Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mixology Monday - 'Broaden your horizons'

Mixology Monday is hosted today by A Mixed Dram, the theme is 'Broaden your horizons.'

So this is my first Mixology Monday and as I am not of bartender background I do not feel I have the knowledge or authority to write about this from a cocktail perspective so instead I'm going to write about how I am broadening my horizons in terms of learning how to bar tend properly with Jake Burger. 

I have worked with Wines and Spirits for the last 17 years, the last 7 being with the highly accoladed Martin Miller's Gin and although I can tell you about marketing strategy, event planning, distribution I've always left the art of cocktail making to the professionals
even to the point of being able to travel with Martin Miller's Gin own mixologists. One of my new year's resolutions for 2009 was to learn how to make drinks properly, I feel that as a brand person its a very important, and sometimes lacking, part of our education.

One very late night in New York with Jake, amongst other animals, we hatched the plan that I would start to bar back for him in the New Year and learn the art of making drinks and bar tending. In my opinion there are two key elements to being a great bartender, firstly the ability to make tasty well balanced drinks and secondly and most importantly the ability to 'chat' to your customers and make sure that every part of their experience at your bar is positive.

Let me firstly tell you about Mr Jake Burger. I first met Jake in Leeds about 4 and a half years ago, it was just before he opened Jake's Bar on Call Lane. I have spent many an enjoyable night at Jake's Bar, it's one of those bars that is a time bandit and before you know it the sun is coming up. Actually I have now realised that it isn't Jake's Bar, its Jake, the man himself that has this affect. 

Jake started his career in 1992 working at a bar called Ikes Bistro which at the time was the only proper cocktail bar in Leeds. The first drink he ever made was a 'Transplant' made up of gin, Bacardi, creme de menthe, orange juice and pineapple (don't try that one at home). He is pretty much self taught but over the last 17 years he has won numerous cocktail competitions including the Smirnoff Penka 'perfect cut' diamond competition, Blantons bartender of the year, Leeds Guide bartender of the year, Belvedere 2nd place in world final and most importantly Elements 8 Rum Pina Colada King!

There is also now the Portobello Star, his London home. This opened in November 2008 and has fast become a big industry hang out as well as local haunt of Notting Hill locals. 

My first lesson with Jake was on a quiet Tuesday evening. As we are often drinking partners we had agreed that the first few lessons would not involve any drinking (unless educational). We started off by cleaning all the bottles on the back bar, Jake instructed me that its important I know something about each product in his bar. We got through Gin, Vodka, Liqueurs, Tequila, Vermouth and bitters in about 3 hours. Jake is a bit of yoda when it comes to bitters and has an extremely rare bottle of Bokers bitters and Abbotts bitters. I learn all sorts of interesting facts about both much loved brands and new brands and realise some home study will enhance my knowledge. I'm also there to generally clear up and watch Jake make drinks. I think it will be a number of weeks before I'm let loose with a cocktail shaker but am looking forward to lesson no 2 next week. Jake is a great teacher and is the right combination of fun and interesting, if only all my teachers had tried teaching me lessons from behind a bar.

The only question I ask myself is why I didn't get behind the bar earlier? I think it is an essential part of my drinks industry education and would encourage all brand people to broaden their horizons in this way.


craig said...

I think to have started making drinks earlier, would have seriously got in the way of your quality "drinking drinks" time,
Is Jake teaching you any bar magic?


Meaghan said...

Go girl with your cocktailian pursuits! I've been meaning to pop into a Mixology Monday and absorb some knowledge. You have lots of great gin to play with :)