|The breathtaking view from Paramount at the top of Centrepoint|
To Soho last Monday, for the finals of the London leg of the G’Vine “Connoisseur Programme” 2013, in the Paramount bar at the top of the Centrepoint Tower. Despite the grandiose title, this is a bartender competition of the kind that many brands have, now in its third year. Other cities are having their own local contests, and the winners will vie to be the British representative in a global final.
|Floraison (left) and Nouaison (right)|
|Hannah receives her prize from soi disant cocktail |
legend Salvatore Calabrese
|Sebastien explains his cocktail. Contestants were |
marked up for having all this gubbins at their stations
|Andreas with his absinthe fountain, a smoking |
gun (hidden) and various sprays
The other runner-up was Andreas Tsanos from Spirit Level @ Baku, about whose concoction I had mixed feelings. On the one hand it was profound and flavoursome, redolent of odd things that weren’t in it, like preserved lemons, smoked bacon, pungent honey and surgical spirit. On the other hand the process was almost comically complex, involving La Maison Fontaine absinthe smoked with oak, hickory and applewood, bergamot mist, Champagne reduction, rose petals, lavender and vanilla. There is a part of me that feels that a good cocktail is greater than the sum of its parts, rather than burdened down by them.
|"I am French, I talk with my hands," explained |
Fredi. He also talked a lot with his mouth
This last point is significant, as I did feel that some of the cocktails would have tasted much the same with any other gin, or indeed without the gin at all. Imants Zusmanis of Kensington Place presented a drink involving muddled strawberry, pineapple and fresh red chilli, plus June grapeflower liqueur (from the same makers as the gin), Nouaison, limoncello, pineapple juice, lemon juice, cranberry juice and sugar syrup—yet it was really just about the clever synergy between strawberry and chilli (although in my notes I do say that the gin character is at least detectable).
|Imants Zusmanis prepares his intriguing strawberry n' chilli combo|
So what would I do with G’Vine? When I first experimented with it I found it a bit disturbing in many classic gin cocktails, because its emphasis on soft, sweet, floral notes doesn’t deliver the juniper steel you expect. But in cocktails that are more floral to start off with, such as the Aviation, it works perfectly well, and brings it’s own interest. It also works well in a French ‘75—whether there is any synergy going on between the grape spirit and the Champagne I don’t know; more likely between the vine flower character and the Champagne. And I discovered it makes a rather good Gimlet, partly because the relative softness of the gin balances with the tartness of the citrus but also because the gingeriness of the gin makes a natural harmony with the lime.