Posts Tagged ‘rum’

Thirty One: Jade Sky

July 31, 2009

It seems like just two weeks ago that Diageo’s Reserve Brands division named Aristotelis Papadopoulos as the World Class Bartender of 2009. But two weeks is a long time in the cut-throat world of cocktail competitions and the search for Aristotelis’ sucessor starts on Monday at a training day for Edinburgh’s bartenders on the Reserve Brands rum portfolio.

It’s so unfair, having to go to a secluded bar and spend the afternoon tasting Pampero and Ron Zacapa.

As part of the competition, bartenders from all over town are invited to submit recipes with the top five facing off in a regional heat with a trip to Venezuala up for grabs, not to mention a spot in the UK final sometime in 2010.

Jade Sky
3 slices of cucumber
50ml Pampero Especial
25ml lime juice
10ml sugar cane syrup
3 dashes Fee Brothers Peach Bitters
1 dash egg white
Muddle the cucumber in the base of a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake with ice. Fine-strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice on the rim.


Twenty Nine: 2000 Man

July 24, 2009

Change, it has been said, is a good thing. The world turns and becomes new.

I’ve just started a new job. After more than three years in one place, I felt it was time to seek a new challenge and so far, everything’s going well. We’re getting ready to head into the Festival – one of the busiest trading periods in the Edinburgh year – which is the perfect time to be facing a metric ton of cocktail competitions.

The next two/three weeks see deadlines for entries for 42 Below’s Cocktail World Cup, Chambord’s Hunt for Holly (supporting their sponsorship of the West End revival of Breakfast At Tiffany’s) and the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix. The upshot of all of that is I’ve been forced into thinking of new recipes perhaps more than usual.

Yes, life is hard.

2000 Man
45ml white rum (I used Element 8 Platinum)
20ml Navan
25ml lemon juice
15ml orgeat
1 dash egg white
1 dash La Fée Parisienne Absinthe
Shake first five ingredients with ice and fine-strain into a chilled coupette or martini glass. Using an atomiser, flame Absinthe across the top of the drink as a garnish.

Week Eighteen: West India Company

May 10, 2009

If I’m honest, this started out as more of a kitchen special. I recently had the privilege of having my flat inspected by my landlord and in my attempts to make the place look more safely habitable, I turned all kinds of interesting things. There were newspapers dating back to 2007, a stack of comics as big as a five-year-old child, and most intriguingly for the purposes of this post, an airtight jar full of vanilla chai teabags.

Masala chai is a blend of tea and aromatic spices that originated in the Indian Subcontinent, usually served heavily sweetened with milk. The practice of adding spices, combined with the increased proportions of milk and sugar, drew disapproval from India’s colonial masters but the popularity of spiced tea seems to have outlasted the Empire. These days, masala chai style drinks are available in coffee shops everywhere – Starbucks, Costa, the usual suspects – though the actually chai component tends to be a bit of a cheat. Starbucks, for example, uses a spiced and sweetened tea-based syrup for its Chai Lattes and other commercially available syrups and teabags tend to include nontraditional flavours like chocolate or vanilla.

Just like my teabags! For some reason, I immediately thought of adding rum.

West India Company
50ml 10 Cane Rum
50ml sweetened vanilla chai (black)
25ml lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into ice-filled glass. Garnish with a lemon zest twist.

Week Sixteen: Centre

May 4, 2009

The galaxy is filled with wonderful things, not least the news that its centre tastes of raspberries and smells of rum. This is great news because both raspberries and rum are themselves wonderful things and because the centre of the galaxy is not actually made of raspberries and rum – rather it contains ethyl formate, a molecule that exhibits both traits.

They’re good traits to incorporate into a cocktail, too.

15ml handcrushed raspberry juice
10ml sugar syrup
1 dash Angostura Bitters
60ml Havana Club Especial
Place the raspberry juice, syrup and bitters in the base of a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Add the rum gradually while stirring. Garnish with a couple of raspberries.

To make the handcrushed raspberry juice, simply use a barspoon or muddler to force some fresh raspberries through a fine-strainer. You’ll need about 10 or so to yield 15ml. Commercially available raspberry purée works as a substitute.

There’s a point to made, I think, about stirring drinks. The handcrushed raspberry juice is opaque so you lose the clarity that you associate with stirred drinks, but the idea behind stirring this drink is to give it the smooth texture you always get.

Things to do in Ingliston when you’re dead

April 30, 2009

Bartenders are social creatures and often tend to congregate in places where alcohol – particularly rum – are abundant, even if that place happens to be Ingliston.

Ingliston is a small village on the outskirts of Edinburgh, if you define a village as the stretch of road between Edinburgh Airport and the Park&Ride. Its major claim to fame is the annual Royal Highland Show which I believe involves showing off livestock and examples of Scottish masculinity. Outside of that, the showground is used for events and trade shows throughout the year, including Bar Scotland 2009 which ran on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week.

First of all, I’d been issued with a laminate that said “Jon Hughes, Head Bartender,” which made me way happier than it should have. That translated into a greater tolerance of salesfolk, especially of the less exciting (read non-alcoholic) products.

EPOS Salesman: what kind of tills do you use at the moment?
Me: [The kind of tills we use at the moment].
EPOS Salesman: Terrible system, absolutely awful. Let me show you our solution.
Me: That’s really something our head office decides on.
(Five minutes later.)
Me: Does this do anything [our current tills] don’t?
EPOS Salesman: Well, if your manager is off playing golf and you run out of beer, you can send him a message through the till to order more.
Me: From the golf course?
EPOS Salesman: Yup!
Me: Does this do anything [our current tills] and a phone don’t?

It turns out that trade shows are weird. A free pen is not enough of an inducement to drop £500 on a set of scales for counting money and nothing is enough of an inducement to stock a 37.5%ABV vodka in a discount store bottle at £4.50 a shot. Still, there was plenty of goodness – the lovely UK rum ambassador Ian Burrell, Monkey Shoulder moleskines, Beefeater 24, the reps from Specialty Brands slipping us tasters of Diplomatico Reserve even though our supplier doesn’t carry it, the rep from Funkin Purees telling us about the fight in our bar the night before, free beer and flair training from LA Bartenders, robbing crisps from the snack manufacturers stand, and flat-out asking from Havana Club Cuban Barrel-proof, please.

In review: Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba

November 27, 2008

Here’s what I know about Cuban independence.

It turns out you can write entire books on what I don’t know about the history of Cuba. Helpfully, Tom Gjelten has done just that and he’s even made particularly relevant to the likes of me by looking at the subject through the lens of the Bacardi family.

I hadn’t really associated Bacardi with Cuba in the past. When they started printing “Casa fundada en Cuba, 1862” on their UK bottles a couple of years ago, I was one of the knowing bartenders who would turn the bottle over and point out the words “Product of the Bahamas” on the back label. Of course, I was aware that Bacardi had been founded in Cuba and had fled when Castro nationalized their facilities on the island in 1960, but I’d never thought of it as being particularly tied to any one country. My experience of Bacardi was as a global product from a multi-national corporation. But from small acorns, y’know. Read the rest of this entry »

Workshop, pt. 6: regionals

November 12, 2008

Today was my regional heat for the Bacardi Legacy competition. Regionals can take many forms and today’s format was another new experience.

For the purposes of the competition, the UK was split into seven regions. More than two hundred entries were whittled down to seventy (ten per region, but I’m guessing on that), with only one entry from each region progressing to the national final in February.

So, statistically speaking, a 1 in 10 chance of making nationals. But, cocktail comps aren’t decided out of a hat, so my odds just lengthened. Given I don’t know who else qualified from my region (which, let’s face it, is going to be one of the hardest to get out of if the likes of Mal Spence submitted entries; I’m also hoping that all the Scotland-based bartenders who have recipes in the 2008 Legacy Book aren’t getting another go) and that adjustment might have to be in orders of magnitude.

A lot of competitions involve making your drink in front of your direct rivals as well as the judges, unless it’s judged on a blind tasting, in which case your audience will largely comprise people who want to beat you. The interesting thing about the Legacy regional heat was that it was conducted by two judges in your bar, without spectators, without other competitors. It made for a refreshing change. That’s not to say that the format’s without it challenges. One of the judges who was assessing me spoke of a bartender in Belfast who had made his presentation while still serving paying customers and making service checks because his replacement was running late.

The format allowed me to focus on my presentation and my drink, which isn’t always the case if I get starstruck or rattled by the guys I’m up against. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. At any rate, the national final is set to be a more traditional competition format, so there’s that bridge to cross. Or not.

(Judges Score photo from CraigOppy’s photostream on Flickr.)

Workshop, pt. 5: from there to here

October 29, 2008

Havana laugh

October 28, 2008
Bacardi Havana Club

Apparently, Bacardi's Havana Club is aimed at America's Hispanic population. Unlucky.

I’m a bartender, therefore I like rum, which leads me to say all kinds of nice things about the roundup of the Havana Club range at A Mountain of Crushed Ice. Tiare’s post touches on Bacardi’s version of Havana Club, which is only available in the USA, which reminds me of two things.

The first is spending literally an entire day in Manhattan’s liquor stores trying to find a bottle to (very illegally) bring back to Scotland. The second, courtesy of the guys at Bramble, is trying it.

It’s absolutely horrendous. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Britain’s rich rum heritage. Maybe I’m comparing it with things it should never be measured against, like an aged Jamaican or Guatemalan rum, or even Bacardi’s own 8 year old. Maybe I’ve become a rum snob.

And if it is me? It still tastes like someone made a vodka flavoured with burnt caramel. From meths.

Pretty bottle, though.

Workshop, pt. 4: the naming

October 22, 2008

I’m always conflicted about naming new cocktails. Some days, I worry that I’m going to choose something that someone’s used before and that my cocktail will lose any comparison between them and disappear into the long evening of forgotten drinks. Some days, I don’t.

The naming of things is important, especially in a field where so many new creations emerge so often. There can’t be that many cocktails that have gained widespread popularity because of their name – at least, when compared to those that have managed it in spite of their name; yes, shooters, I’m looking at you – but some of the classics just fit. Whoever first named a Cosmopolitan deserves a biscuit, because the name fits the drink so well. For an Old-Fashioned, the name works because the drink is.

Then again, there are those drinks with a story behind the name. I love the story behind the naming of the Sidecar – it was the favourite drink of an Army officer who always arrived at the bar in a motorcycle sidecar. It’s easy to trace the path from “one for the guy in the sidecar” to simply “sidecar”, but if I try it with the regulars at work, I’ll end up calling a glass of white wine a Creepy Old Italian Dude. I’m also particularly fond of the various claims on the Margarita – not necessarily any particular story, just the fact that there are about a dozen with most of them involving either a Margaret or a showgirl.

Leaving the showgirls behind, there’s something to be said for comedy names. I’ve got no love for the Sloe Comfortable Screw school, but I can get behind a malt whisky cocktail called It Came From Outer Speyside, or the bartender who presented a Manhattan with Monkey Shoulder at a competition and called it King Kong.

As for my entry to the Bacardi Legacy competition, I thought I’d not go too wild. I figured that I would try to link the name to the ingredients I’d used – honey, hot sauce, Bacardi. Rejects included:

Bee Sting (drink’s not sharp enough)
Killer Bee (fairly certain that’s taken, anyway)
Ring of Fire (gentlemen, start your diarrhea jokes)
Worker’s Daiquiri (uh, Bacardi left Cuba when Castro came to power)

In the end, I chose to brave the treacherous waters of Google Translator, and came up with Reina de Fuega, which I’m 85% sure means Queen of Fire in Spanish. I think it fits the drink. Now, here’s hoping it stands out.