Author Archives: BartenderOne

Add Zen to your cocktail and conquer those exotic hearts


There’s no doubt that the Far East has heavily influenced our health conscious way of thinking in North America. There’s something exotic about thousands of years of tradition and total body health that the Asian philosophy offers. From Tai Chi and Chai Teas (say that 5 times fast) to fresh ginger root, Echinacea and other holistic and alternative remedies, we’re embracing eastern culture in both Canada and the United States like never before and more and more people are looking for acupuncture as an alternative and less invasive form of treatment. What does this have to do with cocktail culture you ask? How about this for alternative medicine…

As you may expect, many spirit and liqueur manufacturers took notice of the trend and the cocktail marketplace is now starting to see new and exciting Asian inspired creations. Although some may consider it a stretch to believe that drinking a martini could be a health conscious decision, having yourself a Green-teani will certainly offer you more healthy benefits than your average rye and coke. Consider that green tea offers tremendous amounts of antioxidants, which have both anti-aging properties and aid in the prevention of disease

With a big number of producers in Canada and the US realizing the growth potential of this market. It seems like there are no shortage of followers as spirit manufacturers align themselves to keep on top of the latest trends.

Baristas have long known the popularity of teas. After water, tea is the second most widely consumed beverage on the planet. Despite the popularity of teas elsewhere, the North American obsession with coffee has left little room in the marketplace for exclusive tea houses, however, most upscale coffee houses will offer a wide range of teas.

With all of these options available it’s hard to know how to create a great drink that will balance the dry taste of tea with spirit or liqueur while exciting your guests and satisfying their discerning palates. Although the basics of cocktail synergy suggest that a bartender balances sweet and sour when creating a custom cocktail, in this case, we’re balancing sweet and dry. Teas will produce a similar dry feel on your tongue to that of a red wine that’s high in tannins. While you may find it difficult to get your hands on some of these spirits and liqueurs north of the border, Mixology Canada Inc. has come up with a non-alcoholic bar friendly solution in the form of Tea Fuzions – a line of unsweetened tea concentrates including green tea, earl grey, orange pekoe, chai and matcha.

Scott Megit, president, Mixology Canada Inc., says the line of tea concentrates were custom blended to allow the tea to be mixed with alcohol. They were created in recognition of a huge resurgence in teas as a cocktail or smoothie base in restaurants, cafés and martini bars.

While I don’t recommend you rely on the anti-aging properties of the Green-teani as your personal fountain of youth, it does make for a tasty beverage, which will appeal to an increasingly curious consumer base.

Keep your eyes open for new trends from the Far East because they are coming strong.

See you behind the bar.


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No train, no gain bartenders! The costs of not training your staff properly

Dear bar/nightclub/restaurant owner:

Do you have unexplained losses in liquor or wine, in draught beer… in all three?

If your restaurant is like most hospitality concepts, chances are your current bartender training is based on generations of bartenders who may not have been fully trained themselves.

Most restaurants open with meticulous operational guidelines for how drinks are prepared, with detailed recipe lists that must be strictly adhered to along with opening and closing procedures, weekly checklists for cleanliness and follow up procedures. Does this sound familiar?

Maybe it’s a distant memory…

What usually follows can be likened to a game of broken telephone, where each generation of bartenders passes on an adapted interpretation of your original training message. In the hospitality industry where employee turnover rates are commonly 50%-66% per year, it doesn’t take long before your original training standards are barely recognizable

Perhaps your restaurant is okay and you have a good idea of how you can control the margins in the kitchen. Most managers have a good handle on food cost in the kitchen because many kitchens have portion-controlled menus. Use of a scale to measure consistency in portion size is common especially in prep areas, but there is no parallel on the bar side of the spectrum. Most bartenders freepour, although few have been properly trained to freepour accurately. You ask them to use a shot glass, which is slow and really offers no guarantee of accuracy during busy periods.

In the hospitality industry, there is a fine line between profit and loss. So fine in fact that after tax, profit margins in F&B often average less than 3% according to recent figures.

With margins like that, it’s hard to justify spending money on the business; however, it’s

been said that you have to spend it to make it.

There are a smorgasbord of liquor control systems available… at a price, and keep in mind you get what you pay for. Some bars that choose the ball bearing style pour spouts, which apparently stop automatically, may save money up front but you’ll pay in the long term. Most of these spouts will only pour accurately about 65% of the time. At the opposite end of the spectrum you could spend $100,000 or more on a high-tech liquor control system, however it may take years to see the return on your investment. Both of these systems, no matter how elaborate the programming, will limit your bartenders’ ability to create drinks that will truly satisfy your guests’ unique tastes and preferences.

At the very least you should make sure that all of your pour spouts are the same, and that you don’t have a mishmash of different colours, styles and pour rates. Not only does it look better, but if you find your liquor costs are out of line at least there is one less variable, and you can let your bartenders know that they’re pouring heavy.

The cost of not training your bartenders properly is astronomical.

All licensed establishments have bartenders but few have truly mastered the craft. But when was the last time your bartenders had any real training? Are they accurate and efficient or are they pouring away your profits?

The bottom line is that your ability to manage your costs is directly linked to the degree to which you empower your staff to help you manage those costs. We’ve all heard that the best defense is a good offense… so consider this.

Keep things simple:

Based on $10,000 in sales:

Your current liquor cost is 25% = $2500

Your budget liquor cost is 23% = $2300

Simple math says that you’re running 2% above cost or at a 2% surplus.

Your target liquor cost is 22% = $2200

This could be as a result of carelessness, spillage, spoilage, etc. As an incentive to keep costs in line, share these numbers with your staff regularly, and offer your bar team a quarterly party, or pay out a cash bonus to your bartenders if they hit a target 1% below your targeted liquor cost, in this case 22%. (Goals have to be within reason, and shouldn’t promote short changing the guest.)

Each year, based on these numbers, you are rewarded with $1200 in teambuilding and staff incentives. Your staff retention and job satisfaction goes up, turnover goes down and you empower a team of people to work

So put your hands on this and remember“Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.”  Embrace a culture of continuous perfection and success will come to you.

See you behind the bar

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A crash lesson in Tequila and Margaritas

azure margarita

To Canadians, the mention of tequila inspires flashbacks of an all-inclusive vacation in Mexico with a delicious agave induced hangover. To others it’s simply a shot that gets thrown back with a lick of salt and a squeeze of citrus fruit to kill the after taste. One way or the other, this spirit has consolidated its place within our drinking culture. Nonetheless, the knowledge about it, it’s poor at best. Well, that is about to change, just keep on reading

Tequila is one of the more versatile spirits. It’s diverse and its great depth of flavour makes it a natural ingredient for cocktails. Despite a massive worldwide tequila shortage in 2000 and the resulting increase in price as supplies diminished, tequila remains one of the premier spirits on any bar south of the border. While vodka still reigns supreme as the number one spirit sold, the cosmopolitan falls light years away to the margarita which has been one of the the world’s most popular cocktails for years now.

Tequila is such a phenomenon that there are upscale tequila around the globe: from New York City to London, to Hong Kong you will find  bars boasting tequila lists with 300-400 brands,  priced in the stratospheric range of a great single-malt scotch. As a rule of thumb, a good tequila venue should have a decent collection of quality tequilas, in particular those of the 100% agave variety and a staff trained accordingly to assist the customers with their choice, as well as to delight them with the top tequila cocktails every time.

In Canada, the presence of government controlled liquor stores limits the selection of tequilas on offer, which results in most provinces having  only a few dozen tequilas available for sale.

To simplify things, here are a few tequila facts to dispel the rumours.

Tequila is usually bottled in one of five categories. Only the first two should be used to mix cocktails

  • Blanco “white” or plata “silver” – not aged white spirit.
  • Oro “gold” – unaged or young, which means that caramel, fructose, glycerin and wood flavoring can be added to resemble aged tequila.
  • Reposado “rested” – aged a minimum of 2 months but less than a year in oak barrels.
  • Añejo “aged” or “vintage” – aged minimum one year, but less than three years in oak barrels.
  • Extra añejo “extra aged”– aged minimum three year in oak barrels

One reason margaritas may have never enjoyed the same success in Canada as they have in the south is due to the fact that most bartenders rim the glass with table salt and the three tiered rimmer “dip and dunk” method. When you’re rimming a margarita glass remember that the rimming ingredient belongs only on the outside edge of the glass, not on the inside, where it will likely become part of the cocktail. Moisten the outside of the glass with a lime and roll the moistened surface in coarse sea salt or kosher salt for your glass rimmer. It’s the easiest way to ensure that your glass is not overloaded with salt. If you must use the dip and dunk method, please do yourself and your guest a favour and wipe the excess off of the inside of the glass with a beverage napkin before you pour the cocktail in and inadvertently create a salt water margarita.

To get you into the world of Tequila and Margaritas here is the following recipe using Kaban, tangerine infused tequila. The synergy of tangerine with the larahas orange flavour of Blue Curacao is a natural match that is appealing to both the eye and the palate.

Made correctly, the tangerine-infused azure margarita will sell itself. With guests rightly demanding more from their bartenders and their dining and drinking experience, it’s important to make sure your staff is well trained.

Until next time keep ‘raising the bar’ in your establishment, because if you don’t, someone else will!

azure margarite recipe

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Bloody Good Spirit Launch Party, Bulldog Gin is finally in Canada!!!


There are some untouchable things for an English; The Queen, The Union Jack and his favourite football team, yet there are few things as sacred for an English as  Gin.

Altough born in the Netherlands Gin quickly became one of the identity symbols for English drinking tradition with the gin and tonic as one of its many flags. Yet despite this extense heritage, until recent times Gin has been one spirit still relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic.

Flavoured with juniper berries and a collection of botanical ingredients, Gin stands out as one of the most versatile spirits; although many people enjoy it straight Gin also offers an unlimited potential for cocktails.

Last night at College Street Bar, we took part in a new chapter on the history of Gin in Canada. Bulldog Gin, one of the most awarded Gin brands in recent years. Made from Norfolk wheat from the East Anglia region, Britain´s purest water from Wales and a distinctive blend of 12 botanicals from 8 countries across the world finally crossed the border and started it´s journey in the land of the Maple Leaf.

With two signature complimentary cocktails and the talent from the College Street Bar staff, the Bloody Good Spirit Launch Party turned out to be a tremendous success. A sexy crowd in the dance floor sipping their Raspeberry Fields Forever and Abbey Gimlet cocktails joined us in the beginning of this adventure. The task ahead is not easy; with a potential market of almost 10 million consumers per year and some serious competition Bulldog Gin has a lot of work to do to conquer Canadian´s hearts and minds. Nonetheless, tasting the cocktails from last night we are sure they will reach their objective and ignite the Gin passion in each and every corner of this country.

See you behind the bar!

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Unveiling the Bourbon secrets with Matt Jones

whiskey 1

Last night, College Street Bar witnessed a mind-blowing presentation of Bourbon and its secrets courtesy of Whiskey Chef Matt Jones and Beam Global. And when I say secrets I mean it. Bourbon is one of the most underrated spirits outside of the US, not only when compared to other more mainstream spirits such as vodka or rum but even compared to its cousins across the pond, nonetheless, as Matt explained Bourbon is a key element of the American cultural heritage, so any self respecting connoisseur has to experience its unique flavor at least once.

For this bourbon adventure Matt displayed five different whiskies in front of us: Jim Beam, Devil’s Cut, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Bookers while he proceeded to explain the particularities that make Bourbon what it is

To get started, Matt made us sample a non aged whiskey. This was a unique experience that you will hardly experience outside of specialized events like this, one of the things that stood out the most besides its transparent presentation was the strong corn flavor of the whiskey. Matt proceeded to explain how the wood from the barrels where whiskey is stored not only contributes with flavor but also in the color the whiskey gets, this was an eye opening revelation for most of us who weren’t aware how deeply involved is the process of storage with the final outcome of whiskey.

Afterwards, we proceeded to taste each sample while Matt explained the story behind each of them. Beam certainly prints a unique anecdote to each of its products. The story about the origin of the Devil’s Cut name was just astonishing. I’m afraid I cannot share it here since I might spoil the surprise element for when you join the next tasting but I can say it just tells you a lot about Kentucky approach to life in general.

From the shape of the bottle, to each particular label and of course every flavor and alcohol content of each and every sample, Matt took us through an hour of stories that kept us on the edge of our seats. And if this wasn’t enough to satisfy our palates, one by one, the delicious, southern inspired bites started to appear: Shrimps in Bourbon Sauce, Pulled Pork Sliders and many other delicacies which just made us think this was too good to be true.

If I was to choose one sample from all the ones we had the chance to taste I’d definitely choose Booker’s. Few times in my life I have experienced such an intense flavor, where the spirit is so good you feel your mouth can hardly handle it. Basil Hayden’s also looks like a serious option for something a little softer and smoother.

In conclusion, this Blues n Bourbon evening went way ahead of what I was expecting. A totally charismatic and knowledgeable speaker plus a collection of delicious spirits plus mind blowing delicious food is a combination as likely as getting a Royal Flush in Poker. This is definitely something you have to experience and enjoy like an authentic Kentuckian.

See you behind the bar!

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The world’s top 5 bars in 2012

This question has been around as long as the noble art of drinking has existed: What is the best bar in the world?

Countless debates have surrounded this issue and it’s easy to understand why since there are so many elements involved in defining a bar as the best: service, menu, location, decor, history and of course the quality of the drinks served.

This situation inspired our friends from Drinks International, one of the most respected international magazines on the subject of spirits, wines and beer to find the very best bars in the globe. With an epic effort that involved a poll of 150 contributors, some of the most respected, influencial and knowledgable bar industry professionals in the planet this is as an accurate opinion on the top 5 bars in the world as you will find anywhere.

Here we will display the top 5 bars.



The Artesian is a worthy number on. . At Tales of the Cocktail this year it claimed World’s Best Hotel  Bar as well as the World’s Best International Bartender in Alex Kratena and it is universally accepted  that the bar is properly special.

The cocktail menu has attracted much  of the credit, and with good reason. It effortlessly blends modern innovation  with a classic reverence and each beautifully designed concoction justifies its luxury price tag.



In this bar the cocktail den is carefully dressed with eye-catching taxidermy, exposed brickwork,                    tasteful dark wood ceilings and gleaming bar top.

Low lighting, appropriate music and a sincere smile from the bar staff all contribute to making both                décor and atmosphere here comfortable.



Fruits are carefully selected from reputable markets at the break of dawn and the subsequent design and crafting of these delicate glass accompaniments is something to behold.

A true appreciation of the past imbues all imbibing options here, with a menu divided into pre-Prohibition, Prohibition and post-war drinks.

They also take pride in the spirits, some of which are pre-Prohibition – including an 1863 Hannisville Rye – and share back bar space with all manner of homemade infusions and bitters.

The staff has experience in some of London’s best bars and as a result they provide the accomplished harmony of service and smile with a sexy stir or shake



The Connaught is among the best and rightly so – it is a timeless Mayfair masterpiece and not so long ago enjoyed a spot of renovation that aimed to fluff up its facade. It worked and the outcome was a hotel bar that blends contemporary and classic chic.

Once seated you can wait for the trolley to make things simple, or you can watch the bartenders head back to the bar with your order and perform. Their subtle motions of mixing won’t distract from conversation unless you need them to and the performance is like a silent movie.



Savoy is a bar dripping in reassuring British cocktail history.

From Harry Craddock right through to the current crop of cocktail creatives behind the stick, the American Bar has been hosted by and indeed host to some of the most colourful characters in drinking history and fi red out more than a few enduring classics along the way

The menu is beautifully presented and easy to digest with a happy balance of snippets and succinct detail that doesn’t overload you with technical gibberish. As one of London’s oldest cocktail haunts it should come as no surprise that the American Bar gets it right.


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Tipping Point


Have you ever stopped for a second to think about the fact that there are very few great bars in North America despite tons of good bartenders who have plenty of talent?

The missing ingredient has nothing to do with a lack of options or support; it has everything to do with lack of ambition brought on by lowered expectations

Ask yourself this question. When was the last time you went into a bar and received really great service? If you are lucky, it has happened a few times but not many more.

Believe it or not, tipping too much is one of the reasons of why this happens.

Hard to believe, huh? Let me explain you why I say this:

In most bars, the tip is something that’s up to the client as a reward for an exceptional service. This means that bartenders are motivated to do their best effort every time to keep their patrons satisfied in order to ensure their economic success.

On the other side, bars that add an “autograt” (or automatic gratuity) offer below-average to poor  service while bartenders who had to work for their tips offered better drinks, superior service  and an all around exceptional experience.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of the automatic gratuity. Many establishments tack on a 15 per cent gratuity to parties of eight or more when tipping is often (conveniently) overlooked.

However, a bartender or server should never be allowed to add an automatic gratuity to a party of less than six. And adding a 15 per cent automatic gratuity to a single drink provides bartenders with no incentive to create great drinks or offer excellent customer service.


Because the bartenders already know they will get their money regardless.

Bartenders are like work horses — they are  motivated by the carrot (the tip) and the stick (job security). If you take away the carrot (the chance of earning a gratuity) and just feed the carrot directly to the horse, they won’t pull the plough (their weight) no matter how hard you hit them with the stick. Without fail, automatic gratuities take the ambition out of taking care of the guest.

The result: Service suffers.

A bartender must remember that the guest determines whether to reward him or not with a tip or gratuity. After all, TIPS is an acronym for “To Insure Proper Service.”

Good bartenders work hard for their money.

They have a very difficult job in that they must possess the skills of a line chef when it comes to mixology and be able to balance that with the people management skills needed to deal with customers who are becoming increasingly intoxicated. An immense amount

of responsibility rests on their shoulders.

However, bartenders who believe they are owed gratuity by everyone who buys a drink have an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Tipping should never be mandatory.  Bartending is about driving a party, meeting new people, sharing experiences and creating relationships.

So the next time you’re in a bar and you receive great service, make sure to tip the bartender. And the next time you step behind the bar, remember you’re there to make people happy.


See you behind the bar

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Guest Etiquette or “How to behave at the bar”

There are few places like a bar or a club where your manners and attitude will define you in front of others so blatantly. Sure, everyone is around to relax, have a good time and enjoy a few – or more- drinks and not in a stiff social event.

Yet, fact is people -particularly women- are looking at you, watching every detail and making assumptions about you based on the way you conduct yourself on the bar. -Unless your name is Rob Ford and you enjoy being the centre of attention every Monday for your drunken behavior, here are some tips you should take into account to avoid getting the reputation for being “that douche over there” from the bar staff and patrons.


1) Don’t call the bartender using the expressions “Yo”‘ “Dude” “Baby”, Whistling or Waiving a Debit Card

Bartenders -and people in general – don’t usually enjoy being called names  from someone who they are not familiar with, so don’t use those expressions EVER. As for whistling, unless you are guiding a flock of sheep back home keep your lips either close or on your drink. Finally, unless its a Black American Express, waiving a credit/debit card in front of the bartender is a great way to fan yourself and cool down but definitely not a way to attract the his/her attention. Holding a firm but polite eye contact with your bartender should be enough to indicate you are waiting for service. If it doesn’t work either find a new bar or get new eyes.

2) Don’t touch the bartender/server

People don’t usually feel comfortable being touched by strangers, so do bartenders. If the bartender feels comfortable enough with you to shake hands with you, give you a high fiver or even a hug that’s ok as long as it’s cool with you too, but don’t get that creepy vibe for being the too-touchy guy

3) When you order make sure you are ready to order.

If you want to get the “I hate you and wish painful things upon you” look from your bartender all you have to do is order and when he/she is giving you your drinks and is ready to pay you only have to say “Oh, I forgot… three more pints and another rum and coke”  This being said, PLEASE don’t do it.

4) If you were properly served, tip accordingly

We know that tip is not mandatory, yet you have to understand that tipping is not only a bar ritual, but is also a big clue on how you are as a person. Tipping properly shows you know how to appreciate good service and this will generate a good reputation for you. Typically $1 is an acceptable tip for a beer, $2 for mixed drinks and more if its a complicated mixed drink. Also, the way of tipping is really important: discretly passing leaving the tip on the bar with a “Thank you” should be enough.


This is an awful habit which tells a lot about how little some people value their server’s time and sanity. If your server doesn’t ask you if you will want separate tabs you should indicate this at the beginning of your order.  He/ She will appreciate it more than you can believe.


1) Do not try to skip the line by saying “I know the owner”

This is a classic but it hardly works for two simple reasons a) Most people who use this line cannot tell the owner’s name when asked and b) If you really knew the owner he would go out for you or at least have you on a guest list.  You can skip this uncomfortable situation by making an early reservation.

2) Do not give attitude to the bouncer

No matter how much money or connections you may have, you will never beat the bouncer in an attitude challenge. He is used to take that same attitude over and over again every week and knows how to handle it. Most importantly, even if you happen to see the owner or manager he will most probably back his decision as he is his staff and you will end up annoyed and looking bad in front of the crowd that’s waiting with you. Avoid this situation by respecting the bouncer and if necessary asking for the promoter or manager of the venue. If you offer a good deal (e.g. bring a large group or friends with you) they will usually be friendly to you and let you in.

Go out, try these tips and you will see the difference. And when that happens, let us know!


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Aushentoshan Switch Competition August 12th!

Last night I attended the Regional finals (as a spectator, this time) of the Toronto Heats for the Aushentoshan Switch Competition at Rock Lobster Restaurant in Toronto! It was a great turnout of both industry-folk and friends of the bartenders. I would of been a competitor in this mixology competition as well…probably… but my submission did not get to them in time. Ah, such is life. But I’m glad it turned out the way it did, because I would of gotten WHOMPED at this event. Here’s why:

There were some big names present like Michael Webster of Bar Isabel, Adrien Stein of Rock Lobster, and even David Mitton, known to judge competitions like this, was stretching his competition muscles once again. Alongside these industry leaders were some up and comers like  Adam Vogler and Aaron Male. I was quite impressed with the caliber of cocktails and the choices the Mixologists made for their creation.

In the end, second place was awarded to Michael Webster with first place taken by Vincent Pollard! Vincent happens to be a former student of BartenderOne School. At the event, him and I got to reminisce on how his bartending career as grown and he mentioned that it started when I, personally, taught him. I see and meet a lot of people, so I at first I was very humbled, but I definitely remember Vincent from a Get Into The Spirit workshop he attended one evening at BartenderOne.

That’s how it all starts folks.  I say this to all my students: all I hope is that they take one new idea or concept away from a class/lecture/workshop/bartender training that I, or any one of the BartenderOne instructors, teach you. That’s my passion and my reward, and to see it in practice at Toronto Competitions that I attend is heart-warming. Maybe that sounds a little conceited, but that’s why I became an instructor: to make better bartenders, and it’s happening. Oh, it’s happening. Congratulation All!

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IBC Finals Spring 2012

With a new crop of budding mixologists, eager to showcase their learnings from the past 5 weeks, the stage was set for the final exam for IBC 5. 6 new cocktails from each mixologist, thoughtfully assembled and balanced to a tee… well almost!

The vodka, rum, gin, whisky, tequila and brandy cocktails of the evening ranged from simple to complex… here are the highlights!

Faye MacLauglan scored well in many categories with her Sage Advice, Heat Wave and Brandy Twist cocktails however she scored highest in the rum category with her Tiki Tea cocktail pictured below.

Tiki Tea Cocktail

Tiki Tea Cocktail

Lili Shi came up with some imaginative cocktails using ingredients that seldom show up on cocktail menus and scored best with Her Gin (Green Teeth) and Whisky (Bite your Heart shown below) cocktails.

Bite your Heart Cocktail

Bite your Heart Cocktail

Claire Liu made some straight classics (the Sea Breeze) and some Asian inspired new age libations like her aptly named Yellow Tail (pictured below.)

Yellow Tail Cocktail

Yellow Tail Cocktail

Jordan Sanders came up with some of the most inventive and creative applications for cocktails, including a smoked rum cocktail that had a great flavour, and a lesson about using the right amount of smoke in a cocktail, along with the binding and aroma containing elements of egg whites in a cocktail.

Jordan's Ceasaritza Cocktail

Jordan's Ceasaritza Cocktail

Sunny Meng Du tried her hand at some crafty molecular techniques, her Whisky (Sea Salt Whisky Caramel) and Brandy (Nice and Warm) cocktails were both highlights of her flight of drinks.

Sea Salt Whisky Caramel Cocktail

Sea Salt Whisky Caramel Cocktail

The night turned out to be a night of great cocktails, made from every spirit category.  Stay tuned for full recipes coming soon!

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