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Introduction to Armagnac: History and Production

Wild Times at the Reykjavik Bar Summit

This February I attended the Reykjavik Bar Summit in Iceland. It was the first time they did the event but hopefully not the last, as it was a heck of a lot of fun.

The event was not a regional cocktail week celebrating the local cocktail culture (there are are a few places doing great things including our hosts Slipbarrin at the Icelandair Marina Hotel, but it's not a big scene overall), nor is it a bar convention filled with educational seminars and brands pushing products.

Rather it was an event bringing bartenders from Europe and the US to Reykjavik in part to help inspire the local bartenders with out-own-country knowledge and to help raise the bartending bar. 

Bartenders from the US and Europe could apply to represent their bars at the summit, and teams of two people from each bar were chosen. Fifteen bars were represented:

  • Door 74, Amsterdam
  • Corner Club, Stockholm
  • Broken Shaker, Miami
  • Victory Bar, New Orleans
  • Linje Tio, Stockholm
  • Dutch Kills, Queens
  • Worship Street Whistling Shop, London
  • Candelaria, Paris
  • Strom, Copenhagen
  • Cane and Table, New Orleans
  • Employees Only, New York
  • Gilt, Copenhagen
  • The Gilroy, New York
  • En Raus Bar, Trondheim, Norway
  • Attaboy, New York

The Fun Stuff

Around the "work" that bartenders had to do, we had several social and cultural events. On our first night there was a boat trip to view the famous northern lights. Unfortunately we didn't see any northern lights (nor did I during my whole visit, bummer) but we were treated to one heck of a rocky ride (it was fun after a few drinks). 


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The next day we drove about two hours (it should be shorter but we hit traffic) from Reykjavik to the Laugarvatn Fontana Geothermal baths.  This set of baths is located next to a lake. There are several pools (built like swimming pools with tile surfaces) outdoors that are organized in increasing levels of heat. I could only handle the 'coldest' one. But then I jumped in the freezing cold lake for about 2 milliseconds before hitting the 'cold' hot pool again. Invigorating!

On the way back to Reykjavik, we broke out the Brennivin, an aquavit that's fine and tasty but has been given the nickname the Black Death. We passed around bottles of it on the bus and by the time we got back to town the bartenders were pretty much in the bag - and then had to go make drink for a few hundred Icelanders at a big event. This explains what happened later at the Battle of the Continents. See below.

On the third afternoon, bartenders competed in an optional Big Sweater Whiskey Sour Competition. Each team had to share the same sweater (actually, a t-shirt) and make a whiskey sour using one hand each. It was hilarious, and predictably got messy. 


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The "Work" Part 

The main thing bartenders were responsible for was giving a presentation on what makes their bar unique/special. This was given to local bartenders, the other bartenders, and visiting media like me over the course of two afternoons.

Some bars like  Cane & Table and Worship Street Whistling Shop focussed on their inventive cocktails. Others explained what made their programs special such as the focus on bargain-priced quality spirits (Corner Club) or using local seasonal ingredients (Broken Shaker). Others tried to recreate their environment with decorations and music (Door 74, Candelaria). Others just wanted to put on a show that was atypical of their bars but typical of the bartenders (Dutch Kills' tiki spectacular, Attaboy's shark costumes).

And some turned the place into a party - Strom had a dance party, Employees Only employed an exotic dancer for the day, and The Gilroy passed out squirt guns full of Negronis. It's a few weeks later but I'm betting that theater is still sticky. 


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On the second day, we returned late from the geothermal baths, full of Brennivin. We didn't get time to stop off at the hotel, so the bartenders went right to work at the Battle of the Continents making drinks for local Icelanders.

The room was divided into the US and Europe and drinkers would vote with their tickets on which continent produced the best. 

The music was great and the locals seemed to have enjoy themselves, but the bartenders no doubt had the best time of all. Scroll through the images in the gallery below to see how it got fun, then wild, then naked. 


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And also, I met my ironic-glasses-and-skull-t-shirt twin there!


What I haven't mentioned is that there was a judging panel for the bar presentations, and a continent chosen as the victor of this epic night's battle. You can read about the awards here, but to be honest, I think everyone who attended the Reykjavik Bar Summit was a winner.  

If you're a bartender I suggest watching out for the application process to open for 2016, as everyone was treated to a ton of fun.



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