So first off I guess I’d better give a little insight into myself and the Reading scene, and what’s been going on here over the last year or so…
I became the General Manager at Sahara around a year or so ago. When this happened, my aim was to kick it up a notch and put my stamp on the business.
One of my initial ideas included starting the E.D.S., which is the “Educated Drinkers of Sahara”, a cheeky little club where we meet once a month and discuss a topic from the bar industry; a particular spirit, a country and its exports or a trend .
Whilst trying to get this off the ground and build the number of attendees, I noticed that although there was a good relationship between Reading’s different bars there wasn’t a community as such.
Making it my mission to develop that ‘bar community’, I got bang on it and approached every bar, posters in hand, for any training sessions, competitions or tastings that were coming our way. I suppose my notion was to get other bartenders in the town interested, to make Reading somewhere to be seen as a great drinkers destination, with the aim of having educated, inspired bartenders being the majority.
Perhaps in turn, that could even encourage the boys and girls of our bar to become more passionate about their own level of knowledge, skill and maybe instil in them a competitive streak. Well, it seems to be working and now we have a core group of around 15 to 20 that turn up to everything, notebooks in hand, ready to learn and create.
Fast forward 5 months and an intensive amount of training sessions and local competitions with the likes of Matthew Dakers, Declan Mcgurk, Colin Dunn, Justin Smyth and Emily Williamson, and the scene here has had a brash reawakening.
Since this resurgence, our bartenders have been growing from strength to strength, winning comps (both national and local) such as the Jack Daniels Birthday Bash, The Chambord Rendezvous and the Ketel One Challenge, placing 3rd in the Grand Marnier Grand Bal and getting 2 finalists into the Chartreuse final. Add to that a dynamic mix of personalities, motivation and strong friendships, and you’ll soon see how Reading is quickly becoming a burgeoning source for bartender talent.
So, with 2011 behind us, and a wondrous 2012 looming, what has Reading got in store? With training sessions with the likes of The Bombay Sapphire Flavour Experience and El Dorado already booked down at the bar, we’re keen to keep the momentum from Christmas rolling.
The next big development that I’m looking forward to is The Taste Pilots. Other than a genius name what exactly is The Taste Pilots?
Taste Pilots is a once a month group for bartenders to meet up and brainstorm cocktails in a no pressure, non competitive environment. It’s a great idea as bartenders get to see trends from different bars and areas as well as helpful ideas on how to improve their drinks and because it’s sponsored by a brand all the stock for the evening is free which means no one has to pay for their creations, but it also gains exposure for the brand on board for that month.
The brand ambassador presenting gets to leave with a large handful of awesome recipes, and there will also be an abundance of photographs documenting the evening.
The first ever taste pilots took place on a cold Sunday at the end of November in Cerise which is the cocktail bar at the Forbury Hotel. This is the home of Glenn Saville who came up with the idea and therefore the home of the club.
It’s a beautifully intimate bar with all the fixtures and fittings you would expect from a super premium hotel that has been there since 1911. Wild Turkey was the spirit of choice for the first event and Zoran Peric, brand ambassador was down to give us a run through of the history as well as talk us through a tasting of the Bourbon and the elusive Rye.
Once taken through these it was time to jump behind the bar one by one, and showcase our creations. With 10 bartenders from 5 different bars it was a great atmosphere and you could tell that most of them had been having a think about flavour matching and combinations whilst taking notes from Zoran earlier in the night. Everyone was a little nervous at first but once a couple of bartenders had gone up we all quickly fell into the flow of things.
It was great to watch the different styles of each drink and how each person went about developing their ideas over the night. From very classic stirred concoctions to more modern shaken drinks, all were of a high standard.
By the end of the night we were all feeling quite happy and heading off with our notes and a warm 101 proof glow about ourselves we headed home.
The next Taste Pilots will take place on the 29th of January, anyone who fancies taking part needs to call Glenn on 0118 952 7770.
Here are a couple of the cocktails created on the evening.
Tick Tock Turkey!
- 50ml Wild Turkey
- 25ml Creme de Cerise
- 25ml Dark Cacao
- 5ml Fernet Branca
S+FS into a martini glass with Chocalate Buttons on the Rim – Glenn, Cerise
- 45ml Wild Turkey Rye
- 15ml Chartreuse Myrtill
- 15ml Chartreuse Walnut Liquer
- 2 Bs Fernet Branca
Stir and strain into a Absinth Rinse Old Fashion glass – Dan Bovey
la dinde folle
- 30ml Wild Turkey
- 15ml La Fee Bohemian
- 20ml Cocchi Vermouth
- 5ml Chartreuse VEP
- 4 Dashes Angustora Bitters.
S+FS into an inverness, Garnish with a flamed Orange slice – Ash, Sahara
Aussie Reviver #1
- 50ml Wild Turkey
- 12.5ml Chartruese
- 12.5ml Creme de Cassis
- 12.5ml Lemon Juice
- 2 dash Grapefruit Bitters
- Zest Lemon into tin before shaking.
S+FS into a martini glass with a lemon twist – Alex, Revolution