Peter Dorelli, Imbibe's Industry Legend of the Year 2012, recently spoke to hundreds of bartenders across the country about the importance of classic cocktails at the Diageo World Class seminars. Laura Foster was on hand to take notes...
'I came over from Rome in 1958, and even today I'm still passionate about the trade, because of the new breed of bartenders here today. I know I'm going to leave my passion in good hands.
'So! The importance of classic cocktails; Mojitos, Manhattans, Daiquiris, Old Fashioneds... why are they classic today? Because they've survived the test of time, and are still fantastic. They're well-balanced: balance is key.
'You cannot call yourself a bartender if you don't understand the basic classic cocktails. By understanding them, you can progress and develop. They're the foundation to everything.
'What made these drinks classic? It was the customer – they are the ones who put them on the map. By ordering them and talking about them. People like Ernest Hemingway, who wrote about Mojitos and Daiquiris.
'This is my fourth recession, and worldwide now all the bars are classic bars.
It would be ridiculous to have a cocktail menu without any classics on there. Consumers judge you on your classics; if you serve a great classic, then they will trust you. Only then will you be able to sell the customer anything you want.
'You can split the classic cocktails into family trees. Take the White Lady, for instance. She's the mother of the group, made from gin, Cointreau, lemon juice and egg white. Her brother moved to France, replaced the gin with brandy, and created the Sidecar. Her other brother – from Scotland – replaced the gin with whisky for the Silent Third. And so on with the Balalaika, Margarita, Cosmopolitan and Daiquiri – they are all related to the White Lady.
'But despite your knowledge, remember this. Don't bombard your customer with information about the drink unless they ask you for it; in the bar, actions speak louder than words.
Other top tips:
-'What is it with you youngsters' obsession with double- and triple-straining everything? There's no need. If there's a little bit of ice left in there, so what?'
-'Be very careful with the mint if you have a beautiful woman with a million dollar smile come into the bar – the last thing you want is for that beautiful smile to be ruined by something green between her teeth!'
News item from Imbibe.com, 23-03-2012