The Cabinet Room

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UK/Iceland

Martin Miller’s Gin has graciously brought me to London and Iceland for a week of gin education, touring, and merriment at some of the finest bars in the world.

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While I can’t bring each and every one of you with me, I’ll be sharing everything I learn here with you over the next week. So continue to check back for updates and information as I experience them first-hand.

Sometimes the best laid plans don’t always work out. What we had originally intended was to show up in London and try to – at the very least – make a favorable impression on fifteen of the best bartenders in the UK. By the end of the night, we were hoping not to make fools of ourselves and escape with our reputations intact.

Jon Santer and I came to London with bags packed full of neat tricks. Jon was going to carbonate some Negronis with a homemade apparatus, all gauges and hoses and valves and whatnot. I packed a bottle of homemade lemongrass tonic syrup and a batch of orange bitters I’d been aging in a Madeira cask for four months prior.

But whether it was fate or irony, the airlines didn’t want to cooperate. For obvious reasons, Jon wasn’t going to be allowed to ship a full steel tank of carbon dioxide underneath the plane, and British Airways lost my bags altogether.

So we ended up upstairs in Simon Difford’s kitchen, Jon whipping up a batch of raw ginger syrup for his take on a Gin-Gin Mule, me cooking down albariño for some East of Edens before we headed down to the Cabinet Room to put our already-fatigued skills to the test.

The crowd seemed accepting of our offerings (you’ve got to love the English – even if they didn’t like the drinks, they were damned polite about it) and soon the party was in full swing. I’ll need to come back with a full listing of the London (and yes, Brighton too, Jason) cocktail luminaries in the comments section, but rest assured that we were surrounded by the best in the country.

There were well over two hundred combined years of bartending experience in the room, we figured, as we watched bartender after bartender climb back behind the bar and try to one-up the previous participant.

But here’s the rub, dear reader. Maybe we’re all just a jaded lot. Maybe we’ve all had so many perfectly-balanced margaritas, crystal-clear Manhattans, proper Sidecars and original-recipe Mai Tais that we’re no longer amused with a proper drink. Whatever the reason, I was shocked to discover that the one drink that inspired the most dialogue, the drink that got Ben Reed behind the bar for the first time in years, the drink that was passed around again and again?

The Jägerita. A margarita made with Jägermeister.

Sometimes bartenders just want to have a good time. Cheers.

And thank you for having us, Simon. I had an incredible time and hope we didn’t leave too much of a mess.

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