Gaz Regan’s Annual Manual for Bartenders 2011 – Reviewed plus Giveaway

Gaz’s latest book is the first of what will become an annual manual (the hints in the title) which he will update and expand each year.

The book is split up into four sections – A Serialized Autobiography focusing on gaz’s first 17 years of life (but not as yet explaining when he stopped being able to spell serialised properly), The Mindful Bartender, The Nuts & Bolts of the Bartender’s Craft and finally Other People’s Stuff.

Here's a front cover for you

We kick off with gaz’s autobiography, with some people this could come across as self indulgent, dull and worst of all irrelevant. Not in this case, the look back to the early years of gaz’s life, his upbringing and more importantly how his parents dealt with the locals in their pub is all relevant and in many cases related to the coming chapters making all of the ‘lessons’ this book teaches have a human feel to them.

The next section of the book deals with what gaz calls the ‘Mindful Bartender’ now I have to warn you that when you start reading this you may think that the boy from Lancashire has spent too long in a country that is powered by therapists and holistic medicine.

When he starts encouraging meditation your inner Englishness might want to run away (in the same way that it does if someone asks you to explain ‘your feelings’) but don’t, be strong and you might just learn something.

The Mindful Bartender section of the book could come across very easily as patronising, I can see hundreds of bartenders across the country getting the hump with someone telling them how to deal with customers. Strangely these are likely the same people who will travel miles to see someone like gaz show them how to make a drink they have made thousands of times before or listen to their 12th seminar on rum that month.

The truth is the skill of interacting with punters is no different to the skill of making drinks or product knowledge – at no point do you know it all and ALL knowledge is useful.

Part three, The Nuts and Bolts of the Bartender Craft, is taken from gaz’s earlier book The Joy of Mixology. This section is updated and expanded on, however for the experienced bartenders out there this may be a little primary school-esque.

However when it comes to upcoming bartenders be they making the jump from pub to cocktail bar or from bar back to bartender there is surely not a more well put together list of do’s and don’ts (oh and we get to find out some of gaz’s pet peevs – rimming?!?!).

In saying all of that I can report that pretty much every mistake highlighted in this chapter has been observed at one time or another by BarLifeUK in the last year or so in a lot of ‘top’ bars, so a little reminding may be just what people need.

As gaz says himself when describing a later section on Citrus – ‘It’s the kind of section that bartenders who have worked behind the stick for six to 12 months might skip, and bartenders who have plied their trade for 10 years or more will probably pore through in case they find something new. Which are you?’

The second half of the book is handed over to ‘other people’s stuff’ which starts with the 12 winners of the first Fabulous Bartenders Awards, the names may not all be familiar to you but the reasons for their inclusions will certainly resonate.

The innovators section of the book is a truly inspiring, not least because it shows just how many new innovations have appeared in the last 10 or so years. The innovators in this section include a couple of BarLifeUK’s good friends, namely Francesco Turrini for his Martini Stones and Tony Conigliaro for his Aged Cocktails. Also in this chapter are Carbonated Cocktails, Smoked Whiskey, Fat Washing and plenty more.

It gives you a chance to step back and appreciate just what strides the bar industry has taken over the last decade and makes the mind boggle as to what the next holds in store. I do get the feeling gaz has opened up a vat of worms though as I can already hear the ‘I was doing that in 2002’ arguments beginning.

The final section of the book is the heart of it – The 101 Best New Cocktails. Gaz sent out the word a while ago that he was putting this book together and encouraged people to send in their favourite new cocktails. He received over 2,000 suggestions, whittled this down to 211 and set about making and tasting all of these – the result is these 101 fantastic drinks from around the world. Gaz has been kind enough to let BarLifeUK feature some of these drinks over the past few months but it is a real treat to see them all in one place.

Overall this book is a real treat mixing great drinks and funny stories with celebrations of people and techniques.  If you want to get your hands on a copy (and why the bloody dickens wouldn’t you?) we have some great news for you. The book is being distributed by Anistatia and Jared at Mixellany and they have very kindly offered all of you a $5 discount off the cover price of the book….. say thank you. All you have to do is head to their website and type BARLIFEUK into the coupon box in the checkout section.

But wait, it gets better than that. They have also given us 5 copies of the book to give away. To win simply e-mail us and we will pick the lucky 5 out of a hat on the 8th June.