My bar travels have brought me to the Land of the Hummingbird and the home of Angostura Rum and Bitters, Trinidad and Tobego. I find myself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Ian 'Rum Ambassador' Burrell, Danyiel 'Angostura' Jones, Nicolas 'International Rum Council' Feris, Phillip 'Everything There Is To Know About Bars' Duff and a very well known mix mistress, Julie 'Clover Club' Reiner. It only took me the better part of 2 days to get here after a stop off in London and I seem to be acclimatising well to the harsh weather conditions. Who am I kidding? I am on an island in the Caribbean! IT IS AMAZING!
Of course I find myself at the House of Angostura to learn more about rum and bitters, and to compete in the Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge, one of the most exhilarating mixology competitions the world has to offer. Why is it exhilarating? Well, firstly, it's in the Bahamas... Need I continue? I think not, but simply for the sake of stirring jealousy and turning you green with envy, I shall! Other contributing factors are: CARNIVAL – the second largest annual carnival in the world is being held in a few days; DOUBLES – an amazing street food that I have discovered; LLB – which not only abbreviates Lemon, Lime and Bitters (which tastes amazing), but also Lime Like a Boss, which is kind of an island motto meaning to 'hang out' and have a good time; and lastly RUM AND COCONUT WATER! Or as Nick Koumbarakis would say: "CO—CO—NUT WO—TA" . Love you buddy!
Sadly, in this insert, I will not be elaborating much on rum, Angostura as a brand, tiki cocktails, nor the cocktail challenge as you would expect. Perhaps next time... What I would like to document is a colourful discussion topic that arose during a repartee between myself, Mate Csatlos, a brilliant bartender from Kenilworth Cocktail Lounge in Birmingham, and Mad Mike Tomasic, the acclaimed head bartender of Mr Moustache in Sydney, Australia. The discussion was about BALANCE. And we were not discussing the balance between working the stick and a bartender's exaggerated love life either. We were talking drinks.
The perfect balanced drink.
It's almost a Utopia, where sweet meets sour and strength meets subtlety – a place that each bartender is forever searching the globe to find. Through our discussion it had emerged that certain bartenders had gone to the effort of preparing and documenting up to 50 different recipes of a simple classic cocktail like the Mojito to find and calculate the perfect balance. Balance often seems to be my nemesis, so for me and hopefully some of you out there, let's prod a little deeper.
As Camper English, author and drink blogger extraordinaire, so duly noted in his blog Alcademics, balance is often in the eye - or rather on the palate - of the imbiber. You see, balance could vary from bar to bar, depending on your clientele. You will find that a bar that caters for teenyboppers' balance would be more leaning toward the sweet side, and more spirit forward and sour balance would suit well oiled seasoned patrons. In conclusion, I have realised that it is often up to us, the cocktail creator, to cross examine our potential parched purveyor to establish what their idea of balance really is and then try and recreate that euphoric moment.
Others go even further. Michael Lazar, another bar enthusiast and blogger, documented in his Word Press blog, Stirred Not Shaken, the PH level of common cocktail ingredients using a digital PH meter. Thanks for doing all the hard work Michael. Of course the theory is that the lower the PH reading, in other word the more acidic/sour an ingredients is, the more it needs to be balanced out by something sweet or even bitter. It is probably worth downloading his findings and keeping it on your phone, or even printing it out and keeping it somewhere behind the bar for those of us who can hardly remember a recipe, never mind the Periodic Table! stirrednotshakenblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/phlog_r4_300dpi.pdf
In conclusion, I have decided this: practice, document and taste. As David Wondrich says, a well-balanced cocktail is a cocktail where every element harmonises, and no single flavour dominates the others.
Harmony. Balance. Find it.
And that's all from my diary for now! Until next time, keep mixing BALANCED drinks!
The Travelling Bartender (Denzel Heath)