Welcome everybody to this, the first of many blogs to be threaded together and posted from my new home in India!!
Some of you may have heard that I recently took a training position with global spirits giant Diageo in a new training drive by the company.
Myself and 10 other Bar Professionals have taken the roles with “The Big D” and we’re currently spreading our knowledge, experience and flavour throughout the Asia-Pacific, for the next few months and hopefully beyond.
The goal of the “Diageo Bar Academy” is to train and educate many hundreds of people new to our industry or bartenders that wish to further their knowledge and skills in this well rounded module of bar education.
Sunday the 25th of April saw the 11 wide-eyed Diageo Academy Trainers arrive in Singapore to undertake a little training of our own. Also obtaining our advanced level of the WSET Spirit category under the wise and wonderful Mark Ridgwell from Taste and Flavour in Wimbledon.
If you ever have the pleasure of conversing on the topic of distilled spirits with Mark, you will cherish it dear. He is one of those characters whose passion and supreme wealth is evident in every single syllable. Mark will answer the most obscure and challenging questions thrown his way, like he’s seasoning his mashed potato.
I’m truly thankful to have had him share his wisdom and his time with us and I’m sure I speak for everybody in the group when I say this. During our time in Singapore, the good folk at Diageo were so very kind in putting us up at the stunning Carlton hotel. Some of us were even upgraded to the Premiere Suites, but whatever you do; don’t mention that to Spike Marchant.
So, 11 Bartenders in Singapore…lot’s of chat about bitters (yawn), bar spoons (yawn) and dilution levels of shaken cocktails when shaking with a southpaw stance versus a regular James Meehan foot position…(Zzzzzz).
More seriously though, the Diageo Trainers are an exceptional bunch of individuals, the Walking Whisky Library, Tim Etherington-Judge, the Australian World Class Champ Adam Brewer and China’s Answer to South Park Jackie Ho. That’s right, Jackie Ho. To mention just a few.
The week and a half was jam-packed with tuition, bar visits and a brief insight into Cocktail Architecture. Hmmmm. Nevertheless, what happened on tour stays on tour. Right Adam?
Having been in India now for nearly a week at the time of writing, I have to say this is just one of the most awe-inspiring places I’ve visited in a long, long time. Right from the start it’s been chaos of a most unusual fashion.
As my Indian colleagues and I walked out of the airport doors in Mumbai, we were greeted by a small ocean of faces, all smiling, all wobbling a little. The next thing that consumed me was the noise, car horns thundered through the warm night air relentlessly, and upon closer inspection it was apparent, that the horns were used in a pretty unnecessary way.
For example the blasts seemed to mean anything ranging from “hey, I’ve noticed you’ve stopped momentarily in front of me” to “check me out, I’m riding a motorbike today”. I think I heard more horns waiting for our driver in that 20 minutes, than I have in the last 5 years.
Next was the journey to the Bandra, slow moving to begin with as we were bottle necking through the airport exit which was 1 car and 1 motorbike wide. Just. This was fine, save for the fact that we were joined by 764,829 other cars and motorbikes. Needless to say the going was slow.
When we did eventually get into the smooth flowing traffic on the motorway I began to warm to the easy going nature of the Indian folk, red lights didn’t mean shit to anybody, the white lines painted on the road, well they didn’t serve purpose either. Life was easy here, rules were obeyed at random, but above all, everybody just understood the harmony that needed to be maintained.
So, easing up just a little, I turned to my pals in the back of the taxi van, made a small remark about something or other and then returned to face the road. I was then suddenly greeted with the silhouette of a young man in our headlights. My immediate reaction was to quite simply throw my hands over my eyes and wait for the impact. I’m glad to say that it never came. How not exactly, I’ll never be too sure. But this is India, so anything is possible.
At present, we’re a week into the Indian operation, and I can honestly say it’s proving to be a grand exercise. The 2 cities (Mumbai and Bangalore) we’ve tackled have given us a hugely warm welcome and loved the course detail, but above all have shown us a brand of hospitality that is nearly impossible to find in the western world. Especially when flying QANTAS. Wankers.
Currently I sit in an unopened 5* hotel in Bangalore penning this, well typing it, 1 day into the two day course, teaching another 20 eager pupils who love making cocktails and hang on every word. “Mr Tim Sir, who is the best Bartender?” “Tom Vernon” “Mr Tim Sir, what is the best cocktail?” “Anything Tom Vernon makes”
So please follow me on my journey through India which will see the first period culminate in Delhi, this years venue for the Diageo World Class. I’ll be less gay in the following blogs, as introductions are usually pretty crap. Aren’t they? I’ll be keeping a finger on the tuition pulse, posting bar reviews with unorthodox scoring systems, continuing on a quest to find the hottest flippin curry I can, and generally keeping you posted on the peculiarities of life on the sub-continent.
Worth mentioning I have a Whisky distillery tour lined up for Wednesday too. Stay tuned.