so we delved into Jones’ Bar Guide for some great drinks and then I visited my fave Green Chartreuse… Murray is a great guy and Zig Zag goes into my personal top ten bars in the world.
Messrs Dougherty, Stenson and Fitch...
I also took the time to hook up with Ryan Magarian. If you looked in the dictionary under “Hip Young Mixologist” then there would be a picture of Ryan. He is currently consultant to Suite 410 and has produced a great little list with two sections entitled Resurrected and Original…his Quince Mustard Margarita was choice and the Pisco Sour was damn fine…
So arrive London Heathrow at 11am from San Francisco and run from Terminal 3 to Terminal 4 for the 2pm to Denmark. Its three days on, three days off and four days on in my Great Danish Splash and Dash. Now I am a fan of Denmark but the bar scene is slightly blighted by the fact that most bars use an electronic pour system… either electronic optics, controlled pourers or ‘post mix’ style spirit guns. It limits the bartenders ability to ‘create’ and often leads to more orders for beer. Some are very clever and from a business management point of view are great but I feel is a tad soulless and it makes it a bitch to train people on.
But Copenhagen is always fun. Although I greased the wheel slightly with a bottle of fine tequila I was again hosted by Gromit and the boys at Bar Rouge in the St. Petrie hotel… the only place to stay in Copenhagen. The high point for me was the gentle knock on my door when I had retired to do some work and opening the door to find the Manhattan Fairies had been… it reminded me of that other fine hotel, the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong as when I stay there they always place the fixings in my room for a Dry Martini when I check in…
A Van Winkle 13 year old Manhattan with punt e mes and an orange twist (as I like it) left by the Cocktail Fairies in Copenhagen one night...
The cocktail scene is still growing tho there is a big split between those caterers who have travelled and those that haven’t. here are several keen young bartenders such as Gadi and Jesper at Bar Rouge who can whip you up a fine Negroni or one a popular Sunny D. And Gromit, smart chap that he is, has taken over the bar at the Fox Hotel (www.foxkitchen.dk) so am sure that will worth visiting, as in the K bar with Kirsten at the helm as an awesome ‘flavour’ bartender and fan of unloved liquors like me…
My next trip was up to Scotland for a Meeting of Barbores. As I am sure I have mentioned before I am a bar bore on www.barbore.com which is a Scottish bartenders website. The cocktail scene in both Glasgow and Edinburgh has come on in leaps and bounds in the last five years or so and there is a young cadre of bartenders and owners who are driving the revolution. The site reflects this and once you get through the humour, the trainer fixation and the fact that none of them can write The Queen'ss English there are some great recipes and intelligent writing.
Still, a vague suggestion became a firm plan for the Barbores to meet in a basement in Edinburgh one Tuesday night and I figured I would bimble along. We all nervously shuffled in, wondering if there was special handshake or similar but King Bar Bore was on hand to make us feel welcome and the night was a roaring success…. Ian Maclaren from Montpellier Group also wowed us with some thoughts on Molecular Mixology with cherry tomatoes on vodka/spice filled pipette as well as the seemingly ubiquitous creamer.
Edinburgh seems to share certain characteristics with Leeds at present where they are churning out a stream of talented passionate bartenders and having the opportunity to open small independent places. Dragon Fly was my bar of choice and a great place it is… the drinks menu is in tabloid format with humorous Top Fives section from cocktails to Crime Fighting Duos and an explanation of the place's Beverage Program that includes the line “the sublime control of flavour matches the rigour of good chefcraft, with the added pressures of customer scrutiny”. Well worth a visit and bartender Dunk makes a fine Sangrita but terrible Can Can dancer…
My fellow BarBores in DragonFly in Edinburgh
So finally matters closer to home. London has seen a fine bar open and me resting my paws on it more than once. Green and Red, the new tequila bar in Bethnal Green is a fine addition to the city’s (and probably the world’s) drinking landscape. Its an ambitious project with great tequila (too many to list but Patron Gran Platinum, Don Julio 1942 and Tapatio Excellencia are toog ood for the likes of you) , great staff (at least two UK bartending Champions and old pros) and good owners (Red Church pub boys and the WCC) and there is talk of a Tequila Club of some variety that will mean fans of Rum, Whisky and Tequila all have their own clubs (with which to beat their liver to death methinks).
Aiming very much to be a Temple to Tequila it only stocks one of every other spirit and encourages sampling with ‘flights’ of Highland, and Lowland as well as The Ultimate… and the cocktails are split neatly into Classic and Refined, Spicy and Aromatic and Fresh and Fruity. Apparently there is good food and cool music but to honest I have not really noticed…. My eyes are focussed on the bar back!
I also went along to the Wine and Spirit Education Trust HQ to hear about a new government-backed initiative to train staff. As far as I can see if you have less than 250 employees and turnover less than £35m then your company qualifies. There are four programs that cost normally between £500 and £600 but can be yours for between £30 and £60! You get a world recognised Award and bartender training from my old mob IPBartenders and all even the ability to run the courses for your own staff for £60. email email@example.com asking for details of The Professional Serve… it sounds almost too good to be true.
And I have been reading a lot. I was very kindly sent a book by Naren Young from Sydney and as far as I can tell the book is only available there but who knows. Its called Martini – A Memoir by Frank Moorhouse and its great. This guy knows way too much about Martinis and loves them dearly. There are several books about this Holy Grail of cocktails that I truly admire, rather than being a picture/recipe book. Any serious Martini purist or any martini researcher should have this in their library. Its up there with the Amis/Doxat book and Lowell Edmunds as well as Conrad and Regan(s).
I tend not to do Bar Openings as I feel they are generally a bar at its weakest and unfair-est. I tend to wait three months before heading over to cast my eye over the Op…(too long in the case of Annex Trois in London that opened to some kerfuffle recently and lost its entire bar team en masse six weeks later, meow)
But I made a exception and visited (under the guise of friends and family) the new All Star Lanes here in London. It’s a Ten Pin bowling place with great bartenders and cute staff which for London is funky… bowling here is done in ‘out of town leisure parks’ (and all the hell that that term entails). It’s a UK version of Bowl More Lanes in NYC but sexy.
So I pass on the bowling, claiming some sort of injury/I used to live in America excuse and head to the bar and check the action there as a Friend & Family. Nice drinks. Awesome Bourbon selection. Good bartenders. Should go far. Crazy private lane area that will be The Hot Spot shortly. Sexy people working and slick operators. Bar done...go to All Star Lanes before it becomes really cool as it will so be…http://www.allstarlanes.co.uk/
Some various recipes encountered or proffered by some barkeeps of my estimation and approval who have sustained me on my travels and relaxations. To you Good health and Fine Drinking and to them that made them or gave me means to… Cheers!
Cecil Baker (Naren Young)
50ml gin (preferably one with a stronger botanical flavour and aroma)
10ml green chartreuse
10ml pomme verte
5ml passionfruit syrup
Pulp of 1 passionfruit
Stir like an old fashioned with large cubed ice
garnish with a sprig of thyme (or rosemary)
Spanish Rose (Dave Nepove)
1 sprig Rosemary
1 1/2 ounces Plymouth Gin
3/4 ounce Licor 43
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce cranberry juice
Strip the leaves from the bottom half of the rosemary sprig and place in them in a mixing glass. Add the lemon juice and muddle well. Add ice, the gin and the Licor 43 and shake for about 15 seconds. Strain into an ice-filled wine goblet, place the remaining rosemary stem in the glass, and top with the cranberry juice.
Earl Grey Mar-tea-ni (Audrey Saunders)
1 1/2 ounces Earl Grey Gin Infusion
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1 egg white
1 lemon twist, for garnish
Lemon Zest Sugar, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker two-thirds full of ice and add the gin infusion, lemon juice, simple syrup and egg white. Shake for approximately 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass rimmed with the Lemon Zest Sugar. Add the twist.
Earl Grey Gin Infusion
1/4 cup loose Earl Grey tea leaves
1 liter Tanqueray gin
Add tea leaves to the bottle of gin.
Replace cap and shake well. Allow the tea to steep in the gin for 2 hours; strain gently to remove the tea leaves. Do not press the tea leaves to extract excess gin -- this can make the infusion bitter.
Lemon Zest Sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Finely grate the zest of the whole lemon, being careful not to include any of the white inner pith. Add sugar and mix well. Keeps at least a week in the refrigerator.
Sunny D (Gadi Gershony)
30ml passionfruit puree
10ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
3 lemon wedges
5 mint leaves
muddle fruit and mint then add rest and fill with crushed ice and speed shake. Top with sprite.
Diamondback (Murray Stenson after Saucier)
3/4oz American Rye
3/4oz Green Chartreuse
shake and strain into cocktail glass.
Last Word (Murray Stenson after Saucier)
3/4oz Green Chartreuse
3/4oz Maraschino liqueur
3/4oz lime juice
shake and strain into a cocktail glass.
Corleone (Ryan Magarian)
Makes 1 cocktail
5 white grapes
1 1/2 oz. gin
1/2 oz. grappa
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
2 dashes Regan’s No. 6 orange bitters
In a pint shaker glass, muddle grapes, simple syrup, and bitters together
Add spirits and juice
Fill glass with ice
Shake vigorously for 5 seconds
Strain into cocktail glass
Garnish with white grape on rim of the glass
Hot Mango Love (Ryan Magarian)
Makes 1 cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Finlandia Mango vodka
1/2 oz. simple syrup
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1/2 oz. fresh orange juice
2 thin slices of Jalapeno
2 dashes Fee Brothers peach bitters
In a pint shaker glass
Add jalepeno, simple syrup, and peach bitters and lightly muddle
Add spirit and juice
Fill glass with ice
Shake Vigorously for 5 seconds
Strain immediately into a cocktail glass
Garnish with jalepeno slice and orange peel
As a final thought I want to send Salvatore and his team at Fifty all my congrats and good wishes for their recent winning of both Best New Bar and Best Cocktail List in the recent Class Bar Awards. I only played a small part in setting the place up and feel honoured to have been able to help Salvatore when he asked me to. And of course Trailer Happiness winning Best Bar is a feather in everyone involveds cap. Well done to Julien, Steve, Tom, Nick, James, Cedric and others and here is a nice review of it by Mr Hess on (yet) another website http://spaces.msn.com/members/DrinkBoy/
Ciao Maestro and my mixological mavens everywhere...
It was very good. Its informative and interesting to listen to a guy that knows that much...