Over the last few years there has been a growing movement within the cocktail bar scene for using homemade ingredients. Creating your own infusions, bitters and tinctures can offer a chance to be creative and unique in the cocktails you’re making. But there can be a downside to this as well. I always think of the practice of creating your own ingredients as being similar to the way a chef works with new products, but the big difference is that a chef is (usually) trained as a professional to handle ingredients in a safe way. Often when a bartender starts working with exotic herbs, spices, barks and berries they are doing so as an interested amateur.
I was judging a cocktail competition last year and one of the competitors presented a homemade chorizo infused tequila. When the judges quizzed him about how he had infused it, he replied that he has simply added sliced chorizo to tequila and allowed the flavour to infuse over a period of several days. It occured to me that he was thinking about combining flavours that would work well, but hadn’t thought about how to handle these ingredients in a safe way. Leaving a meat product sitting at room temperature, or even more likely on a hot back bar, for several days has the potential to make your customers seriously sick. Even infused in a strong spirit there is a chance that bacteria cultures could grow and lead to food poisoning. Had the bartender researched the idea of infusing meat into a spirit he would have found that there is a safe way of doing this, through fat washing, and would have produced a product that was safe to serve to customers, especially if stored correctly.
My God it's been a couple of busy weeks for us here at Bitters & Twisted HQ. We have been working closely with our web designers and they have done us proud so we are getting closer and closer to the launch of our full site. We have been to check out the Sipsmith distillery in London, then we went drinking tequila in Leeds, followed by Gin in London, not to mention making pineapple bitters as well as homemade syrups and we have been catching up with friends old and new. I am getting tired just thinking about how rushed off my feet I have been.
On the subject of Sipsmith I am not going to say too much as I am going to be including them in an upcoming blog about artesianal producers and small batch spirits. I will say this however, if you get a chance to try their gin, I can highly recommend it. Somehow it makes me think that this is how old fashioned gins might have been. Not overly rounded or soft, Sipsmith gin is full of character and flavour and is a lively gin that grabs you by the taste buds and takes you for a ride. Right, that's enough of that, before I get carried away and don't leave myself anything else to write about!
I was lucky enough to be asked to judge the 'Cazadores hunt' in Leeds last week, which for those of you who don't know is an ever evolving tequila event that Cazadores are starting to roll out. The idea is simple, get 20 - 30 top bartenders together in a city centre at lunchtime. Refresh them with loads of tequila and then set them a series of tasks to compete at in several bars. End it all with a cocktail comp (after 6 hours of drinking tequila this was the most rowdy comp I have ever seen!) and crown the winning team as winners of the Cazadores hunt... The experience actually got me looking at both tequila and brand run competitions in a whole new light, so much so that I am going to be dedicating a blog update to the subject very soon. Keep your eyes peeled or subscribe to our blog to be notified when it gets updated...