Gin & Skills at the Rookie Programme
In the third instalment of the 2015 Rookie Programme the gang gathered to learn some bartender skills and a whole lot about gin.
The first couple of sessions of the Rookie Programme have been theory based ensuring that all 12 of the group were starting with the same base knowledge, now we start to crank up the levels and watch them all develop in front of our very eyes.
Following the now traditional early morning coffee and catch up with everyone, finding out what they got up to after the last session on the streets of our capital and their adventures over the last month, it was time for the Mixxit team to get behind the bar of our fabulous hosts for the day LCC Oxford Circus.
We mentioned in our write-up of the last session about the Mixxit teams use of the Magnificent 7 theory which puts all cocktails into one of seven categories ensuring it is significantly easier to remember the hundreds upon hundreds of recipes modern bartenders need to have locked away for a rainy day.
To start with however Amanda Humphrey and David Miles went through the various types of bar kits and some of the more ignored but vitally important questions that are often overlooked when bartenders are starting out:
‘How to deal with drunk patrons and your legal responsibilities’
‘Do you taste every cocktail and how do you taste it (straw, spoon, small mammal)?’
‘Do you serve all mixed long drinks with straws?’
‘What is the first thing you should do when someone sits down at your bar?’ etc
Now admittedly some of the subjects discussed depend slightly on the bar you work in and it was great to hear the Rookies sharing their experiences and thoughts as well as listening to Amanda & David and their wealth of knowledge (David was around before the straw was invented so his experiences were very important).
It is also easy to see, as we get to know the Rookies better, that their are plenty of future bar owners amongst them and whilst it maybe their current bars standard to taste every drink with a sip straw they may want to re-dress that in their own venues. As Amanda pointed out sip straws aren’t free and costs can spiral through little items such as these.
The group agreed as a whole that spoon tasting on the back of the hand was messy and looked unhygienic to customers. The solution? A metal straw in a glass of water on the bar that can be used repeatedly and solve any wastage issues.
After an hour or so of batting ideas around it was time for the Rookies to get behind the bar and start knocking out some serves. BarLifeUK thoroughly enjoyed making sure their drinks were up to standard and Amanda & David played devil’s advocate producing some not so stellar drinks for the group to fix and discuss.
When it comes to the production of gin and the building of gin distilleries there are few more knowledgeable people out there than Jamie Baxter. The man that set up both the Chase Distillery and the City of London Distillery, amongst others, now has his own, the 45 West Distillery producing Burleighs Gin.
As well as producing great juice Jamie is a wealth of knowledge and has the rare skill of being able to get that knowledge across whilst still being thoroughly entertaining. He had a special treat for the Rookies but first he had some knowledge to share.
After a look at the history of the spirit, with some chime-ins by Mixxit’s Wayne Collins, Jamie went on to explain the 3 categories of gin:
Gin or Compound Gin – the most basic of styles and one that is making a comeback with the revival of Bathtub Gin. Made when the botanicals are added to the Neutral Grain Spirit without going through a distillation process. Historically the roughest type.
Distilled Gin – A gin made using the distillation method for the botanicals but allows for further botanicals to be added after distillation. This may be done to include botanicals which don’t distill well (think rose and cucumber in Hendrick’s and Millers) or to add colour (such as Edgerton).
London Gin or London Dry Gin – Everything has to be distilled and nothing can be added after distillation (apart from of course water). Contrary to the confusing name it doesn’t have to be made anywhere near London.
There are obviously more in-depth rules than those and if you really want to get your geek on check them out here (N.B. these rules are only applicable to gin produced in the EU, the rest of the world can go wild).
London Dry Gin as a name/category was supposed to be the highest quality and be a mark of a great gin for customers to easily see. However due to the confusion over the London part of the name it never really took off and in fact a lot of London Dry gins no longer call themselves that as they feel the confusion is too much.
Jamie’s treat came in the form of a tiny still that he uses during training sessions at his distillery for visitors to create their own gin. In fact the one he had with him was the one he created the recipe for Burleighs on.
Unfortunately licensing laws don’t allow him to distill spirits outside the distillery but he had come up with a special bottle just for us and the small still provided an excellent opportunity to explain the gin distilling process.
After all that theory it was time for some tasting with Maxxium brand No. 3 being joined by Burleighs, BBA winner Geranium 55, Jensen’s Old Tom, Gin Mare and G’Vine. The mixture was a superb way to show the variations in styles of gins, in base products and the huge variety it provides bartenders.
There was no clear favourite amongst the group with everyone preferring different bottles. It goes to show that all of these new gins, providing they are good quality, have a place on a bar. A word of warning from Jamie though, despite the growth of small gin distilleries, gin sales are still in decline.
The future for gin is still looking good in his eyes though. Some small brands may break through into the mass sales market but in general having a GOOD small gin brand may not make you a millionaire but will certainly provide a good living doing something you love.
Last year Wayne, Amanda, David and John Clay held court at Tales of the Cocktail with a presentation about Gin Palaces and their importance in the history of cocktails and drinking. There they used pictures on slides to show the audience what these amazing architectural buildings looked like, we thought we’d go one better.
Finding a corner in The Princess Louise (the pub not a very large woman) everyone settled back with a drink as Wayne gave them a condensed version of the talk. The setting really helped bring the talk to life and it wasn’t difficult to imagine how it would have felt to be there all those years ago.
Thankfully the drinks in London have got a lot better which was highlighted by a round of tasty June Bugs (set to be the drink of the summer) at LAB.
A huge thanks to LCC for hosting us so graciously. To Jamie Baxter for taking time out to spend with our Rookies and Cocktail Trading Co, Princess Louise and LAB for putting up with us.
Next time it’s Tequila at El Nivel, which should be a nice quiet affair….