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Everything posted by Mattmvb

  1. I too create my stir drinks in a pint glass. And it's always at room temperature. I've never even considered using a chilled pint glass. Which is kind of funny, since I keep a couple in my freezer all the time. I guess I should try this out. FWIW, I also build my shaken drinks in room temp pint glass. Then, I add the ice, slap on the tin, then shake. Personally, I don't think there is ever a good reason to use a room temperature pint glass. See here for more information and explanation. For making drinks at home I agree entirely. However it becomes a lot more complicated in a commercial setting. On a decent Saturday night I'll have 4 bartenders behind my main bar who are at the moment knocking out 6-700 cocktails between them. I'd love to keep the boston glasses chilled but I have neither the space nor the finances to keep that many out of action whilst chilling down. We also make a point of making everything in a glass rather than tin purely due to the visual impact on customers. TBH a lot of long shaken drinks don't really suffer from using a glass at room temperature, for example if you're making some form of rum punch the relatively small increase in dilution is not really noticeable. Perhaps if you were to try the 2 side by side but the quality remains high enough in the room temperature example for it not to matter. Where control of dilution is important, say in a Manhattan, we adopt a flash chilling method. The glass is filled with ice and this is gently stirred until the glass is cold to the touch. The glass is then topped up with fresh ice and all the water strained off, then you start making the drink. I prefer to keep the original ice in there rather than replacing it all a I find it gives me better control of the amount of dilution. When it comes to the question of which way up to use the Julep strainer, it depends. I'm sure this has no scientific grounding but I like to consider all the various ice cubes as one solid block, I'll use the strainer whichever way up allows me to hold all the ice cubes together without disturbing them. With this in mind, the spoon is the first thing into the glass and is only removed after the drink is finished and the ice has been dumped in the sink. Cheers, Matt
  2. I've always been partial to bartender soup at work - take a bottle of Schweppes tomato juice mix (it's from-concentrate tomato juice with added salt and citric acid) and put in a mug. Add cream and some bloody mary type spices. Heat using the steam wand on the coffee machine. Enjoy. Don't forget to clean the coffee machine!
  3. This is something that is quite rare in the UK. I don't think I've ever seen Chef used as a title in the press. You'll occasionally see it used as a job title i.e. "chef Gordon Ramsey" as opposed to "Chef Gordon Ramsey", although that's a bad example as I doubt there are many people here who don't know what he does for a living! Outside of workplaces I don't think I've heard it in speech either, I certainly wouldn't use it. If I were introduced to a respected chef I'd say something along the lines of "pleased to meet you Mr Bloomenthal" Even in a professional setting it's still quite rare to hear Chef Smith etc. You certainly here plain Chef a lot, it tends to be that or first name. In a restaurant I used to manage it was always first name terms until the pressure was really on when it naturally reverted to Chef. There were no rules about this, it was quite instinctive, I always thought it happened because Chef was exerting more control over proceedings to keep everything running smoothly. I couldn't agree more. However I don't think that the use of titles is necessarily a respect thing, it can also be a matter of convention. To use Doctor as an example. When you have passed your doctorate your title can be formally and legaly replaced with Dr if you want it too. So Miss Jones becomes Dr Jones. When talking about Chef (or a myriad of other titles) you would have the choice to use Miss Jones or Chef Jones. I choose to use Miss as there is no convention here in the UK to do otherwise.
  4. I don't have any experience of using it in it's raw form, but I've gone through a heck of a lot of gomme in my time. A large number of bars in the UK use gomme in place of simple, leading to an annoyingly large number of bartenders who don't know thee difference and will refer to simple as gomme. At my bar we mostly use simple (well actually we get through roughly equal quantities of simple and 1:1 demerara sugar syrup, same principle though!), it's always handy to have a bottle of gomme to hand though. It has a very useful property of saving drinks that aren't quite right but not bad enough to throw away and start again. I basically mean those drinks you come up with on the fly that almost end up how you want but are slightly thin in either texture or flavour. A dash of gomme can really perform wonders in fixing these. Of course you have to be careful in not upsetting the balance too much, you may need to add a dash of one or more other ingredients to maintain it. I'm certainly not advocating this a fix all, but in certain situations it's a handy hint. I was quite surprised with the price someone mentioned above. The last time I bought gomme was Sept, it came in at £28.06/case (12x750ml) - very roughly $45. I can't comment on any difference in quality of course, the brand I was buying was Combier who for me have the best price vs quality ratio of syrup producers available here (also the only one I know on a mass produced scale who actually use almonds in their orgeat) Cheers, Matt
  5. I'd have to agree with all the above points, especially those about structuring the round correctly. One thing that really helped me in my early days was mastering the technique of only touching one bottle once. For example, if you're making 5 different cocktails and 4 of these contain simple in differing amounts, the simple should be added to all 4 at the same time. Sounds simple but takes a lot of practice to master, especially if you have an extensive list and comprehensive backbar. A lot of people find it difficult to stop thinking through the specs of drink one, then move onto two etc, rather than thinking abut it all together. Another important aspect is the layout of the bar. I expect you already have the basics of this covered, like having all your equipment in sensible places etc. Rearranging the back bar can help significantly, the more commonly used bottles you can reach without moving from where you are the quicker you'll be. This does of course compromise other important areas. The effect of the backbar as a sales tool may be diminished, as may its aesthetics and/or neatness. Eg you have 5 different gins on the backbar, one is used frequently but the other four don't move much. Do you bring the popular one closer to you for the sake of speed or keep them all together for the sake of appearence (looks better and also helps a gin drinker to sum up their options.) It's a difficult balancing act, we've been open about 4 years and currently have about 150 different products on the backbar. It gets tweaked quite often as things go up and down in popularity. The first 6 months or so it seemed to be changing almost daily! Also with regard to the backbar (and everything else) it's important to have a mental map - you should know where everything is without looking. Hope that's of some use! Cheers, Matt
  6. We use those. Great for doing the juice on the spot during quieter shifts, we also use them to prep fairly large quantities of lemon and lime at the start of the busy nights - Saturday night's typically 4 cases of limes for instance. They're by far the quickest way I've found, although bloomin' hard work on the hands/arms! Have a tub of halved limes lemons to the left, a container in the middle and a bin on the right. You soon settle into a very fast rhythm of grab-insert-squeeze-flick. The counter top style of press is more time consuming when removing the husk, although it is physically less demanding. The other advantage is you get a much 'cleaner' juice, there's very little flesh in the juice compared to an electric reamer where it can be a bit time consuming straining the flesh out. Of course that could be considered a disadvantage depending on your application, I like to have the 'bits' in orange juice but lemon and lime needs to be pulp free due to the pourers on the bottles we use. Cheers, Matt
  7. And one other thing... The most sensible policy I've heard is this: If you're bringing a bottle with you and the staff will just be taking the cork out and pouring it for you then the corkage is house wine price. If you're dropping the bottle round in advance and it'll be decanted before service then the corkage is house wine +50%. Seems just right to me. Cheers, Matt
  8. I was discussing this issue a couple of days ago with some friends/former colleagues. We've all worked in a few restaurants, some allow BYO, some don't. One thing almost all have in common is that for special occasions it is allowed with no corkage. There was a perfect example upthread - an anniversary where the couple would like to drink the wine they were given as a wedding gift. I did the same thing myself last week and I don't even run a restaurant, it's a cocktail bar. Nevertheless I was happy to let a couple of regular customers bring their own champagne on their 1st anniversary before they departed to their restaurant of choice. They didn't spend a penny but I know they'll be back. An interesting take on this is the story a friend told me about a restaurant he used to work at. The owner is making more money since he started pushing BYO with no corkage. He was able to free up enough space for another 4-top by knocking through his store room and has a far lower stock holding. He's reduced the wine list to 4 each of red and white, however he is fortunate enough to have a very good off license next door who are stocking wines they wouldn't have done previously... I should hasten to add this is by no means a Michelin starred place, just a very good family run local restaurant. I was going to comment on the GP aspect of this debate, but that's almost literally all I've been thinking about for the last week so I'll leave it for another day... Cheers, Matt edited to correct typos, bet I've still missed one or two though!
  9. Without breaking the bank (which was tempting...) and excluding sipping liquors and bitters. Also only using products that are easily obtainable in the UK Light rum - Havana 3 Dark rum - Woods 100 (or Goslings Family Reserve if I can stretch the budget a bit) Gin - Tanqueray Bourbon - Buffalo Trace Cognac - H by Hine Cointreau Sweet Vermouth - Antica Dry Vermouth - Noilly Amaro Lucano (there's something about Campari I just don't like, for years I assumed that it was all Amaros but it turned out it was just Campari, sooo much lost time!) Vodka (kind of...) - Zubrowka, purely because with freshly pressed apple juice it's one of my favourite drinks which tips the balance over the annoyance of having a vodka on the list. Not that I really consider it a vodka of course Although, thinking about it, I would probably let my heart overrule my head and swap the Havana for Wray and Nephew white overproof. Couldn't do as much with it (with the same success) but I don't know if I could cope with not have any around! Cheers, Matt
  10. It's a rather complicated issue this one. There's certainly no perfect solution, just a series of trade offs to try and get the best result for that particular business. The footprint of the bar will be the first one. A larger bar will give space for more staff and/or stock and/or equipment etc, all of which should help to give an improved customer experience. However it will also reduce the space you have to accommodate paying customers so the right balance needs to be found, which will vary according to style. Of course many operators will not even think about this, and just look at the other consideration - the aesthetic. Or the structural shape of the space may leave no option anyway. As for design behind the bar, I've always advocated the one step route. That is that the bartenders should be able to reach everything they need regularly within one step, preferably none. This though becomes part of another trade off, that of the backbar. The backbar layout needs to consider several points: Ease of use for the bartender - having as many regularly used bottles close to hand for the bartenders Easy to read for the customer - having all your gins in one place makes it a lot easier for a gin drinker, who will appreciate it. Marketing - it makes sense to have your higher priced/better margin bottles in more prominent positions Space - you only have spaces for a certain amount of bottles. How many are you going to duplicate to help the bartenders work faster at the expense of product range? Are you going to give any up for POS display? (the bartender in me says no way, but the manager side says maybe if it will be justified by sales and it's the right product for us, which is rare to be honest) Another trade off will be glassware. I've always thought it'd be great to have a different glass for each cocktail on the menu but this would require an unfeasibly large amount of space that could be better used. I definitely agree with having sliding door fridges, although more because open fridge doors can be a pain on a busy bar. Sufficient storage space for back up stock is important, if I get unexpectedly busy I hate having to run off to the store room. Likewise for cleaning materials. Budget will always play a huge part. Can you afford to have your undercounter units custom made to your requirements or will you have to compromise and go for standard size 'off the shelf' units. They were just a few random thoughts that fell through my mind in no particular order, there are plenty more but I'll leave it at that for now. Cheers, Matt
  11. They make an excellent alternative 'Bellini'. Scoop out the flesh into a sieve and stir vigourously to separate out the 'juice' (I've never been sure if that's the correct terminology when talking about passion fruit). Then just add a decent prosecco. This is quite tart, a lot of people prefer it with a splash of simple added too. You could also try a Batida de maracujá, which I'm told is one of the more popular drinks in Brazil. Combine the flesh of a passion fruit with a large measure of cachaca, sugar to taste in a rocks glass and fill with crushed ice. As with the Caiprinha, there is always debate about whether it should actually be shaken - there probably isn't a correct answer. Personally I like to use half a passion fruit and add 15ml of so of lemon juice, using about 10ml of simple (1:1) rather than sugar, it is quite tart this way but that's how I like them. Cheers, Matt
  12. I wholeheartedly agree with most of the above - I can't really comment on the change for tips thing as the culture is very different over here. I thought I'd add a couple of tips from the non customer service side of things: Remember you're part of a team. For me the most important aspect of this is cleaning up after yourself, especially if you find yourself sharing a station - there's nothing worse than finding someone else's unwashed clutter in your way. Find yourself on a quiet day shift? Then do whatever you can to help out the evening staff, they'll thank you for it if they get unexpectedly busy. Look after your barback(s) if you have them and show them all the respect they deserve (which is usually a lot). On a busy night they can be often be the only thing standing between a great shift and going down in flames. You WILL make mistakes, and may well be dragged over the coals for it. Don't take it to heart, learn from it and make sure you don't do it again. Above all enjoy yourself. Their are very few people in this to get rich! The pay's not exactly the best and the hours can be terrible, but it can be the best times of your life every night. That can stem from good natured banter with the custumers (where appropriate!), the satisfaction from knowing they're loving the drink you just made or a million other things. I've always believed the atmosphere in a bar starts behind the bar. The bar tenders give the place its soul. That may mean a willingness to talk to a guest about the history of a cocktail they love, or (subtly) geeing everyone up to get a party feel on the go - depends where you work, day of the week, time of day and a great many other factors. A bar can be successfull despite bad design, poor product selction etc if the staff are good enough. Whereas a bar that has had millions spent on making it look good but has disinterested staff will never succeed. I'm rambling here but I hope you get my point! Cheers, Matt edit to correct typos (bet I've still missed one or two though...)
  13. If you're interested in Scotch Whisky then I would heartily recommend Macleans Miscellany of Whisky. It covers production and history in quite some depth, and Mr Maclean has a marvelous way of interspersing little tid bits of trivia like how to drink to good health in a couple of dozen languages or a short piece on the three stages of intoxication. Highly recommended. Cheers, Na Zdrowie, Prost, Iechyd dda etc (That little section really stuck!) Matt
  14. If you're talking about the Blanco I'd have to agree with you. As I implied above, I am however a big fan of the 3yo, especially at its price point, and I don't think I could have a bar with the 7yo on it. The 15yo is absolutely fantastic, although at £110 a bottle it bloomin well should be! I'm trying to get an opportunity to taste the Maximo if I can find someone kind enough, at well over £1000 it's a bit out of my price range and I think I'd be shown the door very quickly if I tried to stock it on the bar... Cheers, Matt
  15. I'd lean towards the Havana Club 3yo over the Blanco. I find the Blanco can give an undesirable rough edge to some drinks. The 3yo works great in Mojitos, Daiquiris etc, and, over here at least, the difference in price is tiny - typically around the 50p mark. One small downside is that given its light golden colour drinks like Mojitos don't look quite as good as when made with Blanco, but that's a price well worth paying in my opinion. The 3yo was a bartender's favourite over here for many years, until Pernod-Ricard did their best to stuff it up by telling everyone they were discontinuing it favour of Especial, which is effectively a rebranded 5yo. They were forced to relent pretty quickly but lost some friends in the process. Mount Gay Eclipse is quite versatile in a blank pallette sort of way, we use lots of it but it's mostly as a base for our own infusions. It also helps that it's a very attractive price. Cheers, Matt
  16. I find that blueberry works very well with elderflower, especially in a Margarita
  17. +1 for the Golden Pond, a big favourite of mine and most of my staff. I'd also recommend Must on Newhall St. Cheers, Matt
  18. A lot of the points I would have made have already been covered, but here are a couple more... Be prepared to adjust your plans at the last minute. Speak to people before you start, if you find that their is, for example, a common interest in gin amongst the 'class' then skew your presentation in that direction. Straw tasting spirits is not the best idea, they need to be 'nosed' as well. See if you can lay your hands on some small tasting glasses. Whilst I agree about not branding the event you can get some support from brands without compromising your impartiality - I have 100+ Hennesey tasting glasses that just have a very discreet logo on them. They were happy to give them to me purely because it puts their logo in front of people, regardless of what's in the glass. WRT the DeGroef tasting method mentioned up thread, that's somthing I use with novice bartenders. With consumer groups I prefer an approach I stole from a trainer of mine many years ago: think of the spirit as an ex girlfriend that you're still quite interested in. If you rush in your going to get burnt, but if you take your time and approach it slowly you'll get a much more satisfactory result. For tasting finished cocktails I like to pass around one or two full sized drinks in the correct glassware, people can nose the drink properly then straw taste it and pass it on. You'll need a LOT of straws, a class of 20 can get through 300 easily. As this is aimed at home cocktailians it must be very important to focus on the art of substitution. Eg you want to make a Bramble but you've got no Mure. However you have a bottle of cassis lurking somewhere so just use it - it won't strictly be a Bramble but should still be a tasty drink as long as you follow the 'rules' Comparative tastings are useful. A lot of people think of, say, gin as just being gin. Taste Tanqueray alongside Bombay Sapphire to show that there are big differences. Above all, keep people interested - don't let it turn into a lecture. Cheers, Matt
  19. The Nojito - made with Red Bull in place of rum. Nice.
  20. Blimey, great minds think alike... My first comp winner at a serious level was for Bombay Sapphire way back in early '03, I was also thinking about pink sapphires. I ended up with this very simple concoction, I called it "Ruby Sapphire" 50ml Bombay Sapphire 10ml Fraise 8 mint leaves 2 hulled strawberries Muddle strawberries, add mint and lightly muddle again, add liqour, shake and fine strain into martini glass. Add extravagent garnish; take a young mint sprig with a long and thin stem, tie it around a cocktail stick, cut a strawberry in half lengthwise and add each half to the cocktail stick pointing in opposite directions. Balance cocktail stick accross rim of glass Looking back I wouldn't have entered that drink as it must have been done before - shows that experience isn't always right! You're quite right about using a different style of drink; I've judged a few comps in my time and it can get a bit wearing when 4 out of 5 drinks are martini style. It tends to be a bit detrimental to the originality column. I like your back story, it should score well for presentation - assuming you work to similar rules we do, presentation is at least as much about how the bartender presents the drink as how the drink looks. Another thing that's always important in judging over here is product knowledge - it never ceases to amaze me how many entrants will go through their whole presentation without mentioning a single fact about the base spirit! Good luck again, Matt
  21. As I mentioned on the swizzle thread (sorry, can't do links from my phone) the garnish is the most important part. It needs to be fresh, lightly slapped and right by the straw so you get as much aroma as possible whilst you're sipping. If not you tend to lose the all important mint flavour. With ideal ingredients my methodology is almost identical to Eje's. One important thing to note though is not to press the mint too hard - if you do you get an unpleasant bitterness from the chlorophyl (sp?) Deviating slightly from the classic mojito, I love using a slightly heavier rum and topping it off with ginger beer. Or keeping with light rum and topping it with a citrus-ey wheat beer, Kronenbourg Blanc is fantastic if you can get it. Cheers, Matt
  22. Navy Grog - it's long been a favourite of mine, I think I've just hit my ideal combination of ingredients: 20ml Bacardi superior 20ml El Dorado 5yo 20ml Pussers Blue label (the 109 proof version) 15ml grapefruit 15ml lime 3 bar spoons runny heather honey Add rums and honey to Boston glass, stir until honey has dissolved, add juices, shake and strain into rocks glass full of fresh ice. Enjoy!
  23. Katie That's a fantastic entry - it looks great, smells great and tastes great. It also ticks the boxes the judges should be looking for. The Thai basil plays with the citrus notes of Bombay Sapphire, the angostura bitters really helps to bring through the earthy notes and the ginger and falernum accentuate the spicy part of the gin's flavour profile. As long as you talk about the logic behind the drink in your spiel you should be onto a winner! Best of luck, Matt
  24. To keep it simple use suitable liqueur(s) for the berry flavours and leave the citrus out. Send it with an instruction that says add x amount of lemon juice.
  25. Almost certainly. A lot of older Latin American recipes use lemon as a generic term covering lemons and limes. The excerpt from Jennings Cox's papers that Bacardi are currently showing to anyone that may be vaguely interested defines lemon as the citrus ingredient in a daiquiri. This may well be a language thing, if there's anyone around who knows Spanish from that era they should be able to let us know... I've never thought about the Mojito in swizzle terms before but it makes a lot of sense. In my experience it's a drink that takes a lot of practice to master. There are an awful lot of things to consider. Should the mint be muddled at all? If so, under the lime, on top of the lime, just a light muddle after the lime? Heck, should you even muddle the lime at all or use juice instead? Give it a good churn or a light stir? If you are muddling, how much pressure to apply? There are no answers to these questions, it depends on the quality of ingredient to hand and, to a lesser extent, your read of the customer in front of you. The most important thing is the garnish - it must be a fresh sprig, gently slapped and positioned right by the straw so the mint aroma is strong whilst the drink is being drunk. I have no idea how many Mojitos I've made in my time, it must be well into 5 figures. It's been the most popular drink over here for the best part of a decade. If the weather's right, we can easily sell 200 on a busy Saturday night with 3 and a bit staff serving (the 'bit' is the manager who keeps having to leave the bar to attend to other things). Sorry to drag this off topic... Cheers, Matt
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