Saturday, 3 July 2010

Gavin Rossdale is the UK’s Best Bartender


By Christian Rose-Day

OK, so the chap in the picture above isn’t actually the Bush frontman and Mr Gwen Stefani, Gavin Rossdale, but goodness me, he certainly looks like him. Google Gavin and tell me I’m wrong.

No, the fellow in this photo is Erik Lorincz and he really is the UK’s best bartender. That is a fact. Usually he spends his evenings servings drinks at the The Connaught Hotel in Mayfair, but earlier this week he took a night off to compete in the final of World Class 2010, which, as you’ve no doubt gathered, he won.

You can read up about the actual competition and the winning cocktail by following this link but from this point forward, my concern rests solely with the evening itself.

Myself and my guest arrived a little late as we’d been supping pints of Young’s and absorbing the last few rays of gorgeous British sunshine on the excellent riverside patio of the aptly named Riverside. When we stepped out of the lift on the 3rd floor of Millbank Towers and into the River Rooms’ corporate event space, it was very apparent that we had missed something.

The competing cocktails had been judged and a winner had been chosen, and, by this point, everyone was nicely oiled. A few people appeared to have been enjoying the hospitality since midday when the first round of the competition had begun. Not long after we turned up, two revellers fell of their stools as one tried to kiss the other. The discreet security staff simply allowed them to complete a giggle before quietly helping them back to their feet.

Nearly everyone in attendance was immaculately dressed, as one should be when taking part in a prestigious event laid on by beer and spirit royalty, Diageo. The ladies wore cocktail dresses or full length gowns, the chaps wore collars and waistcoats. Even Masterchef’s John Torode and Gregg Wallace had managed to turn up suitably attired. On the whole, a glamourous display by (nearly) all. Aside from a couple of no-good layabouts who turned up in jeans and checked shirts (it was the cleanest outfit I had in my wardrobe at the time, sorry).

Taking seats at a high table in the centre of the room, we noticed a desperately thin, but fashionable young lady attempting to dance to the impressively funky selection of tunes on offer - Gnarls Barkley to Stevie Wonder to INXS to Candi Staton. A feat not easily achieved in heels as high as hers, on tiled flooring as shiny as this, after consuming as many cocktails as she had clearly sampled. The green-to-red-to-blue-to-green flashing lights must’ve made her appeal more appealing because within minutes several would-be suitors had latched onto her with great eagerness.

Some minutes later some general high jinx occurred at the bar as several blokes were seen cheering and downing shots, before lifting young Erik Lorincz above their heads and bouncing him in a victorious celebration. The entire raucous affair was enhanced further when noting, to my companion, that on my way to the gents I had spotted the office space next door: the dreary Audit Commission. How contrary.

The floor to ceiling windows of River Rooms’ overlook the South Bank and the drama of the evening had a fitting backdrop. As we soaked up the visual atmosphere, several kindly ladies wandered by at regular intervals to deposit honey glazed sausages, mini cheese quiches, and a number of bespoke cocktails, all tailored for the event.

We started with a non-alcoholic tipple, just to level the playing field after our Young’s diversion: the Ginger Smash. Had I been suffering from a cold when I went in, I would have had a clean bill of health on the way out, such was the strength of the ginger in the Ginger Smash.

Moving onto something a little less salubrious, we opted for the heavy (in weight and alcoholic units) Rhubarb Sour, a face-wrinkling combination of Ketel One vodka and rhubarb liqueur. It was a decent start, but the best was yet to come. Namely, the Pampero Blanco Mojito: rum, mint and lime given a Venezuelan twist. It didn’t have the markings of a normal mojito, so don’t let the name fool you. It tasted like something you would take off the shelf of your garden shed; but in a good way. It’s synthetic overtones were unusual, but highly invigorating. So we had another.

Gradually, we forged a steady path through the remainder of the cocktail list: the Ciroc Fizz with grape juice and elderflower; the Tanqueray No. Ten Martini; ending our exciting evening with The Classic Negroni containing, oh, just a bunch of stuff (Tanqueray gin, Campari, Sweet Vermouth). It turned out it was mostly Vermouth. Gavin Rossdale would’ve approved.

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