Bar Convent Berlin – Day One

Day One of BCB saw talks from Philip Duff, Raj Nagra, Tomas Estes, David Cordoba and Enrique Comas.

Those were just the ones I made it too. Others expounding their knowledge on day one included Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, Jonathan Downey, Jim Meehan, gaz ‘he’s 61 you know’ Regan, Angus Winchester and Dave Broom alongside a host of local experts.

Finally on a billboard

BCB put up all the international guests, journalists and other waifs & strays in the same hotel and the morning saw a lot of bleary eyes and coffee after the awards the night before. But we’re professionals, we had work to do…. so we had another coffee.

Visitors to the show were greeted by a massive billboard containing the BarLifeUK quote from last year that BCB is ‘currently the best bar show in the world’ and as I walked through the doors I suddenly hoped we hadn’t given everyone false hope. It took me about 73 seconds to realise I didn’t need to worry, the show was going to be awesome.

For those that haven’t been (and change that for next year) BCB takes place in an old railway building, strictly speaking in three old railway buildings. The atmosphere this gives as people move between the stands and theatres is fantastic, giving a feeling of exploring hidden corners to discover gems.

For the last two years BCB has invited a guest country to showcase their products and skills and this year is the turn of Mexico. As a result one of the first things to welcome visitors to the show is a large table covered in Tequila, Mezcal and other Mexican goodies. The array of products is mind-blowing and two days is going to be tight to get through them all (I’m giving it a good try though!).

To help guide visitors through the world of Tequila Tomas Estes held a tutored tasting session on Tequila in the afternoon. The packed room was treated to 13 different tequilas and Tomas’ usual wit and exceptional knowledge.

Included in the tasting was Tomas’ own Ocho however he was quick to point out his tasting skills don’t always hold up:

‘I’ve done blind tastings where I didn’t pick which was mine out of only three on offer. I was sober though so you have to forgive me’ Tomas Estes

We were also treated to stories from Tomas’ extensive past including the little known face that Peter Sellers used to like his Margaritas with some gin mixed in with the tequila.

Bacardi Speakeasy

As well as the official seminar and tasting rooms a lot of the exhibitors had designed their stands to hold sessions. One of the best of these was the Bacardi Speakeasy hidden away in a dark corner of the show.

Tasting this rum is a serious business

I bumped into Jacob Briars at a very opportune moment as he was on route to an exclusive tasting of the Bacardi 150 year old celebration blend. Do I want to come along and taste it? You bet your Kiwi behind I do.

Not only were we to taste a spirit that retails for around $2,000 for the 500ml bottles but we were going to be taken through the story behind it by Enrique Comas a 6th generation member of the Bacardi Family.

Only 1,000 bottles of this exceptional spirit have been made (although they are numbered up to 1,026 due to the hand blown and numbered crystal decanters not always making it through the production process) and to see one in the flesh being open just for us was a great moment.

The crystal decanter design was inspired by the Coconut plant that was planted at Bacardi’s original home in Cuba by Don Facundo’s son. As it was passed to the bartenders to pour out one of the guys behind the bar dropped some glass on the floor, the look of pure relief on everyone’s faces when he held up the intact bottle with a cheeky grin on his face was fantastic. Definitely gag of the day.

The spirit itself was excellent and the years of experience of the master blenders was clear as soon as it touched your lips. It was a great honour to sample it and thanks to Jacob and David Cordoba for making that possible.

Raj Trashes The Show

Jacob had also been the saviour of the day slightly earlier in proceedings during Raj’s Bombay Sapphire talk. Raj was a little worse for wear after the night before but ever the pro he kept the crowd entertained for 45 minutes.

Moments before Raj took the screen out

It has been many years since I have seen Raj present and I was immediately reminded how easy he makes it look. With time against him he rattled through the presentation but still got all the key points across and plenty of gags on route.

During his talk I discovered that he apparently fancies Queen Victoria and that Bombay Sapphires routes are in my old university town of Warrington. Along with a couple of cocktails the audience also got to try the Bombay East (flavoured with Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns) and Oxley Gin.

Jacob’s heroics came when Raj jabbed at the giant graphics screen a little too enthusiastically and in slow motion the whole thing begun to fall towards the front row. In Raj’s fragile state his reactions weren’t the best but Jacob in a Matrix style slow motion moment was up and under the screen before I could move.

Gin Soaked Seminar

There are 4 official seminar style rooms in the show filled with the biggest names in our industry speaking however chatting to Philip Duff the day before we agreed it is nice to also see new faces, young faces, coming up through the ranks of the presentation army. With that in mind the G’Vine Gin talk ‘A (Juniper Soaked) Tale of Three Cities’ lead by Philip himself was a breath of fresh air.

The idea behind the talk was simple, over the past three years the GCP competition has crowned three winners from three different countries – Israel, Spain and America. Each winner was on hand to showcase their winning cocktail and talk a little about the cocktail culture and trends in their home country and city.

The drinks were, as you’d expect from winning drinks, fantastic and hearing about the different cities fascinating. On the way out of the seminar I bumped into Jonathan Downey and we both agreed that Tel Aviv is a must visit very soon.

During the breaks in the seminars there are more than enough products to try to ensure you don’t dry out. Once again the Mixology magazine guys have nailed it.

Day two see’s even more talks and I look forward to telling you all about them as well as an update on some of the great bars I’ve visited since arriving.