Last month, the team from east London bar Crucible went on the road for a week of bartender-targeted events. Clinton Cawood joined them to find out what bartenders can gain from attending
With a schedule including Taps Aff sessions and Facemelters, and various pieces of laboratory equipment around the room, you wouldn’t be wrong to suspect Crucible was involved in this week of events – except that it took place far from the drinks lab and creative hub’s east London home.
The Crucible team had decamped to Ireland to provide local bartenders with their distinctive brand of on-trade education in the form of a takeover of Scully’s, the new Jameson trade advocacy hub in Dublin. Each day a group of bartenders was presented with various sessions, including an intro to all of that lab equipment, and then set loose on it to make whatever they wanted.
Much of that kit isn’t used the way its manufacturers intended. The centrifuge, as Crucible founder Stu Bale explained, is usually used by hospitals to separate blood, but here separates drinks ingredients by density. The ultrasonic bath, meanwhile, is used for cleaning jewellery, among other uses, but also speeds up the exchange of flavours in drinks. There was a sous vide machine. And a rotovap in a cupboard, naturally.
Much of that kit isn’t used the way its manufacturers intended. The centrifuge... is usually used by hospitals to separate blood, but here separates drinks ingredients by density
Bartenders got the low-down on carbonation from Crucible’s Romeo de Wit, who offered various tips about ideal temperature and more, while Max Venning of Three Sheets spoke about the bar’s carbonated modern classic, the French 75.
Other sessions included a hands-on ice workshop from Edinburgh Ice Company’s Rhys Ferguson, who brandished a blowtorch and various implements, demonstrated how to cut ice diamonds with a cut-throat razor, and more. Ferguson also held a talk on another area of expertise: beekeeping. Hearing the various benefits, and how it’s not nearly as difficult as you’d think, more than a few left with beehive plans of their own.
Joanna Nethery, owner of Five March in Glasgow, offered bartenders practical advice on branding, from intellectual property and domain names, via legal contracts and social media. Madalena Studio’s Chris Collicott talked menu design, while Brian D’Souza discussed the power of music in bars. Bartenders looking to take better shots of their drinks had photographer Brian Sweeney’s experience to draw on.
During the afternoon Taps Off sessions, bartenders were given access not only to all of the equipment, but also the guidance of the Crucible team. One made a baklava whiskey, combining Jameson with honey and pistachios in the ultrasonic bath, followed by a spin in the centrifuge. Another, inevitably, distilled Irish cider together with some Jameson in the rotovap.
The Crucible team used the various machines to produce some drinks of their own, making liberal use of all of the ingredients and techniques they’d been discussing throughout the week. There was the Mango Bango, for example, combining white beer, a malic acid solution and Mango and Banana Jameson, made by spinning the whiskey and purees in the centrifuge.
To top off the week was a takeover on the final evening by the team behind London’s Three Sheets, showcasing a number of their cocktails.
Overall, it was a glimpse of what on-trade education can be. Hands on, covering subjects beyond just drinks, and inspiring – at the very least inspiring a few future bartender beekeepers.
Expect to see more from Crucible, and no longer exclusively in east London.