n. pl. things that interest Stewart P. Slocum

Introductions to the Elite | Pioneers in Mixology | Part One

In Chefs, Drinks, Innovation, Restaurant on March 27, 2011 at 5:49 pm

It’s early Tuesday morning at the W Union Square.  Well, 9 a.m., not early, but bartender early.  Pernod Ricard is hosting 120 of the most influential mixologists in the Northeast on the first leg of its “Pioneers in Mixology” series, to hit Chicago & LA sequentially.  The day launches an engagement program with bartenders certified by BarSmarts, the only comprehensive spirits & mixology education-and-certification program in the U.S.

After being greeted with coffee and offered a Kahlua topper, I’m taking my seat next to the head bartender of James Beard award-winning chef Jose Garces’ Village Whiskey in Philly, who just arrived in Manhattan via Bolt Bus.  In front of me is an airplane-bottle sized Absolut and pitchers of fresh-squeezed OJ & Grapefruit juice.

Absolut Grapefruit and Orange Juice

An Absolut Good Morning

This 9-to-5 business day will not be a typical 9-to-5 day.  Although judging by the talent in the room, they clearly mean business.  I’d just wrapped up a discussion with chef Jean-George Vongerichten’s leopard-print patterned hair-dyed head bartender of Market in Boston, when the lovably puckish Gary Regan, master of today’s ceremonies and author of many bartending books including The Joy of Mixology, flips on his lavalier mic, takes the stage with a spa-esque zen sound-scape emanating from the speakers  and begins talking about “mindfulness,” a recurrent theme of the day, only to follow with a brief mass meditation exercise and only then onto an overview of the day’s agenda.  All this doled out with expletives worthy of bleepings like the memorable Old-Man-fighting-the-furnace scene in “A Christmas Story”.

Centered, humored and with heady focus in check, we see that Gary has organized the day to be administered mostly by legends of London’s mixology scene, including:

Nick Strangeway | 2008 Tales of the Cocktail “Best Mixologist/Bartender in the World,” the man behind many notable cocktail programs around the globe including the impressive “always fresh” cocktails at London’s HIX, and “colonial” cocktails at New York’s famed Pegu Club, a seminal institution in reviving the mixology movement in Manhattan.

Tony Conigliaro | Proprietor of a two-story venue in London at 69 Colebrooke Row, which drew global attention for introducing molecular mixology to both the vernacular and the palate, all despite initially having no name, only an address.  Upstairs is his cocktail lab where he also does much of the R&D tinkering for DrinkFactory, his global cocktail consultancy.  Downstairs his innovations meet patrons, in what has been termed the coolest lounge in London.

Dushan Zaric & Aisha Sharpe | Dushan, hailing from Eastern Europe, owns Manhattan’s acclaimed Employees Only, and Aisha is a veteran bartender of many bars and a trainer with the aforementioned BarSmarts program, which puts her in a peer set with Dale DeGroff, F. Paul Pacult, Doug Frost and Steve Olson.

Today, this marquee-worthy talent will administer three hour-and-a-half long sessions, each covering one unique aspect that is currently pushing the frontier of the already rapidly expanding mixology culture … and again, interestingly with an overarching theme of Zen mindfulness:

  • Mastery of Service | Dushan & Aisha | a sort of metaphysics of bartender-hospitality
  • Scientific Methods Applied to Bartending | Tony|  bringing even more avant-garde ideas to an audience that already discusses applying the Sous Vide process to hand-crafted bitters amongst themselves
  • Craft of Bartending Using Local Ingredients | Nick | You’ve heard of “farm to table;” meet “field to glass.”
Pernod Ricard Brand bottles

A few more bottles

While I typically like for each post on Stewps to be full of information you can use immediately, in this case I feel like the introductions of this crew and day alone are worthy of a post.  Over the next few posts, I will share the distilled insights, guidance and mastery of these Pioneers in Mixology sessions.  For now, feel free to click the links above to get to know more about these leading forces on the international cocktail scene … and if you’re interested in delving in deeper into the world of mixology knowledge yourself, definitely take a look at BarSmarts.

Check out my take on Tony’s “Scientific Bartending” and Nick’s “Field to Glass” presentations.

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