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Lush Life Podcast Transcripts: How to Help the Home Bartender (#166)

166 Top Tips for the Home Bartender

Make the Bourbon Lemonade and settle down to imbibe this transcript of my episode on the Top Tops for the Home Bartender, featuring Denis Broci, the Manager of all the Bars at Claridge’s Hotel in London, and then topping it up with Rebekkah DooleyDaniyel JonesJack SottiSasha FilimonovVasilis KyritsisJohnny LivanosElliot Ball, and Lauren Mote!

What a few months we’ve had. Most of the world has been stuck inside while bars and restaurants have had to close, often never to reopen. Since every bar I love has been shut, I’ve had to make myself a cocktail or two or many. Thank goodness I had advice from the world’s best – the Lush Life family.

I’ve begun asking my guests a few top tips, so we home bartenders can make a proper drink. For today’s show, I have compiled them all into one episode to send you off on your own, while Lush Life takes a short break for the rest of the summer.

Every cocktail I make is in reverence to my Lush Life family and I toast to the time when I can see them again.

We’re building today’s episode, beginning with a shot of Denis Broci, the Manager of all the Bars at Claridge’s Hotel in London, and then topping it up with Rebekkah DooleyDaniyel JonesJack SottiSasha FilimonovVasilis KyritsisJohnny LivanosElliot Ball, and Lauren Mote!

This episode originally aired on July 28, 2020.

You can listen to this episode here, or any of your favorite podcatchers.

Please enjoy this transcript. Just remember that I own the copyright in and to all content in and transcripts of Lush Life podcast, with all rights reserved, as well as my right of publicity. So if you want to use any of this, please email me!

Denis Broci: Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate anything and don’t forget that the guest that you’re hosting is there to enjoy the evening, not there just to have a drink.

Susan: Next we’re adding 50 mils of Rebekkah Dooley who launched Discard the Zine, a new drinks industry magazine, and an overall design guru.

Rebekkah Dooley: My tips would be always have ice, always have fresh lime, fresh citrus, and always have soda and live with bartenders.

Susan: Time to add four dashes of Daniyel Jones, Global Brand Ambassador for the House of Angostura

Daniyel Jones: Tip number 1 – Invest in good tools. I always feel like as a bartender, we see bartender s out there and we think, wow, it’s easy. I could do that. If you have the right tools, it will be easy. So today is different, I mean, I could go learn to do anything on YouTube right now. There are a few good videos that can really guide, so you invest in a few good tools.

There are five main tools I would get: a cobbler shaker, which is a three-piece shaker. That’s the easiest shaker for a home bartender. Get a strainer, which is a julep strainer if you’re getting into a cobbler shaker, a mixing glass, the julep strainer is for the mixing glass so you could stir a cocktail and strain it.

And then, I would say a mixing spoon, a good spoon to mix the stirred cocktails, a muddler will be a nice option if you want to do some nice classic mojitos. Having those tools makes you feel like you can really deliver the job.  Yes, of course we all been through a lockdown phase. We’ve been back to the basics using Mason jars and stuff like that, but I can guarantee you the quality of your daiquiri will never be the same when you have the right tools.

The next on the list I would say, would be invest in good quality spirits if you’re a home bartender. I know people who are not into cocktails, they think that a cocktail is like a sangria. The birth of sangria started with bad wine and you threw a bunch of fruits in there to preserve it. But no, sangria is good. I love good sangria, but a cocktail requires good quality spirits. If you want a good cocktail, you need the good qualities spirit.

A great example of that is a classic dry martini. You can test a bartender, by asking for a classic dry martini, of course, if you want a classic, you have to go with the gin. And then the quality of the gin, the type of gin you choose is a factor.

The type of vermouth to choose is a factor. The type of ice you use is a factor. So you want to make sure that you have good quality spirits. So invest in the basics like rum, vodka, tequila and vermouth. Once you have those, you can experiment with other stuff. If you come to the seminar with me, I can show you what type of rums to get.

Those are some main spirits to get rum, vodka, tequila and you don’t have to get flavored stuff. You can just get the plain stuff then eventually advance from there.

The next item on the list of three item, I would say would be ice. Your quality of your ice makes a big difference. Imagine you’re spending all this money on good spirits, and then you threw wet, bad ice into your cocktail or ice that tastes like chlorine. It’s going to ruin that spirit. It’s going to ruin your drink. Ice makes up for 20% of the cocktail. So you want to ensure that the quality of the ice is good mineral, distilled water.

My advice would be have a selection. I love to do ice in my fridge. If you’re home, get a silicone pan, a baking pan. Don’t go buy anything, you probably already have it. If you bake bread, if you have a plastic Tupperware, you can use that, but get spring water, distilled water. And you pour it in and you put it in the freezer and that’s it. Now when the ice is frozen, you get your bread knife or serrated knife. You carve a little edge, tap it. You cut some nice blocks and you put it in Ziploc bags and put it back in the freezer where you pull out your bad boy, you get a good glass. You drop one of those nice blocks. Yeah. And you can sit premium spirits with that ice, or you can make great cocktails with that ice.

So there’s three main factors for the home bartender. I want to say one more, one more. That’s going to take you to that edge. If you’re the home bartender who wants to be the advance bartender, who wants to be the highlight of the party and wants to make everyone feel sexy at the end of the night, this is what you need to do.

You need to be able to use fresh ingredients, fresh lime juice, fresh citrus. It’s going to be delicious. And also once you have exploring with fruits, if you can garnish now, remember it’s all about how it looks at the end of the day. It’s how it looks. All right guys and girls, we know this it’s about how it looks when you can garnish a drink.

Because we are attracted to the drink by the way it looks before we even taste them. This is why Instagram is such a big thing when it comes to cocktails and food, to make sure that you know what to do a few garnishes, like twisting a peel. You don’t have to do a big salad and a drink. No, you can just know how to twist a peel and make it look good. And I think you’re going to be the star of the party!

Susan: Next pour in a measure of Jack Sotti, Senior Tanqueray Gin and World-Class Ambassador at Diageo.

Jack: Okay. Alright. So the first one would be trusting your palette and it sounds really silly, but since I’ve been doing all of these Instagram Live cocktail classes and whatnot, home mixologists love recipes. And I’m always really kind of flippant and I’m like, Oh, , this is the recipe, but if you want it a bit sweeter to just put a bit more sugar syrup in it. So follow the recipe by all means, but trust your palate, taste a drink and feel free to change it, tweak the acidity, tweak the balance.

There is no right specific recipe, it’s all down to your personal preference. I’ve learned that the hard way. I make a lot of drinks for my palate and my mother-in-law who keeps coming up to drink them really doesn’t like them because she’s got a sweet tooth. You do in the bar.

Wouldn’t the bartender ask you what you want. I’ll ask your preference and a good bartender will always without you knowing it, tweak it to your taste. And so you should do the same.

That’s the first one. The second one is ice. Ice is the most underrated ingredient in cocktails and the cheapest thing for you to purchase, if you want to make good cocktails and you’re worrying about what to buy. I know on your blog; you’ve got some amazing links to some really cool places to get all the right equipment and some really good products. But the one thing that’s not going to cost them anything is to just care about the ice they’re putting into their drinks.

And so the general rule of thumb is the more ice the better. Fit in as much ice into that drink as possible. Don’t buy party ice because it’s quite small cubes and then it melts really quickly. Make sure you haven’t gotten these stinky takeaways in your freezer or leftovers because it will quickly get into the ice since ice is really porous.

Have fresh ice. Don’t have it sitting in there.  I guess the best advice would be if you just want to do something really simple, buy deep, think ice cube trays – big, big blocks. Use filtered water in your eyes instead of tap water, if you live in London, especially if you live in London. Scottish tap water is great, lovely. You just want to make sure you’ve got pure water because it’s going to make up a third of your drink ultimately.

Susan: Now we need a twist of Sasha Filimonov, Hendrick’s Gin UK Brand Ambassador, needless to say her tip is very gin-centric.

Sasha: My top suggestion. And I think it’s a really simple one is to put a bottle of gin in the freezer as well as two glasses, because that means that when you need an emergency martini, You’re about 30 seconds away from one. Absolutely brilliant. You can pre-dilute it a little bit, if you want. Not too much, otherwise it’ll freeze and put a little vermouth in there or just freeze the gin. And if you like your Martinis very, very naked, like I do, you could do a little vermouth rinse on your frozen glass or a little vermouth spritz, and then away you go. Now I drink my Martinis out of a teeny martini glass so it’s a pretty responsible measure.

Susan: Now we have to add a few Greek spirits. First up is Vasilis Kyritsis, owner of the Clumsies Bar in Athens.

Vasilis: I think for me the top tip is that you can use any tools that you have in your house. It’s nice to use a spoon or it’s good to use your knives you want to stir a cocktail. You don’t have to search for special tools

You can do more built cocktails and keep the flavor and the consistency in them. It’s very important because it’s easier to make built cocktails instead of making shaken cocktails in your house. And at the same time, bring your friends once quarantine is over and try to keep your positive vibes because that’s very important even if you are in your house or in your bar, have a little

Susan: l a little Grecian hospital.

Daniyel: Exactly. Greek hospitality. It’s very important everywhere.

Susan: And the second Greek Spirit is Johnny Livanos, Founder of Stray Dog Wild Gin.

Johnny: I have a few tips. One tip I’d like to give is don’t be afraid to make your own simple syrup.

Simple syrup is one of the easiest things to make. It’s literally just sugar and water, and you could flavor it with a lot of different things. I like to make cinnamon simple syrup where you basically add one cup of water, one cup of sugar, throw one in a piece of a cinnamon bark, or maybe a teaspoon of cinnamon.

Let it boil for maybe five minutes and then you have an awesome cinnamon flavored syrup, that you could add to your Old Fashioneds. You could add it to other different types of cocktails. And you could basically do that with any type of spice or even herbs.

I like making Earl Gray syrup. You basically make tea and add a cup of sugar, and now you have an Earl grey simple syrup. And as a home bartender who likes to experiment, just making a simple syrup is your very inexpensive way and easy way to just completely take your cocktails to that restaurant or bar quality. Also at the restaurants we like to do our own infusions and infusing is also a very easy thing to do.

So maybe experiment with different herbs you have, and it works really well with any kind of alcohol, but I like to try with vodka or gin and take some tea or take a spice, like cardamom, let it sit for overnight and let it see how it tastes the next day. And then you could go and take your cocktails to the next level.

And even if you’re just doing classic cocktails, if you like to make margaritas at home, if you have your own chili-infused tequila. That’s the best way to make a delicious, spicy margarita without having to muddle peppers.  If you really like to make gimlets, for example, you could take your, either your tea infused simple syrup or your gin infused with an herb, and now you have a whole new cocktail that is the restaurant and bar quality.

So I like to experiment with those two things, and then it’s also good to invest in a nice quality shaker and a jigger. Always jigger, always measure your ingredients, cause that’s the only way you’re going to get it to taste exactly like the recipes meant for. Cocktail making is all about balance –  balancing bitterness, sweetness, acidity, and alcohol, and then unless you’re measuring your ingredients, your problems, not going to be balanced.

It takes a lot of practice to be able to eyeball things and even the most professional advanced bartenders can’t do it that well. So just invest in a little jigger costs you 10 – 15 bucks and you’ll have perfectly measured drinks.

Susan: Now if you’re a true professional, you’ll want to add in a drop of Elliot Ball, Co-Owner of the Cocktail Trading Company, Murder, Inc., and a slew of other bars.

Elliot: Bartending at home is in many ways, just as important as what you do at work. It’s a little bit like your gym versus your actual game that you want to be competitive in.  At home is such a good opportunity to get on top of so many things like your pours, your practices, those ligaments in your wrist get a little bit stiff if you don’t use them. Also take the opportunity to read to and to just stay active in it. Otherwise we’re all going to have to go back to doing 60 hours a week. Having sat down on our asses for the last three months, which will be really bad.

Susan: To top the cocktail off, we finish with Lauren Mote, the Diageo Reserve and World-Class Global Cocktailian and Co-Founder of Bittered Sling.

Lauren:  I think rather than a place, it’s actually a feeling. There is something about just being with people that is actually more important than the place and what you’re drinking, the social aspect of food and beverage and breaking bread together and spending time together is the most important thing. I think wherever those people are, that’s where I want to be. And you’ll probably be drinking a Don Julio Margarita.  I think it’s more important now than ever that we fundamentally understand that hospitality has multiple branches and food and beverage are one of the branches from that discipline and that.

Being with people and investing in bars and bartenders and businesses and the planet, all of these things together is what makes the richer experience. And  I can’t wait to go to Italy, to be honest, I can’t wait to go back to Mexico. I can’t wait to go back to a lot of the places where I have my fondest memories, but I’ll go wherever the people are, wherever they’re happy. I know I’ve got thousands of barstools waiting for me around the world. Whenever that day comes.

Susan: I love that answer. That’s a good answer.

Now you have the specifications to create a great cocktail in your own home. Thanks to some of the best in the business.

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