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London calling: international bartenders on the state of the UK.

Is London the capital of Cocktail Nation? That was the topic on the table for British bar consultants Ben Reed and Tony Conigliaro, America's best-known bartender Dale De Groff and Francesco Lafranconi, spirits training director, Southern Wine & Spirits, NV.


Moderated by Cheers editor Jack Robertiello, the panel discussed high-end operations in London, known as "style bars," which have become destination drinking and dining establishments with cocktail menus employing ultra-premium spirits, fresh fruits and herbs, fresh juices, custom-made infusions, unusual ingredients, classic recipes and old techniques.

DeGroff said that part of the reason for the success of these bars is that bartenders in London at the high end are treated well and respected as culinarians. They're also finding great opportunities for coverage in the news media, and for jobs with spirits companies looking for brand ambassadors to develop on-premise sales and marketing strength.

Reed, whose company, IPBartenders, works with spirits companies and restaurant and hotel chains on training and responsible service, said that there are still enormous gaps between the quality of drinks available at top English bars and the mass market, but that things were slowly improving overall. Conigliaro, who set up a soju-based drink menu at Roka and has created Bloody Mary Crisps now on the menu at the three star Michelin Guide-rated Fat Duck, said that customers in London were willing to adopt new drink concepts even if they seemed odd at first.

Lafranconi said U.S. operators can adapt London trends by incorporating better presentation skills, more original garnish ideas, as well as training in classic techniques and the introduction of a recipe development system which allows bartenders to participate and succeed. "They may also need to take more time to make a drink properly. If a drink is complicated to make because of many ingredients, or if fresh ingredients are used, then operators should charge a bit more for it," he said.
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Title Annotation:Cheers Beverage Conference
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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