DRAM Mixxit Bar Apprentice of the Year 2016: Day Two

July 18th, 2016 | Posted in: Features

Katharine Gemmell will be following our DRAM Mixxit Bar Apprentices of the Year 2016 each week as a quasi-contestant to experience the competition and let us know what they have been up to.

Today’s session turns our attention to a more in-depth look at certain spirits on Maxxium’s drinks catalogue. To my disdain, we are greeted first thing in the morning with the bar lined up for a vodka tasting. My stomach churns at the thought of vodka at 10am, but my fellow apprentices are made of sturdier stuff and throw themselves right into the smelling of the ‘little water’. As I take a sniff, I immediately knock my head back and flinch at the smell. David tells us that I have committed the mortal sin of tasting spirits – in knocking my head back I have also essentially knocked out my sense of smell as it is a very delicate. He stresses that you will get more out of it if you give it a chance, as tasting is primarily ruled by our sense of smell and only secondarily by our taste buds.

The apprentices are well aware that vodka is an important spirit in the cocktail business; it is immediately agreed that it is the best selling spirit in most establishments and popular for its minimal taste and alcohol content. But there doesn’t seem much excitement from anyone at the prospect of a vodka tasting. David laughs as he explains the American legal definition of vodka is a drink with ‘no distinctive flavour, taste or character’. We all look around at each other and wonder what the point of a vodka tasting actually is? However, David convinces us that vodka is actually a very interesting spirit and the legal definition does not do it justice. It immediately becomes a lot more interesting to everyone as we learn about the different types of grain that can make vodka and how this affects the flavour.

Maxxium’s three vodka products are Stolichnaya, Elit and Snow Leopard. The products have extremely interesting background stories, which we all furiously note down on our notepads. This is some great knowledge to talk to customers about and help upsell the products. So how, then, can bartenders upsell vodka when there is this myth surrounding it that it is all tastes the same? David stresses that with vodka it is all about the branding and the marketing – people buy it because of what it says about them. This makes it the perfect product to up-sell as it’s not about gaining more flavour, but about gaining more status. We then turn our attention to an attempt at making the classic vodka Martini. Top tips include the difference between wet and dry, and that James Bond was all wrong when he asked for shaken not stirred. All of these tips are now little weapons in our repertoire which we can use on our customers.

The next spirit in the spotlight is rum and we explore and taste a variety of Brugal products: Añejo, Especial and 1988. The bottle of 1988 is quite a treat to my fellow contestants as their eyes sparkle at getting to try the very expensive bottle. Interestingly, we find out that compared to the 5% angels share that comes off of Scottish whisky, Brugal loses 10% to the angels due to the temperature in the Dominican Republic.

To finish off the afternoon our cocktail making session focuses on ‘The Essential Stir’. This is used for some of the world’s most sophisticated cocktails and is apparently where drink making gets its Zen. Loren is first up and uses the vodka Martini build and recipe that we learned earlier and substitutes it with gin, exhibiting nice versatility with the recipes. I start to feel very special as it seems the contestants keep picking me to be the taster – I don’t think they realise that I’m even more inexperienced than them! Sandy is then given a hard challenge: to make David’s favourite cocktail and get him to judge it. The hardest challenge is remembering what it was, but Sandy takes it in his stride and serves David a beautifully crafted drink up to his standards. We finish off by being given homework for the rest of the week. Each contestant has to take a Maxxium product and compare it to a similar product and then present their findings to next week’s master mixologists.

Until next week!


BUZZWORKS CROWNED AYRSHIRE’S BEST BUSINESS

Mon 22nd October 2018

Buzzworks Holdings has been crowned Ayrshire’s Best Business. The hospitality group took home the title of Best Business with more than 51... Read more.

Michelin Star Restaurant Rolls Out Four Day Working Week

Wed 17th October 2018

Edinburgh’s Michelin star restaurant with rooms 21212 is introducing a four-day working week for its 20 strong team.... Read more.

Finbarr and Daniel McNally buy The Dogs in Edinburgh

Tue 16th October 2018

David Ramsden has sold The Dogs on Edinburgh's Hanover street to brothers Finbarr and Daniel McNally. ... Read more.

Edinburgh Cocktail Week Underway

Mon 15th October 2018

This week - 15th to 21st October - is Edinburgh Cocktail Week. ... Read more.

Nivens by Cafe Source

Mon 15th October 2018

They say third time’s a charm. Glasgow’s Cafe Source number three, Nivens by Cafe Source, on Nithsdale Road, happens to ooze plenty of t... Read more.

Licensee Interview: Rock ‘n’ Rollo

Mon 15th October 2018

Dundee’s hit the headlines lately because of the buzz around the new V&A and so has licensee John Rollo who, together with wife Karen, has... Read more.

Scotts

Mon 15th October 2018

Apparently, walking over cobbles activates pressure points on the base of the foot that promotes good health. I’ve no clue whether or not ... Read more.

GOODBYE SPIERS, HELLO INVERLEITH

Mon 15th October 2018

The former Spiers Bar on Edinburgh’s Bowhill Terrace has re-opened as The Inverleith. Owners, The Landmark Pub Company, have done away wit... Read more.

DIRMAUSKAS TAKES OVER THE REINS

Mon 15th October 2018

Audrius Dirmauskas, Head Chef at Guys Restaurant in Candleriggs, Glasgow has taken over the lease of the restaurant and renamed the diner Th... Read more.

5 tips for employers to support their staff’s mental health

Wed 10th October 2018

As World Mental Health Day is celebrated globally today, this presents a great opportunity for employers to look inwards and assess whether ... Read more.

Award success for The Three Chimneys

Tue 9th October 2018

The Three Chimneys and The House Over-By, on the Isle of Skye, has been crowned one of the best ‘Restaurants-with-Rooms’ in the country ... Read more.

Wester Spirit Co. to open Glasgow’s first rum distillery in over 300 years

Mon 8th October 2018

Wester Spirit Co. is set to open a new rum distillery in Glasgow’s Partick in November – the first for the city in over 300 year... Read more.

SCOTTISH CHEF CROWNED ONE OF THE BEST IN THE UK

Thu 4th October 2018

Derek Johnstone, Head Chef at Borthwick Castle, near Edinburgh, was the only chef from Scotland to be placed at the the Craft Guild of Chef... Read more.

Gordon & MacPhail see rise in profits

Wed 3rd October 2018

Gordon & MacPhail has announced a 26 per cent rise to £5.1 million in profits in the year to end February.... Read more.

HENDRICK’S UNVEILS GIN PALACE IN SCOTLAND

Wed 3rd October 2018

Wm Grant & Sons, the company behind Hendrick's Gin has invested £13m in a new distillery for the brand and the creation of The Hendrick's G... Read more.

Campbell’s Brewery Enlarges Portfolio with Shaygër

Wed 3rd October 2018

The introduction of a new craft lager, Shaygër, has led to a record-breaking summer for independent Borders brewery, Campbell’s Brewery, ... Read more.

£5m investment for Tony Macaroni brand

Tue 2nd October 2018

Sep Marini, owner of the Tony Macaroni brand, has unveiled plans to invest £5 million in expanding the brand in the next 12 months. He̵... Read more.

Two Bib Gourmands for Scotland but no new Michelin stars in 2019 guide

Tue 2nd October 2018

Scotland has scored two Bib Gourmands in this year’s guide, Monadh Kitchen in Glasgow and Sugar Boat in Helensburgh (pictured), but there ... Read more.

Lower drink-drive limit has had ‘little effect’ on road safety

Tue 2nd October 2018

Scotland’s drink-drive limit has had little impact on deaths and accidents since the legal alcohol limit for driving was reduced from ... Read more.

DRINKS EXPORTS THREATENED AS SCOTS’ COMPANIES FAIL TO ADOPT AEO STATUS, WARNS CUSTOMS EXPERT

Mon 1st October 2018

A widespread lack of AEO accreditation (Authorised Economic Operator) across Scotland’s brewing and distilling sector could result in a dr... Read more.