In Conversation with Diageo Master Mixologist Pedro Rafael at M Bar Kitchen, Kolkata
As I entered M Bar and Kitchen, Kolkata?'s hottest new gastropub, I could almost feel the tension in the air. 40 hopefuls are here today for the Diageo Worldclass 2015 challenge, and the Kolkata leg of it is in full form. I look around, see a couple of familiar faces intensely listening to master mixologist Pedro Rafael, who explains the basics of classic cocktails, and the little twists that can be made there.
The essential cocktails, were the basics ? from which most of the drinks we have today, have originated. These include Margarita, Old Fashioned, Daiquiri, Manhattan, Collins, Martini, Negroni, Champagne Cocktail and Bellini. The first cocktail was apparently made in 1732, and from then, the culture of cocktail making has existed. However, it is the American Prohibition which essentially made the cocktail making concept very popular, since at that point of time, alcohol was prohibited in USA, and essentially, people started to either distil their own alcohol, or get it smuggled through local gangsters. This is where cocktail making was needed to make the taste of the alcohol improve. The first famous bartender, Jerry Thomas, wrote a book to explain the different kinds of cocktail making, and it is still considered to be a kind of bible for cocktail lovers. Pedro Rafael, the expert at work, spoke about his love for cocktails. ?In my house, I have books on cocktail virtually everywhere, so I keep on reading about new twists on classic. I keep on making sure that the drink I make is in accordance with the person who will be drinking it. A good bartender should always think of the person, and ask questions like the kind of alcohol he might like, and what flavor he/she would prefer. A good bartender should be able to understand the client?s wants.?
He is passionate about the art of drink mixing, and he showed a few classic versions, like the Manhattan, and then asked some of the volunteers to make a version which would be a twist on the classic. For example, he was emphatic about the use of different ingredients in making a drink more interesting. Although he would not compromise on making certain drinks, like using top quality vodka like Ketel One to make a Bloody Mary, he talked about the different ways one can jazz it up, like by adding some deep fried and chopped bacon on top, or substituting cucumber, topped with some salt and pepper, instead of the traditional stick of celery. Also, even while making the classic, Pedro warned that a bartender should always ask for the customer?s preference, especially in certain drinks, like the Martini. ?It is one of those drinks where you should always ask, do you want a martini with gin or vodka?? He also advocated using bourbon whisky for drinks which would have an American background, like the Julep. ?It is logical, that the people in America would have rye or bourbon rather than scotch. So make the Julep with bourbon rather than with scotch.? Pedro concluded that he liked the spices and heat in Indian cuisine, and liked adding spices and heat to drinks too. A too-bland Bloody Mary would be, therefore, better off with some spices and/or pepper, to improve the taste, especially when it is served in India, where spicy food and drinks are common. He also talked about his weakness for a good scotch, and occasionally liked indulging in a drink or two. Johnny Walker Platinum Label made a fine cocktail, though, he claimed with a laugh. As the cocktail mixing continued, and apple juice and gin got muddled with some mint leaves, I noted the way Pedro kept on making drinks for all the exhausted examinees, who were drained after the written test. ?It is all part of the fun,? He laughed as he poured Ciroc Vodka into a large shaker and added pineapple juice to it, ?After a long day?s work, a drink always takes off the stressful edge, and instantly puts you in a better mood.?
Article & Images By: Poorna Banerjee
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