January 27th, 2012
So, what did I make to win? I made a daiquiri!
I wanted to make a drink that mimicked the innovation the Cantineros were doing with in the heyday of the classic cocktail- making innovative combinations with simple ingredients- and creating something restrained yet sublime. I also wanted something that reflected my bartending style and showed off the rum. What more so than a daiquiri?!
To play homage to the skill of the Maestro de Havana Club and their wonderful, and highly highly complicated blending process, I used a combination ??of Havana Club 3 yo and the 7 yo. I also stayed true to the classic daiquiri using simply rum, lime and sugar.
However my reflection came from the use of modern techniques to create simple things- so I used the rotovap. This had the advantage of removing any heat damage, but a different twist could be recreated using the hob.
I took a Havana 7 Daiquiri (albeit stretched in proportions) and distilled it, but what I kept was the heavy end- ??a syrupy concentrate of the wood, acid and sweet side. A daiquiri honey. This was simply stirred down with a the Havana 3 to create a strange opening of the rum. Sweet, with all the notes of the rum opened out, with strangely, a tannic sour finish. I loved it, thankfully the judges did too!
And the name- well there are many drinks named after people- particularly Daiquiri variants. This drink was a Cuban classic to be enjoyed in the British weather- it’s richer and heavier; of course a shaken daiquiri is hard to beat under the sun- as I imagine it is in Cuba, but the British summer… So, what’s the Cuban-British bridge I know? My old bar manager, and of course the face of Havana Club- Meimi Sanchez. A bit kiss ass maybe!- but it was genuine reasoning.
The Sanchez Daiquiri
50 ml Havana Club 3 a??os
5ml Daiquiri Honey
Stir, double strain into a small cocktail glass, garnish with a mint leaf.
Havana Grand Prix
January 27th, 2012
I’ve always enjoyed doing competitions- firstly as I come from a very competitive family, but also as it gives me a chance to work on a different level to projects I do at home or in the bar. As an artist I’ve always liked working to a brief, and as a scientist I liked exploring a hypothesis or a mode of thought and ensuring some consistency. Within a competition, I got to explore both of these (well, at least in a cocktail competition).
I was very fortunate to be involved in this year’s Havana Club Grand Prix- an event held every two years that takes winners from across the globe to a Global Final in Cuba. From a personal perspective, I’ve always wanted to go to Cuba- many friends have returned speaking fondly of its unique charm, and representing the UK in such wonderful surroundings was a great allure. Thankfully, I’m going to realise that opportunity as I brought home the title over a two day battle.
However, I think the real focus of this was the event itself. I’ve done several competitions now, but I’ve never encountered an event as attractive to the bar community.
Firstly, the setting was fabulous – The Lutyens house of Goddards in Dorking, Surrey was our home for two days, and it’s hard to describe a more grand setting. Wonderful grounds, a beautiful building with enormous fireplaces, and even a skittle alley. ??The setting was matched by the agenda though, during which we would be continually judged- Country pub 3 course lunch (incredible), a discussion with the inimitable Dave Broom (one of my favourite speakers, authors and damn good chap- he also writes some of the best tasting notes around), some archery and shooting, followed by a six course tasting menu by Ducksoup to match our 20s Havana Glamour evening. To this last part, we were presented with ??a course and asked to pair a cocktail to it, and provide a 20 minute soundtrack to match. Lots o fun. I drew the dessert- something I think works particularly well with cocktails. I created a blend of Havana Seleccion de Maestros, pink grapefuit, pink peppercorns, water, sugar, Cider Brandy and Aperol- all mixed and carbonated in a soda syphon – a drink I termed ‘Pink Duck Club’. The light carbonation, slight zestiness and spice was there to highlight the rum, and of course match and offset against the dessert- a surprisingly tart folded cheesecake of Brillat Savarin (not the godfather of food science as I first thought, but a citrussy sharp cheese named after him), biscuit crumb, ginger and rhubarb.
The next day started early- a fireside full English Breakfast, then a game of rounders (again, judged). This was capped by the arrival of the brilliant Bernard Lahousse to talk through his developments in his already fantastic foodpairing website. (if you haven’t already, buy a membership- no hesitation needed). And following the arrival of the Meatwagon and some indescribable burgers, it was onto the final stage and the presentation of our bespoke cocktail inspired by the Cantineros de Cuba.
I’m glad to say the judges enjoyed the drink (or maybe it was my archery and rounders skills- my shooting was rubbish) as I was picked as the winner. The real enjoyment now is getting to represent the UK in Cuba. Firstly as I want to try and show that I believe our scene is the best in the world, but also, from a personal level, I’ll get to compete with international bartnders. The last time I did that, I learnt so much- and it’s really the best bits about travelling- experiencing different food and drink cultures, and how integral they are to their respective societies. I’ll keep you posted!
Biological Ageing Plan
January 16th, 2012
Having played around with the cocktail development/ageing a bit more, I started to get fascinated by elements that were further out of my control. Partly fuelled by reading into the effects of oxidation, but also my love of the extra nuances of specially fermented drinks such as Sherry, Port and Lambic beers.
One of the motivations for the oxidative route was very old Scotch. Sometimes you get an exceptional cask that yields a young whisky with a remarkable complexity for its age. On the flipside though, you also get old whiskies, in what may have been a knackered cask, that create this wonderful extra dimension, where the distillery character really shines through. Oxidation plays a key role in this on top of the wood contact, and of course, as does time.
Now, manipulating time is what this is all about, and I’ll chat to you about radiation at a later point. But, one of my current explorations is biological ageing.
Working with Dean over at Monkey Shoulder, the new plan at the bar is to explore two organisms. The first is to create a sherry influenced cocktail. I’m going to fortify a light, dry wine with Monkey Shoulder then impregnate this with a sherry flor yeast. It will then age in the absence of air, then a further fortification will disrupt the flor, where the interaction of the dead yeast cells will be increased further by the use of micro-oxygenation to rapidly aerate and oxidise the mix.
The second project will involve making a ‘mash’ of fruits that mimic the notes found in the whisky- bananas, pineapple, pear, blackberries and red grape- then ferment this with a port yeast before arresting fermentation with Monkey Shoulder.
I’ll fill you in on the finer details as the project develops.
Imbibe this month
January 12th, 2012
Also, whilst on the site, please take the opportunity to vote for me as ‘Hot Stuff’! An award to not only highlight my dashing good looks (ahem), but also an award to recognise those under 30 doing interesting and innovative things in their field. A vote would be very appreciated.
January 10th, 2012
So, I’ve been wondering about how mixed drinks would change over time for a while now. ??I remember quizzing Chemistry friends back in Edinburgh- and this is where the whole cocktail ageing came from- and I’ll fill you in on the barrel, bottle, biological and radiation ageing trials at another point, but I’ve been experimenting with a few twists of late.
I recall coming across some old sloe gins from an elderly neighbour when I was growing up- 50s and 60s stuff- and being astonished by how fresh it tasted. So I’ve tried to recreate a twist on this. The images show a couple of days development so I’m excited to see how much it changes. Maybe not evident in the shots, but the colour is developing rapidly.
The idea is it will not only age as a combination of spirits, but develop at a different rate with the fruits too. Something I tried before with a Rumtopf, but particularly here- as with sloe gin- as the fruit breaks down, the interaction of the kernels and sugar creates a welcome extra dimension.
1990s Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon, 1980s Gordon’s Gin, Organic sloe berries, pear distillate, cane sugar and ambergris.
Will keep you posted!