With the laughter that emanated from the theatres on Day Two of BCB you’d think you were at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival not an industry trade show.
Day one of this year’s Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) had been an educational masterclass (see the write up here) and day two was not to be outdone, especially in the entertainment stakes.
Day two of any bar industry trade show across the world is always tough early doors, with visitors and exhibitors alike generally ‘enjoying’ a night out after the excitement of the first day. However German’s, it seems, are made of sterner stuff.
Whilst the international guests, speakers and exhibitors were keeping the coffee stand flat (white) out – sorry! The local visitors were filling up the theatres, notebooks and cameras at the ready, from the moment the doors opened.
First up was the UK’s own Ian Burrell kicking off the main stage with a talk on ‘How to Lose a Cocktail Competition’. Ian’s Pina Colada talk last year was one of the highlights of the show and the excitement in the room as his hatted head appeared on stage was palpable.
Ian travels the world talking about rum and judging cocktail comps and as such has seen most of the fuck up’s that could be imagined. He relived most of them in his 45 minute presentation touching on topics such as – Don’t Read the Rules, Don’t Learn About Your Ingredient’s, Don’t Practice and Disrespect the Sponsored Brand.
Each of his tips came complete with a video to demonstrate the point. The first couple featured every bartenders favourite YouTube trainer the American Bartenders School guy.
From then on in Ian had produced his own videos using some UK bar industry favourites – JJ Goodman, Alex Kratena, Alex Mouzouris and Salvatore Calabrese (he even had a guest spot from Ron Jeremy at one point) – to demonstrate his points.
They were all fantastic with JJ’s flair skills, Alex K’s knowledge and garnish and Alex M setting Ian’s hat alight. It was Salvatore however who bought the house down jumping over the bar to attack Ian when he created a Brunch Martini for him. Keep an eye on BarLifeUK as hopefully Ian will let us show you this video very soon.
A Drink Here, A Drink There
Throughout the show there were some great products available for tasting including the Chase boys flying the English flag showing off their barrel aged vodka and gin, Henrik Hammer with his excellent gins and Jagermeister were on hand showing off how it can be used in mixed drinks with gaz ‘he’s 61 you know’ Regan producing some corkers.
The list was endless but one of my favourite areas was the Mexico bar, which next to a table covered in dozens of Mexican brands, was being run by the Candelaria Bar, Paris. Amanda Boucher is a good friend of BarLifeUK and produced an excellent Tommy’s Margarita with Mezcal for myself and Alex from Babicka to enjoy.
To say I had to drag myself away would be unfair as to see Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller talk is always a joy. Especially as their talk was on ‘Havana’s Golden Age of Cocktails’ and I am currently halfway through their Cuban Cocktails book (review coming soon).
Their packed out talk took us on a whirlwind (normally a 2 hour presentation condensed to 45 minutes) tour of the Cuban cocktail culture history. Whilst you could see them cutting themselves, or more often each other, short when they were about to get on one, it still contained more than enough information to have everyone leaving the seminar to grab one of their books.
A personal highlight of not just the show, but of the year, for me came during the afternoon. There are not many classic cocktails around these days that you can have made by the inventor. Salvatore’s Breakfast Martini, Dick Bradsell’s Bramble and Julio Bermejo’s Tommy’s Margarita are three that jump to mind and it was the later I got to sip on.
I have been lucky enough to know Julio for 7 years now and even luckier to consider him a friend but I have never visited his bar, Tommy’s in San Francisco. I have also never in all that time had him make me a Tommy’s Margarita which just happens to be a real favourite of mine.
Thanks to Sierra Tequila who had flown him over for the show this was all about to change. Having not been to his bar I don’t know if the preparation I saw is normal, but with a crowd of thirsty bartenders baying for his tequila fuelled blood this is what happened.
Having squeezed a pile of limes tall enough for Dan Priseman to hide behind he looked around for a container to make the drink in. When he picked up a blender my heart sank a little, whilst I have nothing against a frozen Margarita on a beach in the sun surrounded by lovely ladies I wanted the real deal. I didn’t have to worry.
The blender was soon filled with lime juice, agave syrup (cut with water) and the best part of a bottle of Tequila, plenty of ice cubes followed and he proceeded to shake his Margarita in the blender. There are few people on the planet that could pull of a Tommy’s Margarita in such quantities to superb quality. I was in the presence of the King, it was a bucket list drink.
Who Knows What’s in a Lindsay Lohan?
With tequila joy coursing through my body I headed to Philip Duff and Angus Winchester’s talk on ‘Cocktail Naming – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’. By the time I arrived it was standing room only and within 30 seconds you could see why.
I had the pleasure of joining them both for lunch earlier in the week and the banter and friendship they have was soon evident in their presentation. They had the crowd in stitches with stories of badly named drinks, drink name stich ups and generally taking the piss out of each other.
A crowd favourite was the example that no-one names cocktails after famous people anymore, as was the style back in the day. One example they did draw on was Lindsay Lohan who has two cocktails named after her.
First up is the degree of how dirty you want your Dirty Martini – ‘Do you want it Britney or Lindsay?’. Secondly is a cocktail named specifically for her, the Lindsay Lohan is a Redheaded Slut with a dash of Coke!
My personal favourite was a cocktail comp in which one of the competitors made and presented their drink declaring the name as ‘Bukakke’. Angus was judging and after stifling his laughter asked if the competitor knew what it meant, ‘Yes’ came the reply ‘it is Japanese for light summer rain’. As it transpired he was making the drink for a friend who couldn’t turn up for the comp, surely the greatest stich up of all time?
Unfortunately the final seminar I had marked to attend was so full by the time I arrived I couldn’t even get standing room but Dushan Zaric from Employees Only, New York delivered a belter from all accounts, gutted I missed it.
As the day ended everyone was in no doubt that the show had once again been a massive success. The visitor numbers backed that up with 20% more heading through the doors. I saw a lot more UK people at the show this year and hope that even more will make the trip next year.
As for whether it is still the best bar show in the world still? Hell yes and continues to get better each year. Congratulations to all the Mixology team and everyone who was on hand to help out on the day, a great team all round.
BarLifeUK will be doing a special run down of Berlin’s best 10 bars to celebrate Mixology magazines 10th anniversary in the next week or two so keep an eye open if you’re planning a trip out there. If my description of the show hasn’t got you checking out the cost of flights to Berlin for next year hopefully a quick look at the bars on offer will!