Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans is one of the biggest conventions of bartenders the world over. Anchor Lisa Mullins talks to beverage writer Camper English about international bartenders, bar tending trends and exciting new cocktails.
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Lisa Mullins: One of the world’s biggest bartender conventions is underway in New Orleans now. It’s called Tales of the Cocktail. Mixed drink experts from all around the world are there to compare notes and recipes too. Now covering such a merry gathering is a tough assignment we’re sure, but freelance writer Camper English is up to the task. He’s been chatting all this week with bartenders from many countries and he’s got some stories to tell, starting with how a drink is served in Japan.
Camper English: The drink may be simple, but the preparation, the amount of care and attention that they give to you, the customer, as well as to the drink is huge and tremendous. So by the time the thing comes, not only are you very thirsty because you’ve been waiting a long time, but you also feel very special by all the preparation that has been done to make this drink just for you. And that’s the attention that they give to you in Japan.
Mullins: I guess there’s one particularly interesting Japanese bartender. He has a certain kind of art to his attending.
English: Yes, his name is Ueno Hidetsugu, just known as [inaudible 1:03] within the industry. And he his famous for his bar in Tokyo, the High Five bar, as well as for carving diamond shaped ice cubes per drink order. If you order say a whiskey on the rocks, it’s going to be just on one big ice diamond. As well, there’s a Japanese style of shaking called the hard shake.
Mullins: Describe it, like athletic?
English: No, though it’s known as the hard shake, it’s actually not very hard. There’s a system of angles though that the bartender uses to make the ice fly in a circular motion inside of the cocktail shaker, which provides maximum aeration to the drink; it looks really cool at the end of the day. You’re shaking up and down, and up and down, instead of just back and forth like an American bartender might do.
Mullins: And you can charge more that way too, huh?
English: Absolutely, the longer it takes the bigger the tip.
Mullins: That’s right. How about some of the British bartenders.
English: Yes, there are many British bartenders. The London cocktail scene was ahead of the American cocktail scene for several years. I think now they’re catching up pretty well. But if we think of more of a traditional English butler — very polite, always acting like a host, not treating you like just another restaurant customer, that is what they’ve been known for. As well as the London bars right now are in love with over-garnishing a drink. There might be six pieces of garnish on one single cocktail.
Mullins: So what kind of garnishes?
English: Well, everything from traditional like mints powdered with powdered sugar, to things you might see on cake decorations — the little pearls of gold and silver, some flowers (orchids are very big), straw made out of a vanilla bean — things of that. The most wonderful and ridiculous things you can think of to put on top of a drink you’ll find in the London bar scene in particular.
Mullins: You go worldwide seeking out the best cocktails, alcoholic or not. Can you give us your favorite?
English: I have become obsessed with shrubs, which are drinking vinegars. The vinegar adds a little bit of tingling effervescence to the tongue and it’s much better than it probably sounds.
Mullins: That’s Camper English whose blog is Alcademics.com speaking to us from New Orleans where he’s been attending the Tales of the Cocktail bartender convention. We have a link to Camper’s drink list on our website. We’d also like to hear from you about your own favorite cocktail recipes — alcoholic or non — send the to theworld.org.
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