Providing you’re not getting paid to do it, in which case you have to really work, jumping behind the bar at parties can be a fine way to meet almost everyone while simultaneously avoiding getting cornered. You don’t get crushed by the crowds, you get to make yourself a drink whenever you want one, and you’re the center of attention. Bartenders enjoy this.
I hopped behind the bar at an event in Greece in July. (Hint: Always ask permission from the professional behind the bar.) The occasion was a sponsored affair, and as such there wasn’t a huge selection of booze from which to choose. I grabbed a bottle of gin, and a bottle of Port, married them as though the Port were the vermouth in a very dry martini, and started making round after round of my own version of Pink Gin for the assembled mass. The drinks went down very well indeed.
Julian de Feral, the head bartender at Lutyens, a swank joint in London, recently sent me a batch of cocktail recipes. After glancing through them, I kept returning to a drink he called Ruby Can’t Fail. It called for gin, Port, lemon juice, fino Sherry, simple syrup and orange bitters. It reminded me of the gin and Port mixture I’d come up with in Athens, except that this drink was obviously made by someone who knew what he was doing.
And Julian de Feral, I can assure you, knows exactly what he’s doing. In the past few years he has won no fewer than 15 cocktail/bartender competitions.
“I enjoy working in a good cocktail bar with a good atmosphere, having plenty of involvement in the cocktails and teaching others what I know whilst still progressing with my own education,” Julian says.
As I was poring over Julian’s curriculum vitae, I noted that he was a member of a 10-bartender team assembled by a major gin brand and hired to “champion gin … and to share and discuss bartending techniques across the world.” Not a bad job if you can get it. He went on to say that he’d been in Athens in July to attend a team meeting.
Wait a minute. That was where I was mixing up my gin and Port cocktails. Same month, same city. I wrote to Julian to ask if we’d met. Apparently we had.
“That was my bottle of Port you were nicking to spike your martinis,” he told me.
Ruby Can’t Fail
Adapted from a recipe by Julian de Feral, head bartender at Lutyens in London.
1 1/4 ounces gin
1/2 ounce ruby Port
1/3 ounce fino Sherry
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/3 ounce simple syrup
1 dash orange bitters
1 lemon twist, as garnish
1 pink grapefruit twist, as garnish
Instructions: Place the gin, port, sherry, lemon juice, simple syrup and bitters in a mixing glass over ice; shake, then strain into a small, chilled wine glass. Release the oils from the twists onto the top of the drink, and discard the twists.
The Cocktailian is reprinted with the kind permission of The San Francisco Chronicle. Gary Regan is the author of The Joy of Mixology, and co-host with Mardee Haidin Regan, of ArdentSpirits.com, and theWorldwide Bartender Database. You can reach him at [email protected]