For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Moscow Bar Show this year our latest intrepid reporter Hannah Lanfear is over there bringing you all the news as it happens.
After flying due east for four hours the plane begins to bank through a heavy blanket of cloud to land in the capital of vast Russia.
Arriving in Moscow is a deliciously foreign experience, the Cyrillic alphabet ensures you’ve no fucking clue what’s going on, the traffic into the city is as insane and frustrating as a Kafka novel and a salad can happily consist of only meat and cheese. Temperatures hover around freezing: the winter has bitten in.
The occasion for the journey is the third annual Moscow Bar Show. The great and good of the international bar industry have traveled far and wide to participate and nearly ten thousand bartenders have traveled huge distances from all over Russia to attend the Show.
After a hearty welcome dinner punctuated with vodka shots of terrifying size our party heads in good spirits to Chainaya Tea & Cocktails for Bacardi’s opening party. It’s a jewel of a bar tucked down an incongruously grubby alleyway. With Rich Hunt behind the stick and in the presence of many heroes of the industry a super time was guaranteed. Drunkenly getting a cab back with an exuberant Steve Schneider and Esther Medina there was much confusion about whether we had been kidnapped or if we were navigating an extended one way system, so on arriving back at the Hotel Metropol safe and sound we celebrated retaining our lives with an absinthe fountain resulting in the whole team missing breakfast, naturally.
After sating an ungodly thirst we set off by taxi bus for the bar show, and our first impressions are overwhelming. Stands are meticulously executed, with numerous stages, lounges and bars. Enthusiasm appears to be high for niche premium brands and the variety of liquor showing out is astonishing.
There is a rich timetable of presentations and the talent shipped in is impressive. On the main stage Luis Simoes opens proceedings to shed light on his input on the opening of the Ritz and their superlative drinks scheme; Don Lee presents on the psychology of suggestion and leading cocktail historian David Wondrich has the crowd in awe with a detailed history of the Bloody Mary. Elsewhere Employees Only represent with Dev Johnson presenting on the ubiquitous Bartender Moustache, and Steve Schneider giving an excellent talk on their groundbreaking use of cocktail tasting notes to refine their cocktail program; Anastasia Miller presents on behalf of Havana Club and on the Campari stage Esther Medina presents a number of her original drinks and offers her take on flavour pairing.
From the educational to the momentous: the gorgeous Bacardi Bar was packed to the rafters to watch Salvatore Calabrese make a one hundred year old daiquiri using Harry Craddock’s own cocktail shaker. There is a vigorous scrum to taste the cocktail; David Cordoba reliably tells us it was sublime.
It’s a long day but those who can stand the pace head to the outstanding Delicatessen for some delicious cocktails while elsewhere Jack McGarry bartends, dazzled in the flash of a thousand iPhone cameras and marking the beginning of Dead Rabbit’s World Tour.
The level of dedication shown by the bartending industry here in Russia has been a welcome surprise, and with another two days of the show to go they’ll be plenty more in store. Stay tuned…