Whoever said ‘Knowledge Is Power’ never sat through a three hour masterclass in a hot bar with a hangover.
As important as learning is, and as much as the wealth of information that bartenders now enjoy has pushed the industry along in leaps and bounds, it’s fair to say the traditional masterclass format can feel a bit tired.
Pernod Ricard’s BEAT team have tried to turn the masterclass on its head and make it a much more fun and interactive affair, a concept they are rolling out nationwide with the Magnificent Seven City tour, which brings all of their ambassadors together and puts them in a room with a group of up-and-coming bartenders for a full day.
The session follows the theme of ‘seed to bottle’ and allows the ambassadors to talk about their brand in that context, with tastings and also some slightly more esoteric and unusual practical demonstrations. This description doesn’t do the Tour justice though, as it sounds very dry and in practice it is anything but.
BarLifeUK joined the BEAT team for the first let of the Magnificent Seven tour in Edinburgh, and it became immediately evident that the team had put just as much effort into making sure everyone had fun as they did into creating the education programme.
Baps and Mary
Bacon baps and Bloody Marys were waiting for the bartenders as they arrived (along with a table of largely untouched pastries and coffee). These were consumed with varying degrees of enthusiasm, depending on the level of ‘Tomorrow’s my day off so I can have a few tonight hangover’, while cocktail competition entries were dropped off in the BEAT Box – more on this later.
BEAT manager Matt Pomeroy then welcomed the group and informed them that the day’s learning would be interspersed with lots of eating and drinking, along with tombola draws, competitions and other non-standard masterclass stuff. The Floor was then handed over to the ambassadors.
Recounting training sessions never makes for great reading, so in summary, this is what the ambassadors covered:
Absolut ambassador, Rico Dynan, challenged some vodka preconceptions, using a blind tasting and nosing session that introduced the bartenders to a new vocabulary to describe and differentiate the spirit. Used the word ‘gangsta’ quite a lot.
Meimi Sanchez led the bartenders through a sensory tasting of Havana Club. This involved using a kit designed in collaboration with Tony Conigliaro and food scientist Charles Spence that employed coloured glass lenses, sounds recorded on iPods and aromas. Again, this session helped the bartenders put together a new way to describe flavour, and to think about the emotive qualities of the spirits they use.
Phil Huckle talked about blended whisky, and again, dispelled some of the misconceptions about their quality and history. The audience were encouraged to ‘Heckle the Huckle’, which went down well with the dishers-out, and not so well with the recipient.
Liam Sparks further compounded Phil’s misery by leading an Irish Vs Scottish blind tasting, which Ireland won convincingly. We suspect Phil is still seething.
Matthias Lataille talked about Terroir and how it affects Cognac, and of course every other spirit. He also spend some time describing how smell and taste work with the neural connections in our brains.
Beat the Jig
This, the main bulk of the day, was interspersed with a very fine pizza lunch at Civerinos, a healthy amount of cocktails made with the spirits being talked about, and several draws of the BEAT balls from a tombola – Cal Martin won himself a set of Sharp and Dapper stays and braces; Leon Back won a trip to the Chivas distillery; and Calvin Politi bagged a magnum of Mumm. Also in the prize pot are clay pigeon and golf days, beard wax (obvs) and nights out on the town with the BEAT team. Given the number of draws in a day, your chances of winning something are pretty good.
The rest of the day was spent looking outside the spirits bottle. Jonathan Simms talked about, and distributed freely, Mumm & Perrier-Jouett. Ali Reynolds from Hawksmore talked about the process of putting together an award-winning menu. And Ben Reed talked about himself.
This is, of course, a joke. Ben actually talked about the how ‘Times they are a’changin’, which led the bartenders on a journey from the 90s cocktail resurgence (which actually did involve the Pineapple Martini, his most famous creation), through to the present day. Along the way Matt Pomeroy provided a brief Oasis interlude on acoustic guitar, and Meimi Sanchez dressed up as a disco chick.
By this point, the day was drawing to a close and all the food and responsibly consumed cocktails had rendered a few delegates somewhat sleepy. The cobwebs were rapidly blown away however, by the appearance of ‘the Jig’ – in reality Rico Dynan in an uncomfortably (for all involved) racing suit.
A Top Gear-style leaderboard was wheeled out and the challenge set – how much lime juice can you squeeze in 30 seconds. This seemingly-simple task proved deceptively difficult, and if witnessed by out American cousins still in the grip of a lime drought, may have brought tears to a few eyes. No-one was able to beat Matthias Lataille’s impressive 165ml, but feel free to Try This At Home.
The rest of the night was spent marauding around Edinburgh’s bars for a mobile pub quiz, and eating really awesome food at El Cartel (seriously, some of the best Mexican nosh you’ll find anywhere). Before the group was fully released into the wild, Matt Pomeroy took the floor one last time to thank everyone for coming, and to hand out presents that came in the shape of BEAT-branded 7” vintage vinyl. BarLifeUK got Agadoo by Black Lace, which is pretty funny if you think about it.
Attend the next BEAT Magnificent 7 tour
This really was a great day, and the balance of super-happy-funtimes and learning was spot on. If you want to gain some knowledge, not just about the Pernod Ricard brands, but the sectors the sit within, we heartily recommend you apply to get on the tour when it comes to your city.
The BEAT team have given us two slots on each of the coming tour dates exclusively for BarLifeUK readers.
All you have to do is create a cocktail with one of their brands and send it in. Eventually, the best cocktails from the tour will be compiled into a special menu that will be served throughout the country, and there will be an epic prize for getting on it.
In addition to this, you’ll have a great day, learn a lot and may well bag something special from the BEAT Balls Tombola.