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.

Monday, May 4, 2009

The Gimlet

Thought it was about time that I wrote about one of the other titles of this blog, the mighty Gimlet!

The Gimlet is one of my favourite cocktails of all time and has very much fueled my love affair with gin.

I was first introduced to this wonderful zesty fresh cocktail but Alex Kammerling, who created a modern version for Martin Miller's Gin. It was the first 'grown up' cocktail that I liked, by 'grown up' I mean martini style drink. 

Martin Miller's Gimlet

50ml Martin Miller's
2 bar spoons of Rose's lime marmalade
15ml freshly squeezed lime juice
10ml simple syrup

Method - shake hard and strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with a lime twist

The Gimlet has a great history although it slightly varies depending on who you read. According to The Joy of Mixology it was originally named the Gimlette after the naval surgeon who created it to administer lime juice to the naval officers to stop the spread of scurvy. 

Dr Rose is also involved in the history of the gimlet, he invented Dr Rose's lime cordial in 1867, he found a way to preserve citrus without using alcohol, personally I prefer my gimlet with fresh lime juice but there are many recipes on the net to make your own lime cordial.

The nick name 'limeys' used to describe Englishmen was also coined from the Gimlet.

Like many other classic cocktails, in the last 20 years vodka has taken over the Gimlet but with the much talked about gin renaissance in full swing many gin brands are reclaiming this great drink. This is also an easy drink for the home mixologist to make as the base ingredients are easily found.

So I will be blogging again later on this week as am having my first day of bartender training at IPB, will let you know how it goes!