The Missing Caipirinha
Annoucing: SpeakEZ! Prohibition Pubs

Zen and the Art of Bartending

This week I flew down to LA to attend the Pioneers of Mixology, a day-long seminar put on by Pernod-Ricard. We were given talks by Dushan Zaric (Employees Only, NY), Aisha Sharpe (Contemporary Cocktails), Gaz Regan (writer), Tony Conigliaro (69 Colebrooke Row, London), and Nick Strangeway (Hix, London).

Below are some of the take-home messages that I took home.

Gaz, Aisha, and Dushan kicked off the day speaking about Mindful Bartending. I'd describe the concept as happiness in your job as a bartender, reaching "the zone" feeling when you're in the weeds yet the drinks seem to mix themselves and you're smiling your way through it all- even when you're not slammed. 

Beyond feeling better about your work, you're a nicer person to your customers. So rather than specific mixological skills or particular elements of service, mindful bartending is about a positive attitude. Aisha said, "If the spiritual aspect of this is not important to you, think numbers." Basically, you'll make more money when you're nice to your customers.

Some of the ways to achieve this include:

  • Doing a bit of meditation or breathing or some getting-psyched/calm ritual before the start of a shift.
  • Healthy living- exercise and proper sleep.
  • Thinking about someone you love or other positive thoughts when working. Infusing your drinks with good thoughts.
  • Breaking patterns that build bad moods throughout the day.

I couldn't help but think about how I can use some of this philosophy in my own work, trying to find "the zone" when sending 6 hours worth of email and not writing anything. I think it's doable. 

The second talk was by Tony Conigliaro about scientific mixology. Some of the things he's been concentrating on lately include:

  • In order to get the albumin egg smell out of egg whites, he rests eggs in a sealed container with some essential oils. As the egg shell is a permeable membrane, they end up taking on these scents.
  • He has been studying the way scents work, with the lightest molecules reaching your nose first and heaviest later, clinging to the carrier. This is why in perfume you smell things like lemon and Bergamont, followed by rose, jasmin, and iris, with lingering notes of sandalwood or oakwood.
  • He continues to experiment with his Buchi  roto-vap, low-temperature still. In England apparently it is legal to redistill something (he starts with neutral spirit and a flavor) but in the US it is not. Lately he has distilled flint stone and a barrel, and will soon write a food and drink manual to accompany the machine.
  • He also distilled wood notes out of a Manhattan cocktail and then barrel aged it. His aged cocktail program is mostly bottle, rather than barrel, aging. He had his bottle-aged cocktails analyzed by gas chromatograph and you could see chemical differences between the aged and unaged Manhattan.
  • He has been using the website www.FoodPairing.be, which lists which foods and drinks fit together chemically. The claim is that foods that have similar chemical structures work well together. So you might use this website to see some unusual pairings. Apparently fino sherry and peas go well together...

Last but not least was Nick Strangeway, who had the arduous task of trying to educate Californians about using local ingredients.

He made the excellent point that not only is going local ecologically good, it helps a bar center more on its local area, and hopefully restore some of the sense of the village pub as a local meeting house; the center of the community.

He talked a bit about foraging, "guerilla gardening" (spreading seeds in free space that's not your own), "yard sharing," community gardening, and made several suggestions for plants that grow well in California weather- many of them I've never heard of or seen used in a bar program.

But he also talked about preserving seasonal produce through several methods:

  • Infusions and Liqueurs
  • Jams and marmalade
  • Shrub syrups
  • Aged milk punch
  • Sherbet aka oleo saccharum
  • Freezing

There are tons of great books on preserving. Now I just need to plant some things that I can preserve after they grow.

All told, this was a great day of education.

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Camper's Book: Tonic Water AKA G&T WTF is now available for sale.

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