Opinion: Letters from bootcamp

Other: Opinion

A bottle of Prosecco exploded in my face a few days ago. OK, lesson learned in the hard way. One shouldn’t really carry on hitting it with the edge of a knife once there are tiny cracks all around the neck of the bottle.

We were practicing sabrage with my team, and I wanted to make the physical principles of the process clear. I kept explaining about molecular structure when ka-booom: the bottle covered me with prosecco and tiny glass shrapnel… Thank god we found a hacksaw later: a lot more reliable instrument to perform the traditional opening technique.

The team seems to be going through the most exciting change I’ve ever seen. I always knew that sommeliers were hardcore if it comes to learning new skills, but what I’ve seen is beyond any expectations really. I can go as far to state that the sommeliers in my team actually want to become bartenders to a certain point. This went way beyond thinking with the enemy`s head. It turned into something like becoming the enemy itself. But more nasty and ruthless of course.

I’ve seen Christina having to shake a cocktail for the first time ever in her life. Looking at her a few weeks later doing all sort of cocktails and teaching us bartender’s tricks, well, if I was in the Bar team’s place, I would be shitting bricks with fear.

I decided to do a bit of close-quarters reconnaissance and observe the enemy in its natural habitat. So for the first time ever in my life I wilfully went to a cocktail bar. You’ve got to understand, I don’t normally do this. So there I was, and I learned a couple of lessons before the total blackout hit. (I’ll be thankful all my life to Esther our instructor for taking care of me that night. Another lesson learned: an average liver can only process finite amount of tequila in a single evening).

1. Bartending is technically a cleaning job: you are on infinite washing up duty and when you have a bit of time you make cocktails.

2. Speed seems important, that’s new information to us.

3. Free-pouring: well, I don’t think I’ll start working on my 50 and 25 mls now, but it seems to speed up the lengthy process of measuring ingredients.

4. Bartender’s wisdom: gotta work on my cheesy cliches for drunkards – perhaps I should read Coelho or so.

The training sessions really do motivate us. Unfortunately we do not like to waste the booze, so they usually finish in a rather jolly and bright minded way. I think we’re getting ready for the first round…

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Gergely Barsi Szabó

Gergely Barsi Szabó got his first sommelier job when he arrived in London a few years ago. As he puts it, 'At Le Bouchon Breton they gave me the wine list, pushed me to the floor, and pretty much that was it.' Starting out as a journalist in his native Hungary, Barsi Szabó moved closer and closer to the world of wine. At Vinexpo in Bordeaux in 2005 he had a satori moment, realising that this was an actual industry, and a fun one at that. Ever since then he has worked, on and off, in the trade. He is most interested in what is in the bottle, and even more importantly, in the people involved.

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