There’s nothing classier than a well-mixed cocktail. Or so drinks giant Diageo would have us believe.
Having learned all about the importance of the ‘cocktail experience’ at Diageo’s World Class forum at the Hilton earlier in the year, MM headed to The Midland Hotel for the follow-up.
Tuesday’s event marked the second phase of Diageo’s World Class Bartender Competition, with the focus on Asian Fusion cocktails and Classics with a Twist.
It was hard not to be impressed by the various drinks presentations when they had gone to the effort and expense of holding them in such an impressive building, both architecturally and historically – allegedly it is the Queen’s hotel of choice when she ventures into the city.
One of the speakers, renowned bartender Stanislav Vadrna, took the concept of the ‘cocktail experience’ to new extremes.
“If you ask me, the holy grail of bartending is the door,” he said. “You start to create the cocktail as soon as the guest enters the room.
“From when the customer enters the room to when they leave the room, I call that the process. And everything you do during that process can affect how they enjoy their experience.”
He says Japanese bartending has been a major influence for him and emphasised the phrase ‘Ichigo ichie’ (itchy-go itchy-ay), which translates to ‘one chance, one experience’.
Other speakers focused on the quality of ingredients in the cocktails. The cocktail experience is nothing if the drink is subpar, after all.
Tanqueray master distiller Tom Nichol described the effort that goes into ensuring the quality of the Tanqueray 10 brand. It clearly pays off though – while I am partial to the odd G&T, I had never tasted a gin that I could enjoy neat until I tried this one.
Unsurprisingly then, the Tanqueray 10 recipe is a closely guarded secret. Mr Nichol admitted there are only four people alive who know how the drink is made.
And there is certainly demand for a better quality of drink. We learned that in the last 10 years single malt whisky sales have risen dramatically, from 2% of all whiskies sold to 8%.
We were even treated to a master class in the different ways to enjoy whisky, depending on your preference. The Talisker 10 year that we tried gave off a fiery chilli pepper aftertaste when drunk neat but a sweeter and more complex flavour when accompanied with dark chocolate.
And for those who like the flavour but not the burn of whisky, just a dash of water created a whole new drinking experience entirely.
Once again, Diageo’s World Class forum was just that, an informal yet elegant display of why cocktails have a reputation for being the cool and sophisticated choice for drinkers – no mean feat in these days of two for one offers on a Cosmo or Sex on the Beach.