Bacardi Legacy 2014: The Santorini Cocktail

 


I’m lucky enough to have travelled to a fair number of places around the world but few hold as special a place for me as Greece. From the history and culture to the landscapes, the people and the laid-back craziness of Greek life, my time there remains some of the fondest memories of my life. Being a lover of good food and drinks however, one of the things that stood out the most to me was the food and drink culture. Complimented by the incredible Mediterranean flavours and sublime tradition of mezze, Greek food and hospitality is centred around a tradition of togetherness that for me, really linked to the idea of togetherness we find in the spirit of Bacardi.


Endlessly warm, beautifully simple, genuine and sincere without a hint of affectation, Greek hospitality also embodies a lot of my personal philosophy on both drinks and what it means to look after a guest. 

 

 

Quite simply, The Santorini Cocktail is my attempt to combine the essence of Greek cooking and hospitality with the spirit of Bacardi, served with the sense of togetherness that both are renowned for.

 

The Santorini Cocktail

35ml Bacardi Superior

15ml Thyme infused Dry Vermouth

5ml Red Wine Vinegar

15ml Salted Sugar Syrup

15ml Lemon Juice

35ml Cucumber Water

Shake and fine strain into a chilled Champagne Flute

Garnish with a sprig of fresh Thyme Sprig

 

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The Rum Diaries: Take 2

So due to my dismal failure at regularly updating this blog, it just so happens that the Rum Diaries gets to pick up just where it left off – with me preparing for a South African national final of the Bacardi Legacy Competition.

You can read more about the competition in my previous posts but rest assured it’s an incredible competition – mostly made that way by the people involved. From the Bacardi team – Kevin and Richie, who get so passionate and excited about putting on an amazing event, to the other competitors who are hands down, the best group of bartenders in the country. Last year was an exciting Speakeasy-themed event in the heart of Cape Town – this year we’re heading to Johannesburg and I can’t wait to see what the team has in store!

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Bacardi Legacia 2013: The Rum Diaries

The Bacardi Legacy Competition challenges the best contemporary bartenders in the world to create balanced, refreshing, appealing and enduring drinks that will become part of the illustrious Bacardi Cocktail Legacy alongside classics such as the Daiquirí and the Mojito.

Barcode Mixologist Ryan Duvenage has been selected as one of four South African finalists and so, for the next month, we will feature “The Rum Diary”, a series of posts chronicling his journey to the final in Cape Town in April 2013.

The Old Man and the Sea

By Ryan Duvenage

Two things I love (aside from good cocktails) are great books and the sea. So when thinking about ideas for a new Rum cocktail, Ernest Hemingway seemed a logical starting point.  Hemingway was one of the 20th Century’s great writers and has provided me with countless hours of enjoyment.

Well known for both his time in Cuba and his fondness for a good drink, he was closely associated with many great cocktails including the Daiquiri, Mojito and Papa Doble with Bacardi Rum said to have been a staple of his home bar.

The Old Man and the Sea (1951) was an iconic novel that contributed to Hemingway’s selection for a Nobel Literature Prize in 1954. I once read a quote that described Hemingway’s style as being “as though everyone else was painting these huge oil canvases and he drew a simple pencil sketch that was somehow better than all the other works of the time.”

That simple, “less is more” style is something I relate to and try (with varying success) to embody in my cocktails.

The great, classic drinks are almost without fail relatively simple combinations of three to five ingredients – The Martini, Negroni, Sour, Julep, Daiquiri, Margarita and so on are all perfect examples of the power and beauty of this minimalist style. When tasked with creating a drink for Bacardi Legacia, I wanted to keep to this simple, classic style (the Daiquiri is a personal favourite) however I did want to introduce a hint of complexity – something to help the cocktail stand out from the crowd and this led me to think of the addition of salt, a trend that is slowly gaining popularity internationally and a fantastic way to add another level of flavour to drinks (think of what adding salt does when cooking).

The Old Man and the Sea takes inspiration from Hemingway’s classic novel of the same name and begins with the “old man” the classic Daiquiri, to which we add a nod to “Papa” (Hemingway’s nickname) with a dash of Maraschino liqueur.

The unusual twist to this cocktail is of course the sea, a lashing of salt water and the briny, smokey aromas of Island Scotch add the finishing touches and conjure images of ocean spray, fishermen and the simple beauty of one of the great novels of the 20th century.

With modern mixology reaching new heights daily, incredible new techniques, ever more complex cocktails and obscure ingredients, it’s easy to get caught up in the cocktail “rat race” and forget the essence of so many great bars and classic cocktails, that all you really need at the end of the day is a good drink and a good story.

The Old Man and the Sea

50ml Bacardi Superior

20ml Pure Cane Syrup

25ml Freshly squeezed lime juice

2.5ml Saline Solution*

5ml Maraschino Liqueur

Talisker Whisky Mist

 

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker

Fill with large, fresh blocks of ice

Shake hard and well

Fine strain into a frozen cocktail glass

Using a mister or atomiser, spray a fine mist of Talisker over the surface of the cocktail and rim of the glass.

Garnish with a twist of lime peel

 

*Combine equal parts salt and hot water. Stir until salt is dissolved.

 

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The HeART of Bartending

I’m sure many of you might have seen the latest video doing the rounds on Youtube – Shit Bartenders Say. If you haven’t, look it up…it’s a satirical and funny look at the pretentious and ridiculous side of the modern cocktail renaissance that many of us are, at least in part, guilty of.

It features a hipster-esque ‘mixologist’ saying and doing an assortment of wanky cocktail-nerd things that perfectly highlight the problem a lot of us face. We get so caught up in crafting ever more complex cocktails with the most obscure ingredients and latest techniques that we forget the single most important reason behind our job…to look after our guests.

Molecular Mixology, small batch bitters, the Japanese Hard Shake – all the buzz words of our industry at the moment are focussed on ‘perfecting’ our drinks but another trend is slowly coming to the fore, led by some of the bartending world’s leading lights. It’s not only about the drinks. Sure, they’re important but in the words of Gary Regan, author of The Joy of Mixology and guru of what he calls mindful bartending, “People might remember how good your drinks are for a few days, but they’ll remember how good your service is for a lifetime.”

The role of the bartender is an ambiguous and multi-faceted one at the best of times. In the most fundamental sense, we pour drinks for our guests but anyone who believes that is the extent of the job has either never been behind a bar or never seen a really good bartender working. From mixologist to matchmaker, bouncer and best friend, a bartender fills so many sets of shoes it would leave your average centipede looking confused and that’s the way we like it! If you don’t enjoy dealing with people, don’t multi-task well or don’t cope under pressure, bartending is not for you! For those of us however that feel at home behind the stick, that (to borrow another phrase from Gaz Regan) love the sense of power we get behind that waist high piece of mahogany, there is an art to juggling not only drinks but people, that only comes with time and practice. Making guests feel special and welcome while still turning out great drinks and still (in the case of the best bartenders) somehow making it look effortless (The old adage goes that a bartender should be like a swan…calm and graceful on the surface but paddling like crazy under water) is a skill far more important than many rookies believe and is in my opinion what seperates great bartenders from merely adequate ones.

In the rest of this article we’re going to look at a few tips and techniques to make your guests feel more at home in your bar. After all…that’s right where you want them – sitting at your bar, spending money with you, and enjoying the experience enough to come back and do it again. It’s called hospitality and it’s the reason we’re in business!

While some of these might be difficult to do if you work in a busy nightclub for example, most can be at least adapted to best suit the environment you work in. People, after all, pretty much want the same thing no matter where they are; to relax, have a good time and feel like you are looking after them.

Welcome your guests: Good service starts from the second a guest walks through your door and nothing ruins a first impression like being left standing at the door wondering where to sit or who to ask. While this is often not the primary job of the bartender, you can keep an eye on the door and ensure that new customers are attended to. When someone does approach the bar however, make sure to always acknowledge them within a few seconds of them arriving. Even if you’re busy with another guest, a nod of the head or quick greeting will go a long way to helping them feel relaxed and confident in the knowledge that you’ll be with them as soon as you can.

Body language: Studies vary but conservative estimates are that around 50%-65% of what we communicate is non-verbal. Put simply that means more than half of what you are communicating to a guest is completely unrelated to the words coming out of your mouth! This is obviously a very important factor when trying to make someone feel relaxed and sociable and means that simply being polite and reciting the ‘yes sir’ ‘no sir’ lines is just not enough. Open body posture, direct eye contact (but not too much as this will leave people feeling uncomfortable), open friendly gestures with hands and arms, standing up straight – all of these are good habits to cultivate and surprisingly uncommon once you start paying attention to them!

Andrew Nicholls has written an excellent article on the Barchaeology network (www.barchaeology.net) examining body language as it specifically relates to bartending and I highly recomend that as a starting point for anyone wanting to learn more about it.

Memory: Cultivating a good memory is probably one of the most vital bartending skills you can learn. Obviously remembering orders and pricing is useful but far more important is a memory for names, faces, regular drinks and all the other hallmarks of recognition that create regular customers. People will feel far more at home in a bar where the bartender knows their name, greets them with a warm smile and goes about getting their favourite drink.

Interestingly, in the gentlemen’s clubs of days gone by, the rules for the way a bartender interacted with a member were strictly regulated. If a club member was at the bar by himself it was acceptable for the bartender to greet him by name and remember what he drank. If however he was accompanied by friends or guests, the bartender should only address him as ‘Sir’ and politely enquire as to his drink preference (even if he knew it well) as a degree of familiarity would imply that said gentleman spent a lot of time at the bar! To this day it is still considered impolite for a bartender to refer to a guest’s previous visits to the bar although familiarity with regular customers is generally welcomed.

Comfort: An often overlooked part of the bartender’s job as we tend to think of it as the job of management, cleaning staff and so on. As a bartender however, you are far more intimately aware of a guests needs and as such, ensuring they are comfortable should be one of your top priorities. Is the music blasting over people desperately trying to have a conversation? Is it too hot? Too cold? Too bright? Too Dark? Pay attention to your guest’s reactions and interactions with each other and you’ll quickly figure out what you need to do. Pay attention to temperature, music volume, lighting, odd smells (bars are full of them!) as well as cleanliness of the bar and seating area.

Remember, it all comes back to the simple fact that you want your guests as comfortable as possible at your bar. The more they enjoy their experience, the longer they’ll stay and the more likely they’ll come back.

Conversation: People talk to their bartenders. It’s a simple fact of the industry that people will treat you as a friend, confidant, wing-man and sounding board. It’s important that you develop conversational skills to cover a broad range of topics. Read a newspaper, remember a few jokes and stay away from topics like religion and politics.

Also play to your strengths. If you’re good at telling jokes, are a walking encyclopaedia of sports trivia or fancy yourself a whisky or wine connoiseur, learn to use those topics to your advantage and the entertainment of your guests.

Anticipation and attention to detail: Probably the two most important aspects of good service. Anticipating what your guests are going to need or want before they have to consciously think about it or ask you for it is one of the most impressive hospitality skills and will almost without fail leave a lasting and postive impression on your guests. It is also one of the most tricky to master as it requires expert situational awareness and people-reading skills – Both of which usually only come with time and practice. If you are consciously trying to anticipate the needs of your guests however, you will spot those opportunities far quicker than the bartender with his head down, only worried about pumping out drinks.

The follow through of good service is of course in the implementation and this is where attention to detail comes in. Obviously attention to detail in your drinks is vital – perfect consitency, technique, presentation and taste are all about the details, but everything from the way you’re dressed to the quality of the soap in the bathrooms contributes to an overall impression of you and your bar – one that will greatly influence how your customers feel and act and once again we come back to the fact that you want your guests enjoying their time with you as much as possible so that they stay and return.

All of these tips should help you realise that there is far more to bartending than simply pouring drinks. There is an art to working the bar, to balancing the needs of people that far exceeds the technicalities of simply dispensing drinks. The people, both bartenders and guests, are after all what give a bar its ‘soul’. Without them it is simply a room with some chairs, a counter and some dusty bottles, it is your job to nurture the relationship with your guests so that they become loyal customers and sometimes even friends. Without that human interaction there may as well be a vending machine in your place. Enjoy the privilege of not being replacable by a machine.

“There is soul, and there are things.
Imagine a world made up only of objects,
A world of idle tools,
A restaurant of nothing but tables and chairs,
A large empty theater or a deserted plaza in summer.
…They cry out for the service of man,
The service to give them life.
We call on man to display his splendid capabilities.
And
We observe with undivided attention,
Because
The little nuances in the quality of his service
Give a flawless measure of his mind
They tell us frankly what his soul is worth,
Because,
To serve is first to love”.

 

This article was first published in MUDL Issue 1 2012

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World Class Gin Month

This gallery contains 9 photos.

Following on from last month’s vodka category, the World Class team have been training bartenders all over the country on Gin, specifically Tanqueray and Tanqueray 10. The Barcode team once again had the opportunity to judge the World Class entries … Continue reading

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World Class Cocktails

The Barcode Durban team spent yesterday afternoon with Brandhouse Mixologist Alex Farnell, making and judging the entries into the first round of the newly launched World Class South Africa program.

 

Brandhouse Mixologist Alex Farnell at work in the Barcode Bar

The theme for this month’s competition was vodka and participants at venues all over Durban had attended intensive training sessions with Alex, learning the intricacies of vodka as a category and focusing on the Ciroc and Smirnoff Black brands as well as classic vodka cocktails. They then got to try their hand at creating their own vodka based cocktail and after receiving all the entries, Alex came round to the Barcode Academy bar in Morningside to test out the recipes with Alex, Severin Bang and myself comprising the judging panel.

There were a few fantastic drinks produced and we will announce the winner as soon as the results are released!

In the mean time here are a few of the cocktails created.

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Barcode’s 2012 Drinking Resolutions

Season’s greetings festive people. We imagine you’re feeling a little the worse for wear after the last month’s indulgences. Your trousers may have shrunk, your liver might be acting up, your reactions grown sluggish. Perhaps you’ve sworn off drinking and are reading this while sitting on the stationary bike at gym or indulging in a wheatgrass-enema at the spas in an effort to kickstart your detox. We get it. The last few weeks of every year are traditionally a time of excess. We feed, we drink, we have fun… then we feel it. That’s why at Barcode we’ve devised a list of drinking resolutions designed to guide you to drink better. By better, we refer to all aspects of imbibing: from a better class of alcohol, to better preparation and presentation, to drinking more responsibly (drink smart not hard) and expanding your gustatory horizons. Cheers to a spirited 2012!

  1. Boot the alco-pops into touch. If you’re going to consume alcohol don’t drink sweet, fizzy pre-mixed concoctions favoured by Bieber-Lolita borderline kidlums. The sugar wreaks havoc with your digestive system, magnifies your hangover and the bottles make you look like an over-developed teenager. It’s time to grow up.
  2. Establish your own home bar. Nothing overly fancy, nor tacky (e.g. singing bass and an obligatory entrance exams involving naked Jenga). A cupboard or simple drinks trolley will do. Stock it with the basics: gin, rum, vodka, bitters and a few assorted mixers and you’re well on your way to offering friends a civilized cocktail or three.
  3. Discover local artisanal distilleries. South Africa is awakening from a booze monopoly where the only liquor that was available was produced by the local branches of massive multi-nationals. Now, more and more talented hobbyists are legally making their own liquor in backyards, on wine farms and elsewhere. Try Jorgensen’s Primitiv Vodka, Liqueurs and Grappa from the Wilderer Distilery in Paarl or the Sir Robert Stanford wine estate. There are also many incredible artisinal brandies produced by wine estates across the cape. Hunt down the 16yr Marbonne by Louiesenhof in Stellenbosch – you won’t be dissapointed!
  4. Learn the difference between aperitifs (before dinner drinks to stimulate the appetite), digestifs (after-dinner drinks to aid with digestion) and nightcaps (self-explanatory). Apply them correctly.
  5. Unless it’s a braai, where understandably you don’t want to be precious, try to drink your beers out of a glass. Not only does it give them a chance to develop a well-poured head, release their full aroma and breath, but it’s a bit more hygienic than sipping from the rim of a can that’s been sitting who-knows-where for ages.
  6. On the subject of beer, if you haven’t already done so, start exploring SA’s booming craft beer selection from Darling’s Bonecrusher to Triggerfish out of Somerset West, delectably-named Zulu Blonde and award-winning Robson’s – both from the Natal Midlands.
  7. Everyone knows sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz, but what about all the off-centre new-old wine varietals popping up across SA? Discover Pinot Noir, Viognier, Grenache, Carignan and open up your palate and your choices.
  8. Instead of serving everything half-full/empty in a dodgy old beer glass, invest in some decent cocktail glasses this year and use them with the right drinks. A few highballs for those thirst-quenchers, some tumblers or old-fashioned glasses for more concentrated recipes, a few flutes for those champagne cocktails (Kir Royal anyone?) and of course, martini glasses (the long stem ensures your hands don’t warm things up and your concoction stays cold).
  9. Discover and perfect the Negroni, arguably Italy’s most famous aperitif and a drink that’s experiencing somewhat of a renaissance since its beginnings in 1919. One part gin, one part vermouth and one part Campari, stirred into a glass of ice and garnished with a twist of orange peel, this bitter, deep Energade-naartjie-coloured beauty will get your tastebuds going before a meal.

10.  Whether it’s Goodfellows or a similar you-drink-we-drive-you-home service or simply taking taxis or deciding on a designated driver, work out a system that gets you home safely. Anything else is stupid and will land you in trouble.

 

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Boat Drinks…

I love gangster movies, always have.

From the timelessness of The Godfather to the brash confidence of Pulp Fiction, these movies and many others make up much of my personal Top Movies List but I also have a great fondness for the style of crime film that doesn’t take itself too seriously – that twinkle of humour that makes them less real than their gritty, hard-nosed relations but so much more fun! One of my favourites (and criminally under-rated in my opinion) is Things to Do in Denver When you’re Dead (1995), a not too serious but charmingly enjoyable movie with a great cast.

Now what does all of this movie stuff have to do with drinking? Well, not that much to be honest, but something that has always stayed with me from Things to do… is the idea of “Boat Drinks”.

Now I have no idea if this has any basis in real life (so little in Hollywood ever does) but the concept is one we can all appreciate. In the film the characters use the term “Boat Drinks” as a fond farewell and during the course of the movie, Andy Garcia explains to us that in the “old days” Boat Drinks was a common toast in prison, a wish for an ideal. That at the end of a long, bad life you’d be sitting on a cabin cruiser somewhere in the Florida Keys having “Boat Drinks”.

Now I love this idea – to wish someone to be free of all their troubles and have nothing more pressing to do than sit on a boat with their friends, with the sun on their backs and a drink in their hands, it’s the most simple and timeless of good wishes. Kind of like a mobster version of An Old Irish Blessing.

But what exactly are “Boat Drinks”? Well the Google machine tells me that they’re often seen as essentially the same as Tiki Cocktails, a style of faux-Polynesian, over the top tropical drink made popular by guys like Trader Vic and Don the Beachcomber in the 1930’s and currently a very popular addition to cocktail menus in some of the world’s best bars. This revival has been lead by Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, one of the leading modern experts on both the drinks and the culture and a good place to start if you’re at all interested in Tiki.

Tiki Cocktails are usually Rum based, fruity and very strong but the thing about them is that they are also, usually, amazingly complex. Now unless you were a REALLY successful criminal and could afford your own personal bartender on your little boat out there in the Keys, I wouldn’t want to be slaving for hours making syrups with  obscure ingredients and juicing mountains of fresh fruit (just a few of the requisites for good Tiki drinks). I want to relax with a simple but good drink!

So let’s take a look at our “Boat Drinks” style and come up with something a little easier!

We’ll stay with Rum as our base spirit – we are on a boat in the Florida Keys so it’s the natural choice. We want something with a lot of flavour but not too dark and heavy, a Cuban Añejo will be perfect. Our boat drink needs to be a little more complex and a bit stronger than a simple Spirit/Mix combo so we’ll add a bit of sweetness with some Orange Curacao (Grand Marnier will be fine) and balance that out with some fresh lime juice.

Now this brings us to an exceptionally important point and one that South African’s in particular seem to have a lot of trouble understanding:

Fresh Lime Juice and Lime Cordial are not interchangeable.

Ever.

One is sweet the other is sour and therefore they do completely different things to a drink. Substituting Lime Cordial will result in a drink that is unbalanced and far too sweet as well as losing the “brightness” that fresh citrus brings to a drink. Ok, rant over – back to our drink!

We need to lengthen this drink a little and the perfect pairing to a good rum is a good ginger beer.

There are many good brands available on the market so find one that suits your taste. Spicy and powerful are usually good with the powerful flavours of Rum and we’ll compliment this with a bit more spice from the Caribbean, a couple of dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Añejo Highball

Adapted from a recipe by Dale de Groff (2000)

45ml Havana Club Anejo Reserva

15ml Grand Marnier

15ml Fresh Lime Juice

2 Dash Angostura Bitters

Top Ginger Beer

Method: Build ingredients over ice, stir and serve.

Glass: Highball/Collins

Garnish: Fresh lime wedge

So there you go. The perfect drink to relax with, easy to make and great to drink as the sun goes down on your boat, wherever or whatever that may be.

Boat Drinks.

 

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Ice…the Dutch Kills way…

Fantastic video from the Dutch Kills team, Sasha Petraske’s neo-speakeasy in New York. Milk & Honey, one of Petraske’s other bars was one of the first western places to start bringing ice to the forefront of modern mixology and Dutch Kills continues this tradition with hand-carved blocks of perfectly frozen mineral water.

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I’ll take a Manhattan…

“The Martini’s all well and good – but the Manhattan is the true mecca for the serious mixologist”

- Naren Young


Click on the link below for a comprehensive run-down of one of the all time great cocktails courtesy of Naren Young and Imbibe Magazine. This article should leave you in no doubt of the urgency with which you should head  to the bar and either make or order yourself one of these!

http://imbibe.com/article/ill-take-manhatten

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