Cool little start of a campaign breaking in Australia for Ketel One.  The video content is supported by OOH placements on bus shelters. Brands have been treating bartenders like heroes for a while now, but this really steps it up a notch.

Great call using Max Greco for one of the first vids too. He is awesome.

You can see some more videos here, and I’d guess there’s more to come.

Books, Legends of Bartending

Drink in some history

For many of us, a cocktail is more than it’s constituent parts, carefully tempered by the hands and knowledge of a hoary barkeep.

Indeed there are drinks that reach across the continuum of time and space, providing a rosy tinted connection to an imagined perfect place.

While Ian Fleming’s shaken martini might have had the most significant impact on the wider drinking public, there is no author who so was both so prolific, or as detailed in his description as Ernest Hemingway.

The Daiquiri’s of La Floridita are well known, but only those who’ve spent days and nights with the Great Bear of a Man’s prose will have an appreciation for the range of beverages his characters were wont to consume and the obvious familiarity the author had for their production, flavours and intoxicating effects.

Which brings me to my point, a new addition to the shelves of intoxicologists everywhere, To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Philip Greene.

Mr Greene has an interesting day job as Trademark and Internet Counsel for the U.S Marine Corp stationed in a well known five-sided building in D.C.

Little wonder then, that he has been driven to drink, firstly as a founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail down in New Orleans and now as a published author.

The book is being met with rave reviews and grand acclaim, a thoroughly researched piece of prose and perhaps more so as a drinking experience as well.

You can grab a copy on the Amazon here. 



Legends of Bartending

The Blue Drink Crusade

Hands up if you're barrel aging your own bitters

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is a secret holy war being waged around the world. It’s playing out across bar counters and in back rooms around the world and the colour of your drink is at stake.

One one side, you have the Cocktail Mujihadeen, intent on crushing all the fun out of your drinking with a strictly fundamentalist interpretation on the holy books of bartending. They speak the words of Thomas and Embury, scoffing at the lack of true peach brandy and the changes in percentage of cereals that have been used to produce rye whiskey through the ages. They belittle the modern advances  that the imperial western drinking establishment has bestowed. In short, they want to tell you what you’re drinking tonight, and you better bloody well enjoy it.

Early days in the Crusade - Winning hearts and minds in London

On the other end of the spectrum you have Jacob Briars.

It is a little known fact that in Jacob’s early occupation, blunderbussing hobbits in the Takaka limestone cave system, he had stumbled on a forgotten grotto that contained the Holy Grail.

Now some of you may have read that terrible work of fiction, The Davinci Code, and be under the impression that the Holy Grail has something to do with a dude from two thousand odd years ago and a cup that held his blood, or a bastard royal bloodline of some type.

The Holy Grail

The truth is somewhat less plausible, Jacob had blundered into the last resting place of Jābir ibn Hayyān, 15th century alchemist and inventor of the process of distillation to concentrate alcohol.

Inventing the finest spirits, however, were not enough for the man. He also turned lead into gold and unlocked the secrets of massively extended life. Despite these great achievements his driving passion though, was making drinks blue. Among the breakthroughs he uncovered in his painstaking and tireless research, was the Holy Grail, a vessel capable of turning any drink placed inside it blue. The pubescent Briars was giddy with excitement, stopping only long enough to unshackle his mule, he hurried down to his parnets ramshackle cottage and told them breathlessly that he had found his calling.

The next morning he set off from the Southern Island in his Currach, bound for a fabled mountain, the Matterhorn, to hone his skills and knowledge to support him in his quest.

His one man crusade has been visible to since noticing a facebook based Jihad from members of the Mujihadeen that specifically targeted blue drinks went live, it was time to return to a higher calling. Sick of having uppity bearded men with squinty eyes tell him what to drink, Briars reworked one of the holy cocktails of classical bartending, the Corpse Reviver No 2, making it, well, blue.

It didn’t exactly take off. So soft had the liberal population of bartending become, they thought at first this was just some type of witty irony that they didn’t quite understand but laughed along with anyway. How could a man who seemed to enjoy serious drinking actually enjoy something so incredibly gauche?

A major strategic victory

Recently though the tide seems to be turning.

Receiving canonical support from Dale De Grof, whose Blue Blazer opened the door to Briars and his way of thinking. After all, if flames on a serious drink can be blue, why can’t a serious drink be blue when not alight?

The ultramarine forces of Briars have gained footholds in the cocktail books around the globe, the picture above, from PDT in New York, represented a massive victory in turning the tide on fundamentalist bartending and prompted Briars to make a unheralded and extremely public admission of both his goals and progress towards them.

Briars claims success - will history judge his actions premature?

Flying onto an aircraft carrier for his Press Conference was seen as a bullshit move by many around the world, but Briars remained focussed and unphased as he addressed his people and the world at large.

“This is a victory not only for Blue Drinkers, but for the world at large. We strive for peace, freedom and blue drinks for all.”

Some commentators have questioned the true motives of the Blue Drink Movement, although aside from capitalisation of the words, they have yet to provide any insight or value whatsoever.

The South Pacific Mai Tai

The war is by no means won. While drinks like the South Pacific MaiTai have been seen on the streets of Paris as recently as last week, they are, in fact, more of a tealy green than a brilliant blue.

Briars seems unphased by such observations, stating “I stand for all shades of blue, from the palest sky to the murkiest bluey-green. Drinks are to be drunk for their enjoyment alone. Let’s get Tropical.”

The glass in the top picture just might be the world’s most tropical drinking vessel. It was handcrafted by a master craftsman named Kiva. He, like most of the creative classes in the US right now, sells his wares on Etsy. You can check them out here.

Legends of Bartending, Spirit

Global Product Exclusive: Tradewinds Gin

Gin fans, there’s a new kid in town. Actually, two new kids. They’re brothers and they kick ass.

The one in the clear bottle, he’s the little brother. A refreshing spirit, capped at 40%abv and lovingly washed in the waters of the Margaret River before being shipped out for your enjoyment. He carries a strong punch of citrus, shines in a Gin and Tonic, or in a Martini made with Lillet. Test him in an Aviation, hide a little Creme de Cacao behind him in a 20th Century, Lime him up in a Rickey or a Gimlet. This is a gin that can stand up against anything in the world and it’s being made right here in Australia, by Jason Chan and his band of merry men.

The dude in green, he’s the big brother. Slipped into the bottle at 100 proof (50%abv,) if you’re not careful he’ll knock your fucking block off. The higher percentage give’s “The Cutlass” a great punch at a first sip, what follows is again citurs forward, but with a curious difference. The addition of Australian natives wattle, lemon myrtle and the bush tomato craft a finish that is highly unusual and extremely tasty. Test it out in a Pink Gin, a martini with Noilly Prat, luxuriate over your morning rituals with The Cutlass in your Red Snapper, partner it with pretty much any savoury herb, think Basil, Rosemary or Lemon Thyme. Funk it up a little with any of the savoury teas, Lapsang Soochong goes great guns. This is a singular product that will be talked about and sought after all around the world. There’s also a signature cocktail, that I’ll be whipping up over the weekend.

Yes, those are wine bottles that it comes in, and their are no plans to change that. “The history of Margaret River is the production of really fine wines, we wanted to give a nod to that provenance as we start a new legend or premium spirit production” Chan explains. “We will be etching the bottles as production ramps up”

Distribution is being sorted out right now, it sounds as though Neil Perry is keen to add it to his Beetroot Snapper, Golden Monkey too will be an early Melbourne stockist and Flinders will be one of the first cabs off the rank for you Sydneysiders keen to get a taste too. One of Chan’s partners has connections to an online channel too, so those inside and out of Australia will be able to source a bottle, hopefully without too much trouble.

The Greenhouse, the upcoming pop up concept collaboration between Chan and Dutch born architect Joost Bakker will also be serving up Tradewinds, so get down and check it out when it opens in a couple of weeks time. They’ll be making the tonic water on site, so expect the best G&T’s this side of the Royal Geographic Society.

This is the start of a journey for Chan and his Margaret River Distillery, I hear murmurs of vodka and hopefully much more. The product is awesome, so it’s got to be a space to watch with interest.

Cocktail, Event, Legends of Bartending

Hooray for Prohibition!

Today is the anniversary of the repeal of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, sometimes called the Volstead Act. The legislation prohibited the production, sale and consumption of alcohol for all but strictly medicinal purposes.

Cockatil bars across the States and around the world will be offering specials and celebrating Repeal today, but I just thought I would pose the question of are we celebrating the wrong thing?

By spectacularly under-enforcing the Volstead Act, the US Government helped an estimated 30,000-100,000 speakeasy bars get off the ground. These establishments made bathtub Gin downstairs in the basement, and in order to cover up the less than spectacular distillations, they became experts in smoothing the liquor with juices and liqueurs. Prohibition caused an explosion in the number and knowledge of cocktail making  that is only perhaps matched by the current internet enabled era of sharing and caring we are going through now.

So raise a glass to repeal today to be sure, but also a second to the ladies above, who knew better than everyone and were willing to nag the country to stop drinking, presumably because they weren’t getting any.

Legends of Bartending

An era ends, but there are certainly some new beginnings too.

Professor Jacob Briars has spread the 42Below brand right across the globe.  His trainings, his sharp tongue and fantastic barside manner have won him the enduring love of a generation of bartenders around the world.

Yesterday marked the end of an era for both Briars and the brand, with his announcement of his final day inside the fold. The New Zealand offices for the brand have passed back to founder, Geoff Ross and his new Ecoya venture, the brands direction resting now with the Princes of Darkness in Bacardi Global Brands in London. The Professor’s departure seems like the final piece of kiwi madness has gone from the now global product.

Jacob is rumored to be offering some advice and support to Stolen Rum, adding some effervescence to the Tonic offerings with Quina-Fina and given his love for Wellington and kiwi products, there’s sure to be more from this erudite young man soon. He’ll also be basing himself in San Fransisco for the medium term. My fingers are crossed that he’ll solve Australia’s, or at least my, mezcal shortage.

He’ll also be back with 42Below for a swansong performance at Carnival of the Cocktail next year.

Those of you lucky enough to be in Auckland this Friday will get the chance to experience the first of the now ex-Professor’s ventures. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he is opening a bar. Called the Golden Dawn, Jacob has paired up with Sam Chapman, of Matterhorn fame to bring a craft beer and tasty cocktail venue to life.  You’ll find me there, chugging down Lageritas. 134 Ponsonby Rd, the old Open Late Cafe premises.

For any of you who don’t know Jacob, he has spent the last decade travelling the world, spreading vodka love and collecting an extremely grand spirits collection.  I’m told the back bar at the Golden Dawn has been supplemented by this trove.

Cocktail, Legends of Bartending

So you’d like to make a Mint Julep?

I managed to get each step of David Wondrich’s Jim Beam Black Julep on Monday. I think it makes a good story, and shows each part of the compounding process in turning out a pretty epic drink.

Mint Julep

You’ll need: Some fresh mint, more is always better than less. Sugar, water, bourbon, rum, ice, mallet and a bag. You’ll also need a straw, and a silver julep cup wouldn’t go amiss either. I never said it was a simple process.

Continue reading

Awards, Competitions, Industry News, Legends of Bartending

Bar Week Cometh.

Like Bartender Christmas, it rolls round once a year. Sydney town is inundated with Tom Cruise wannabees, full of dreams and staring wide eyed at the big city. Well, not really, but it’s a nice thought.

Festivities kicked off yesterday with the Bartender’s Brunch at Cafe Pacifico and the Bacardi Daiquiri Party at the marble bar at the Hilton.

Those of you who aren’t working can head down to the Argyle Hotel in the Rocks for the Bartender of the Year competition. Things kick off at half ten and run pretty much all day.

Later tonight the Coney Island Bartender Bumfight will pit bar teams from around the country against each other as they turn out classics without the help of a recipe. It’s on at Victoria Room and round one will get underway at 8.30pm.

Tuesday promises to be a little quieter, probably a good day to visit the Barshow and then think about the Whisky & Punch Bartender Olympics, starting at 6.30pm down at the Argyle.

Wednesday is all about the Bar Awards dinner at the Hilton. Winners, Losers & piles of intrigue (or at least debauchery.) Official after party is at Goldfish in the Cross, or you can go renegade at the Flinder’s Hotel for the unofficial one.

It’s going to be a big week.

Legends of Bartending

Punch – Out November 2

I mentioned yesterday about the upcoming epistle on punch by David Wondrich. Today I stumbled on the cover artwork on Amazon.

While the book is yet to be released, you can pre-order and if you live in the US you might even be able to score a copy when it hits the virtual shelves on November 2nd. Antipodeans will have to wait a few days longer or pay a few dollars more.

For now though, you’ll have to make do with the text on the cover:

Punch, the delights and dangers of the flowing bowl.

An anecdotal history of the original Monarch of mixed drinks with more than forty historic recipes, fully annotated. And a complete course in the art of compounding punch.

Legends of Bartending, Sydney, Training

Trading Punches with the wonderful David Wondrich

What an experience yesterday. A little under three hours with the Civil War General of Cocktails, Mr David Wondrich.

Dave is a walking encyclopedia of all things intoxcating, having gained fame for his lively drinks column in the american version of Esquire magazine and his amazingly well researched Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to “Professor” Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar, the Mixxit team had flown him out to pass on a little knowledge and in his words, ‘to do the tourist shit.’

Twenty or so bartenders crammed into the back bar of the Argyle to learn a little and laugh a lot. Wondrich has just wrapped up writing a book that explores the history and development of the Punch, precursor to the cocktail and tasty shared beverage of the sporting classes in auld New York. As such it was apt that the session started with a short history and a long drink.

Punch starts as a sailors beverage. As voyages began to stretch between continents and over months and years, more than a few problems evolved. First of all was with Beer, traditionally used to sake the thirst of the general rabble on board, when kept in barrels it didn’t last much beyond a few weeks, developing all manner of horrendous moulds and fungi. The officers too, were not exempt, their expensive wines ruined in the heat of the tropics, reduced to vinegar, or worse.

Somewhat unsurprising then that all eyes turned to the few barrels of medicinal spirits, seemingly unencumbered by the problems of the lesser ferments, they often appeared to improve with the length of journey. Continue reading