We joined an exclusive masterclass for Bangkok’s top bartenders. This is what we learned.

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Have you ever wondered just how bartenders get their skills, knowledge and dashing good looks? To find out we went where no cocktail-loving laymen has gone before. Turns out these masterclasses provide Bangkok’s bartenders with a wealth of information, details, recipe inspiration, pairing ideas, tips and tricks to keep us (the “guests”, they call us) happy, satisfied and ready to come back for another sip.

As for the dashing good looks, well, they might be the result of intoxification…or not. Just take a look at these good lookin’ guys and gals!

The exclusive bartending masterclass we attended was taught by Jorge Balbontin, a rising star in the bartending world doing double time as the well-respected Brand Ambassador for Vantguard, a Spanish spirits company. Originally from Santiago, Chile, Jorge is now based in Barcelona. That is, when he’s not traveling the globe, spreading the cocktail gospel.

So, read on and learn a few things usually reserved for those on the other side of the bar.

 

Gin’s sordid history makes it even more interesting.

Bartenders don’t just know how to create concoctions that taste amazing. They also know the history behind the booze. For example, have you ever heard the term “Dutch courage”? Well, turns out it’s not just someone’s drunken rambling. Gin originated in Holland in the 17th century where it was called Genever. Soldiers sipped it before heading off into battle in the Eighty Years’ War, hence the term. And no, that’s not a Game of Thrones episode, it actually happened.

 

There’s nothing sexier than a Spanish G&T.

When you think of sexy alcohol, what comes to mind? Champagne flutes? Tequila shots? Think again. Get ready to get your mind blown because the sexiest drink is hands down a Gin & Tonic. And no one knows gin better than those sexy-accented Spaniards.

That’s probably why Bangkok is about go crazy for Gin Mare, a Spanish gin coming to the top shelf of a cocktail bar near you. The elegant gin has a distinctly Mediterranean flavor profile. Think notes of Italian olives and luscious basil rather than a Juniper-heavy London Dry Gin style.

Speaking of Spain, in Barcelona it’s commonplace to see someone specifying their gin order down to the minute detail – a certain brand paired with a precise tonic, stirred and mixed a very particular way. There’s nothing sexier than knowing and getting exactly what you want, now is there?

 

 


Gin goes great with anything from fine dining to homemade phad krapow.

You might think that food goes with wine, or beer if you’re an unsophisticated heathen like us. But we’re delighted to reveal, dear drinker, that you now you have another classy, sassy, and delicious, option – gin.

Gin Mare has a very close link with gastronomy. It’s a foodie’s gin; chefs love it. That’s probably because Gin Mare is produced through a complex and detailed process of distilling 8 separate botanicals, and then selecting only the top-quality output to blend and mix into the final bottle.

Alongside the traditional 4 components found in most gins – juniper berries, citrus peel, cardamom and coriander seed – Gin Mare includes 4 potent ingredients from the Mediterranean region: Arbequina olives, basil, thyme and rosemary.

This herbaceous combination gives a Gin Mare G&T a wonderful savory flavor that pairs perfectly with all types of food. In fact, it will even elevate your favorite homemade Thai meal into a fine dining experience. Phad krapow lovers, get ready, we’re looking at you.

 

Tonic might just make or break your G&T.

We learned that in Spain, many cocktail bars specialize in gin, and it’s not surprising to find a bar with dozens of gin options, much to the envy of Bangkok drinkers, we’re sure.

Even tonic isn’t limited to a certain monopolistic soda company (we’re not naming names). Indeed, Spanish gin drinkers know that certain tonics blend well with certain gins and everyone has their favorite fizz. That’s where 1724 comes in. This tonic brand is actually named after the location in which it is produced – 1,724m above sea level in the Andes Mountains in South America. Talk about fresh!

1724, also a new introduction to the Thai market, is all about subtlety and finesse. It’s a great mixer with Gin Mare and much more. As we learned at the masterclass, the trend is moving towards low-alcohol, health conscious drinks. Try a combination of 1724, coconut water or another “super” ingredient, a squeeze of citrus and a splash of Gin Mare. Voila! A guilt free cocktail.

 

Cognac is a man’s drink no more.

Spirits like brandy, whiskey and cognac have a masculine reputation. Read: cranky dudes smoking cigars and reminiscing about the Good Ol’ Days. But we learned it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, Ysabel Regina, a brandy-cognac blend, is about to launch in Thailand and usher in a whole new generation of cool cocktail drinkers – at least half of them female.

That’s because Ysabel Regina bucks the patriarchal history of cognac, starting with its name. The Spanish spirit is named after the ultimate boss lady, Queen Elizabeth. This chick conquered countries, and so will you when you have a sip of this Cognac.

One of the cool things about Ysabel Regina, which you’ll find out when you inevitably try it at your favorite cocktail bar, is that you can infuse it with spices, herbs, dried fruit and other natural flavors right at your table using a custom syphon. Blend your drink exactly the way you want it, and watch flavors come alive at your table.

 

Your bartender can pretty much read your mind.

But if you don’t know exactly how or what you want to drink, then don’t worry. Because Bangkok’s top bartenders know you very, very well. This might come as a surprise to some, but if you think about it, what’s a bartender if not a friendly face that satisfies your every need. (Ok, maybe not every need but they come pretty damn close.)

The top reason people choose certain drinks is because of familiarity. How did the Mojito become world famous? Why is the first cocktail we learn about as teenagers a Tequila Sunrise? These mysteries might never be answered. But what we do know is that a great bartender is one who can interpret your tastes and feelings into the ultimate cocktail.

Case in point, the invention of the Espresso Martini by British bartending guru Dick Bradsell. Apparently a now-famous model (Kate? Naomi?) sidled up to his bar and asked for a drink that would “wake her up and fuck her up”. And thus, the Espressotini was born.

 

Brazilian cachaça is what you’ll be drinking next weekend.

The Brazilian spirit cachaça (say it with us now: ka-cha-sa) is soon going to be your go-to drink. Distilled from sugarcane grown on the rolling hills of South America, cachaça is strong, smooth and subtly refined. The reason we’re predicting the trend (and you heard it here first!) is that Capucana, an exquisite brand of cachaça is about to land in Bangkok.

It’s made from the sugarcane of three different farms. The soil, minerals, wind, sun and even nearby vegetable crops all combine to create a complex yet harmonious flavor in the cachaça. (Quiz your bartender when you order it!)

You might know cachaça as the main ingredient in the famous cocktail Capirinha, but it’s so much more versatile than that. It pairs well with the flavors of citrus and tropical fruits like papaya, dark chocolate, tea, peanuts and even coffee.

Cachaça is also the main ingredient in the Batida. (Move over Pina Colada, the Batida is the new cool drink Bangkokians will be ordering up in droves.) It’s one of Brazil’s classic drinks and you can even whip one up at home. All you need is 2 parts Capucana cachaça, 1 part fresh fruit juice (squeeze any ripe fruit you can get your hands on) and 1 part sugar or condensed milk. Blend it up and there you go – a tropical, delicious, incredibly versatile drink. And since it has fruit it in, let’s just say healthy too!

 

Now that you really know what’s happening in the exclusive world of bartending, head over to https://www.facebook.com/B.DeliciousThailand to fully appreciate the spirits we mentioned and find out where to try them in Bangkok.


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