Sunday, March 13, 2011

The art of not drinking.........

I've been enjoying cocktails of a different variety in the last few months, non alcoholic ones. No I haven't renounced alcohol due to a health kick or to be virtuous and I haven't Charlie Sheened myself and been carted off to rehab. I find myself in the only other acceptable condition for not drinking, I'm 5 months pregnant!

Like most pregnant women, I was not 'out' as a pregnant woman for the first 3 months and in the drinks trade this undercover existence was more challenging than usual especially as my first 3 months timed themselves over the festive period of November and December. Here are my tips for pretending it's business as usual for any fellow ladies in booze.

1. People don't like it when you say you're not drinking

Unless you are on medication (prescribed), under doctor's orders or in AA people don't like hanging out with non drinkers, it makes them uncomfortable and our industry's handshake is 'would you like a drink?'.

I tried for a week of or so of festive socialising saying 'no thank you' and it was always met with suspicion or cocktail peer pressure. There is much debate as to the risks of drinking any alcohol versus 2 units per week when you're pregnant. I have 2 books to guide me through the process one a UK based doctor and one a US based doctor, you can imagine which nation has a slightly more relaxed attitude to what you can eat or drink whilst being 'with child'. I decided I would allow myself the occasional half a glass of wine or champagne. This too presented a problem as due to the nature of my work. I hang out in cocktail bars and have never previously turned down a cocktail in my life.

Due to the strength of spirits cocktails are definitely a 'no no'. My scary US pregnancy book said that I should imagine feeding the baby anything I was thinking of eating or

drinking, an image that is difficult to remove once placed.

2. It's easier to order a drink and not drink it, no one notices that you're not drinking

If you order a cocktail and then not drink it no one seems to notice, especially if you order the same drink as your companions. You can then swap drinks when they're not looking.

3. Plant pots, floors and being clumsy are great tools

Yes I did poor drinks into plant pots, onto the floor and also purposely spilt or knocked over my drink. I also poured my drinks into other peoples glasses if they popped to the bathroom or weren't looking.

4. Drunk people are very repetitive and clumsy

There is nothing like enforced sobriety for you to realise just how annoying being around people under the influence really is and it holds up a scary mirror to make you question 'my god, I must be really annoying when I'm drunk!'. I know that I'm pretty repetitive even when sober, I'm also naturally clumsy so add a pair of high heels and a few cocktails and stand back with the first aid kit.

5. Shots are a problem

Another hand shake of our industry is the shot, normally Jager, Wray and Nephew overproof or tequila. Again, a definite 'no no'. I found the best way round this was to not drink physically at the bar. As most shots are bartender lead the further away you are from them the better. My other solution to this problem was to get my partner to drink any shots, he spent most of December 'drinking for two' which was most amusing for me but not for him.

Of course once I 'came out' the industry have been very lovely and bartenders have been falling over themselves to make me interesting non alcoholic drinks to keep my taste buds tantalised, if they could just all garnish them with a slice of cake I may never return to 'real' cocktails.

There are new studies that say babies in the womb taste what you taste through the amniotic fluid, this baby is going to have rather sophisticated tastes of non alcoholic 'Tommy's Margaritas' and 'Virgin Mary's'.

I do miss drinking wine over dinner and a Gimlet at the end of a hard day but I do not miss hangovers, I've actually become horrifically smug about not having hangovers which means karmically I'm setting myself up for humdinger post pregnancy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blogging again

Whenever I've written on my blog in the last year I've apologised for not writing very often and this is something I hope to remedy going forward and plan to try and write at least once a month.

I had thought about changing the name of this blog to something new as 'Yoga Gimlets' doesn't cover all the things that I would now like to write about but I like the name so will carry on under that title, although the subject matter will reach beyond yoga, cocktails and travel.

So what will I be writing about?

Life has changed quite a bit in the last year, I've taken up some new hobbies such as baking, I know! who would have thought? I avidly cut out recipes and experiment at the weekends. So far I've mastered brownies and fairy cakes.

I'm also now the proud owner of a crazy dog called Duke, who has kept me endlessly entertained in the last year and several friends have suggested I write about him as he is quite the character, so watch out for Duke bulletins.

I have a wonderful new job at Marblehead Brand Development but this blog will be mostly non work related as I strive to achieve a work/life balance.

I still love travel, yoga and cocktails but am continuing to broaden my horizons!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wonderful trip

I have been an extremely lazy blogger, life has kind of taken over for a while. Also I haven't been away from the UK properly since last Summer. It's easier to write when traveling about as there is always more time and lots to inspire.

I'm doing the last few hours of crazy things you do before you go on a trip. I'm packed but have a few work bits and pieces to tie up, I have Duke (my 9 month old black lab) to drop off at my parents, I need to go vote and also pick up a package from the post office. I was going to go to yoga this morning but realised that for a change it would be nice to go to the airport with a few hours to spare instead of the normal mad dash. If I don't enjoy too many pina coladas tonight I will be able to visit my favourite Bikram studio on Miami Beach in the morning.

I love the ritual of a long haul flight as well as the peace and quiet of no phone or email for 8+ hours. I will load myself up with trashy magazines and TV on my laptop and decompress on the flight over to Miami. Work has been nuts for the last 7 months and lots of hard work which is about to pay off in the most delightful way but more about that later.

First stop is Miami, Rum Renaissance. This is the 2nd year of this brilliant international rum event, created and headed up by the wonderfully accommodating Burr family. It started yesterday and is 5 days of rum immersion. I will be joining the UK Tiki Off Team this evening as they warm up for the first UK versus US Tiki Off! If you want to read more about the team and their antics, check out written by husband and wife team Peter and Pauline Holland. The team is quite the motley crew of UK rum bartenders headed up by Rikki Brodrick of Trailer Happiness, Papa Jules and Danny Smith of Mahiki , Richard Hunt of Kanaloa and pirate Lyndon Higginson from Keko Moku. The beautiful DJ Hukilau is also joining them.

I am then off to somewhere that has been no 1 on my 'places I would like to go' list since I was about 10, Cuba!!!! The lovely Michael Menegos, of Havana Club has invited me to blog their Havana Club Grand Prix Cocktail Competition with the charming Mr Jay Hepburn of Oh Gosh! It is a great honour for me and I feel very lucky to be going.

To top it all off, and before I return back to the UK, I will be spending a day in Barbados but more about that later.

So hello again, sorry I've been absent for a while and I look forward to seeing you on my travels.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Tales of the Cocktail 2009

Evening, I'm sitting at the airport on the way home from Tales of the Cocktail 2009, I feel a little tired but other than that I may have escaped relatively unscathed this year. Am casting my mind back over the 5 days in New Orleans.

I arrived on Wednesday morning and made my way straight to the W on Poydras Street, as I had mentioned I opted out of the Monteleone this year, I wanted to be able to Casper
 (disappear without saying goodbye) easily. Of course my plan was slightly foiled as many
 people had had the same idea this year so I bumped into most of London in the lobby.

I wandered over to the Mont for lunch with some American friends and we all ended up at Coop's, which is a New Orleans institution, proper 'down home' Southern food. I had my first plate of gumbo, I have been, in the past, a super picky eater and am currently trying to broaden my horizons and not turn my fussy nose up at anything. 

The great and the good were at Coop's including a big chunk of the blogging community. The gumbo was pretty good even if I couldn't identify most of what I was eating, probably not a bad thing for someone so fussy.

I had time for a cheeky nap and then onto the Beefeater welcome party which was of the normal creative high standard they always seem to pull off. Dinner with a collection of limeys and shermans (more about that reference later). We dined at Jacqueimos on Oak Street, which meant a beautiful drive through the garden district with all its beautiful huge colonial houses. There was an elderly door man of sorts who was also doing tarot card readings, apparently he traveled all around Europe lecturing on metaphysics. He kind of looked like Captain Birdseye, his reading what suitably vague and very work related, no surprises there. Last year I had a reading from a gentleman who worked at the voodoo museum whilst a huge albino python hung round his neck, his reading was far more random something about being a transexual lesbian which if you're already a woman is an oxymoron no?

I ate fried green tomatoes for the first time, it seems that most things in the South are fried, a bit like the Edinburgh of the Europe. Cagney rat made his first appearance at Tales and helped my fellow dining companion Ben finish his food. We then went onto Cure, which is a very swanky serious cocktail bar slightly off the beaten track. This wasn't your normal bar in New Orleans and wouldn't have been out of place in New York or San Francisco. I am very happy to say that on my first night I was safely tucked in bed by midnight.

Thursday was peppered with meetings, pool time (networking) and another pre evening nap.I also attended a tasting room where the seminar was entitled 'Limeys versus Shermans'presented by Jon Santer from SF and Ben Reed from London. They discussed the differences between bartending skills and then had a bit of a competition, I'm pretty sure it was a draw. The drinks at this seminar were some of the best I had during Tales. Our first stop of the evening was the Belvedere party with a large posse of English bartenders, a pit stop at the Monteleone and then it was time for the Old Absinthe House and Alibi. The crowd on the street outside the Old Absinthe House was immense and where pretty much all of Tales congregated each night until the wee hours. I sent myself to bed around 3am as I seemed to be amazed that I was still able to talk and walk, by talk I mean slur by walk, I mean stumble.

Friday was the first of 2 monumental hangovers and lots more meetings. Hangovers in New Orleans are particularly brutal, 90 degrees heat and 90% humidity, like being in a Bikram
 yoga studio but I don't go to Bikram after rolling into bed at 3am and never when dehydrated.  I managed to struggle up to the Boca Loca Cachaca lunch and revived myself with some tasty cocktails made my Jeffrey Morgenthaler. I was poolside again but lurking in the shade. 

My evening started with drinks at the W and then another trip to Cure and the repeat evening of the night before, ending up at the Old Absinthe House and Alibi. Tales is about 90% male so being a female you get a lot of attention! There are all sorts of shenanigans that go on behind closed doors and the Monteleone resembles at some times of the night a frat house during Spring break. The later into the night outside the Old Absinthe House the more random the chat becomes and the audacious the proposals. These are two of the chat up lines I experienced 'would you like to come and try my bitters', this is standard Tales speak as there is a wealth of people that bring their new product or home made 'bla bla' for people to try. It's a little like 'would you like to come and see my etchings?' The second line was 'go on, let me kiss you, if you don't like it we can stop' a logical approach I feel. I caspered around 3am again with my modesty intact.

Saturday was one of the worst hangovers I've ever had, I don't sleep very much and normally bounce out of bed, I missed 'Limeys versus Shermans' part 2 and just about made it to lunch to groan over my salad with the lovely Burr family who I had had the pleasure of meeting at their Rum Renaissance this year in Miami. Another disco nap was required before the Spirits Awards and the firm resolve of not drinking (hadn't touched a drop all day).

The Spirits Awards are the the pinnacle of Tales and where the great and the good both US and Internationally are awarded for outstanding excellence. Anyone can nominate people or 
bars for each category and then it is judged by a committee of experts from all over the world. I had the pleasure of being invited by Michael Silvers of Uber Bar Tools and Debbie Rizzo (PR). 

I was particularly happy for one winner, The Merchant in Belfast. The Merchant (home of the Connoisseurs Club) is one of my favourite hotels and bars in the world. Every time I've been fortunate enough to visit I've had an amazing evening with great bartenders and hosts (yes even you Steven Pattison).They swept the board with 3 wins and another Brit won best International Bartender of the Year, Tony Conigliaro. I've yet to visit his new bar but plan to upon my return, its in Islington and has no name as yet.

I snuck off early to retrieve Cagney rat and drink tea with a dear friend and have a good Tales gossip! Cagney had been quite a hit with the ladies and was having a little rest.

Cagney's new friends and me!

Tales was even better this year than last year and not only was it educational, huge fun but great for my new business IP Brands.

See you all next year and it was lovely seeing you all.

Now for the de-tox, by de-tox, I mean daily yoga, not going to do anything silly like give up drinking, support your industry is what I say!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Preparation for Tales of the Cocktail

In 5 days I will be boarding a plane in Newark to New Orleans for Tales of the Cocktail 2009, this is my 2nd year at Tales so hopefully I will be a little more prepared than last year.

Tales is the largest cocktail convention in the world, cocktail enthusiasts, bartenders, brand owners, distributors and journalists all congregate in New Orleans for 5 informative, steamy, boozy days on all matters cocktail related. So how am I preparing this year? and what did I learn last year?

Actually lets start with what I learnt last year?

The first two days of seeing everyone I had ever met in the drinks industry in the lobby of the Hotel Monteleone was fun, after that I would creep through in disguise or under the cover of the darkness.

Organisation - so many seminars, events, people to meet its important to remember your
diary and run a tight schedule for yourself, always allowing important time for 'networking'
by the pool.

Pace your drinking and eating - being from the UK we often forget about food when
distracted by tasty cocktails. Eating is obviously important especially breakfast.

Sleep - I am not the world's greatest sleeper and can often survive on 4 hours a night but
at Tales a cheeky nap in between seminars or before many of the parties is not only wise but
means you can stay out longer.

Time going into the lifts in the Monteleone well, it is very easy to get stuck for ages as people
shuttle between the lobby and seminars. Maybe try and use the stairs as its the only exercise you will get during the event other than raising glass to hand. I did manage one Bikram class last year but am not going to put such pressures on myself this year.

Hangovers are best spent by the roof top pool bar at the Monteleone drinking Americanos
with good company.

I actually left my voice at Tales last year, I completely lost it for about 4 days which was entertaining for all that know me. I went from Tales straight to a yoga retreat with a bunch of people I'd never met and literally couldn't talk for the first 3 days!

I'm more excited this year as I know I what to expect and also get to re-connect with so many friends from all over the world some of who I met for the first time last year at Tales and some of which I run into often on my travels. The global community of the drinks industry is impressive and there is a real sense of community that I witnessed first hand recently when everyone came together at the untimely loss of one of our much loved bartenders, Gregor de Gruyther, he would have been at Tales. I, and many others, had made plans to meet with him there. It has made me realise how lucky I am to work with such a group of interesting, creative people who keep me inspired and motivated.

How am I preparing this year?

Firstly I used the trip to the US as an excuse to catch up with family and friends on the East Coast, of course this doesn't help with the whole 'taking it easy' before Tales theory. Catching up with family and friends is always a reason for celebration but perhaps this is the best training of all?

This year I plan on taking some cocktail kit and some interesting new brands that aren't available in the US so that I can make drinks in my room. Most days and nights you end up having a drink or 2 back at someone's room or suite, the Hotel Monteleone resembles a kind of frat house/dormitory but all the students look a bit older and definitely have more refined drinking habits!

I have packed my gym kit, my hotel has a comprehensive gym and rooftop pool, I opted out of the Monteleone this year in favour of the W, the theory being I will be able to Casper (leave without saying goodbye, I know a little rude but affective) and retreat back to my room. The gym kit will hopefully get used as its that funny game we all play of if I do something good I can then indulge myself?

I will have Cagney rat too as a travelling companion, if you're not familiar with him, he is a rat (toy) that used to live in Jake Burger's bar, the Portobello Star. Myself, or one of the LUPEC London ladies 'borrowed' him at our first meeting in January and he has travelled extensively since. He is currently in NY after his road trip through France and England but really looking forward to his first Tales.

I am also taking blogging equipment, computer, camera, a flip video gizmo. I have been lucky enough to be included as one of the Tales bloggers this year and plan to blog daily so will keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


So my 2nd blog about yoga. I am currently in the South of France on a Bikram yoga retreat, Lux-yoga.  This is my 2nd visit to this incredible place and I hope to make it a annual pilgrimage for years to come.

Last year I came straight from Tales of the Cocktail and had totally lost my voice, I couldn't speak for the first 2 days which if you know me was rather challenging especially when on a holiday with a bunch of people I hadn't met before. I haven't been on any other retreats, and although regularly holiday by myself had not done a group holiday type thing before. I can remember being apprehensive last year on the plane with the question that 
must have run through everyone's mind 'What if there all weirdos?'. Of course they weren't and this year's group is just as fun and interesting as last years.

Lux-yoga is not your normal yoga retreat, firstly its Bikram yoga which if you've taken class is not tree huggy, navel gazing yoga. It is a dynamic series of 26 different postures done in a room heated to 100 degrees. It is the most full on, all encompassing work out I've ever done and totally changed my opinion of yoga which I had previously found a little boring. 

Secondly, Lux-yoga is as its title says, luxurious. Ben and Craig who created the retreat wanted to create a vacation that they themselves would want to go on. There is daily yoga, every other day a double and posture clinics to further deepen your practice but there is also incredible accommodation, a huge house  on the Cote D'Azur over looking Nice, gourmet chef, literally some of the best food I've ever had the pleasure to eat. 

There are staff on hand to accommodate your every wish as well as a masseuse who visits and does an array of massages ranging from aromatherapy to deep sports massage.

Days are spent lazing by the pool in between classes and meal times or exploring local villages and beaches. Evenings are spent at dinner, drinking fine local wines and being entertained by your fellow guests or bands that visit. It is the perfect mix of yoga, relaxation and fun!

I am on day 3 of my visit this year and am writing this whilst looking at the amazing view from my bed, I do ache, in face my aches ache but its a good feeling and what I've learnt about yoga and life in the last 3 days has opened my thoughts, mind and heart a little more. It is good to immerse myself in something different and also give yoga the time it deserves without having to rush to and from class.

I shall leave you with this but will write more at the end of the retreat "A yogi is a seeker of balance, a yogi observes and connects and does not judge'.

Monday, May 11, 2009

International Bar and Cocktail Events - The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I am fortunate enough to have attended in the last year Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, BCB in Berlin and Cocktails and Spirits in Paris, each event was amazing for a variety of reasons which I will go into later.  The question I am asking myself again is why is the offering in the UK for the global cocktail community is so poor? We have by far one of the most impressive cocktail cultures in the world with some of the pioneers of the modern cocktail culture and many of the worlds best bars but yet our effort to educate and entertain our international peer group is way below standard. 

I am not alone in my view. The Bar Show in the early days was great, based at the Islington Design Centre, it was personable and well thought out. The last 2 years of the London Bar show I have been horrified by the thumping loud music, dodgy scantily clad promotional girls, very little in the way of innovative or interesting new products and hordes of drunken student bartenders. They need to drastically have a re-think or another organisation or collective need to create a new event.

It is not all bad, we do have some good events and organisations in the UK but maybe they need to be brought together to create an event that we can be proud of. We have the Connoisseurs Club over in Belfast, they have had some of the most impressive speakers in the world since they launched and continue to attract a big crowd all self funded by the attendees and no payment for the speakers. We have the Boutique Bar Show which allows small independent brands to be seen and doesn't allow any one brand or portfolio to dominate. There is Rum Fest which is also open to consumers that is growing each year and never has such a great collection of rum brands been under one roof. Rum Fest is particularly interesting as it is a category event, something I think other spirit categories should look at as I'm sure they will. There is also Distil which is part of the London Wine Trade Fair, still in its early stages but not as well publicised as the Bar Show despite being a much more serious and useful event.  

Perhaps if the UK could create a good event it shouldn't be held in London? So many of our other cities have significant cocktail scenes especially Edinburgh and Leeds.  The only positive of the London Bar Show is that it brings everyone in from all over the world and clever brands have made sure that they create events around the show that ensure these visitors have a good experience.  

So what do the aforementioned events do so well? Tales is the largest cocktail convention in the world, it is the place to meet up with everyone on a global level from brand owners, brand ambassadors, global distributors, writers, bloggers and bartenders. The fact that its in New Orleans and not in NY or San Fran, pretty much in one hotel adds to its success and charm.  

BCB created by Mixology Magazine and partners had some of the most informed and educational seminars I've ever attended. BCB clearly put a lot of thought into what was relevant for the industry to be educated on and then secured the experts in that field from the industry to present. It also ran over 2 days as does Cocktail and Spirits which is more than enough for any of us.  

Lastly, Cocktail and Spirits which I have just left had a dream team line up of inspiring creative bartenders and bar owners talking to bartenders about how many of their great bars were set up. This is what bartenders want to know, they want to know how to set up their own successful bar. The brands at this event were a nice back drop rather than the focus but they also had new and interesting brands as well as the famous brands we all know and love.  

As a member of the UK drinks industry I will endeavour to stop complaining and see what can be done, many of us are already talking, albeit late night normally at Jake's and scribbling notes on napkins but I am pretty confident in the next couple of years the UK will up its game.