Working in a bar, especially a creative cocktail bar, is great when it comes to research and quality control. If the words ‘don’t mind if I do’ are not said before trying a new product or tasting a cocktail-of-the-week, then you’ll definitely be thinking it. I’m pretty sure the mayonnaise man doesn’t have so many willing volenteers whenever he comes round to the Mayonnaise shop to give out free samples of his range of products! But coming into your workplace for a 2hr training session on your day off is slightly more appealing when the task is to learn about and taste one or two (or three if you’re lucky) of your favourite tipples. That is why, even if you’re hungover, even if your best mate is getting married, even if Will Smith is busking on New Road busting out live renditions of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune, you do not miss an opportunity like the BEAT Training!
Not one, not two, but seven different famous spirit companies roll into town with their projectors, prizes, branded notepads, complimentary triangular sandwiches…and booze. Armed to the teeth with some of the country’s most knowledgeable brand ambassadors of bartending, Pernod Ricard drinks suppliers tour the UK with the aim of providing decent training on their products, which involves listening, learning and tasting…a lot of tasting. But more than that you get to ask questions in a very informal group situation with fellow bartenders from all over Sussex. Brighton is lucky enough to be considered one of the top six cities in the UK as far as the bar scene goes and therefore gets visited by a whole array of different drinks brands. While it’s up to us to attend and keep this luxury alive, it’s also fantastic fun and gives you the chance to sample some bottles that may cost your annual salary! The BEAT training, however, sticks to products in a more modest price range but nonetheless delivers great entertainment and helps you understand more about what’s going into our glasses every Friday and Saturday night.
Whatever your poison of choice, Irish Whiskey, Cuban Rum, Vodka, Cognac, even Champagne got a look in towards the end, you can ask questions about anything, from how they make it to why the bottle is shaped like it is and more than likely they’ll be able to answer. It certainly doesn’t feel like work. It’s a great way to meet other bar-staff and I though roughly recommend attending next time. Thank you Pernod Ricard, see you next year!
Brighton – famous for piers, pebbles and pre-wedding parties with groups of men and women living out their last night of ‘freedom’ (whatever that means!) gaffa-taped to a lamp post with nothing but a traffic cone on their head. Thankfully though they keep to certain areas and, not that I dislike any street in this town, but one seems to famously get the worst of it. However, I don’t know about you, but I’m noticing that our seedy old West Street is starting to loose it’s energy drink-stained reputation and get a few classy watering holes lining its cracked curbs. None more so than a grand corner venue with a plush (I mean actually plush, not inflatable palm tree plush) new cocktail bar on the ground floor, known to discerning drinkers as ‘Harbar’.
As part of the new Harbour Hotel & Spa, the ground floor consists of The Jetty Restaurant and said Harbar, all of which are situated at the bottom of West Street on the East corner of Kings Road. Both stunningly decorated in a nautical theme, they proudly face the sea and, while the beautiful restaurant promises great things in the wine department, Harbar boasts a cracking array of mixed beverages from delicate classics to contemporary bangers. Ex-Salt Room’s Alex Palumbo has rightly been given the job of wowing Brighton’s sophisticated seaside drinkers by designing not just the drinks menu, but also the set-up of the bar itself, which looks spacious and very bartender-friendly with shiny new, well…everything! “We wanted to create a more grown-up bar than the usual bars you find on West St. with a style of service that goes in line with the rest of the hotel.” he explains. “Drinks wise, everything is as homemade as possible such as the syrups and infusions and we’re having fun using new ingredients like bee pollen!” After asking for the highly anticipated menu, Alex hands it to me and points out the drink garnished with bee pollen. ‘Amelia’ is the name and consists of Lemon, egg white, Apricot Brandy, camomile and of course Coconut-infused organic Cachaca called Abelha (Portuguese for Bee!) with the pollen dusted on top. This demonstrates the level we’re talking about here at Harbar; a highly anticipated, classy and well thought out addition to West Street, this will no doubt rival his old seafront stomping ground and, considering the Salt Room’s success last year, it will be very exciting to see how Harbar will do at this year’s Brighton Bar Awards in September. Having already hosted their first branded drinks event in the back room and looking to hold more tastings and trainings for industry and consumer folk, this place will no doubt be filled with bartenders as well as tourists, all looking to help oust West Street’s outdated reputation. Move on hen & stags, times are a‘changing!
Ok, so I know this is the ‘Booze’ News, but if an award-winning pub owner and legendary old skool Brighton Bartender suddenly opens a cafe that may well just rival some of the best in the country, then what’s a drinks reporter to do but jump on that wagon and mosey on down for a latte or two! So, ladies and gentlemen, i present to you Twin Pines Coffee House!
As the kick-flipping time traveler Marty McFly would know, the name ‘Twin Pines’ is actually a tongue-in-cheek nod towards a Hollywood franchise, but when it comes to a place to enjoy a good cup of caffeine, Black Dove owner and bartender Wil Howel is certainly not joking around. Having lived on Saint James Street for a few years now, he is more than qualified to have an opinion on the little brown beans in that part of town, not to mention he is also definately one to consult if you are considering a new interior design. “I wanted to create a place which focused on amazing coffee but also the fixtures and fittings of the place – it’s kinda like escapism” he says. “Identity is really important, as Twin Pines is an antithisis to the industrial chic / fun lightbulbs aesthetic.” From the moment you walk in, everything seems to be so considered. The authenitic wooden herringbone floor, the glorious spiral staircase, even the cups are hand-thrown by local potter Finola Maynard.
All this, including the self-service water taps (chilled, sparkling and room temp of course) offer a great reason for people to cross the Old Stiene and visit this side of town for a latte. A latte, no less, drawn from one of the sexiest espresso machines i have ever had the pleasure of laying my balls on, (EYE-balls, you filthy lot! Ouch, just imagine…) Where was I? Ah yes, the coffee machine; Such a piece of equipment can only be operated by equally talented staff, which is definitely not a letdown.
What can often let a beautiful cafe down, however, is the star of the show…the coffee! Not here though, “I designed our exclusive blend from Horsham Coffee Roaster (which is always in the hopper) to have a milk chocolate / cacao / marzipan, treacle mouth feel which stands up by itself or is amazing with milk” Wil tells me. Twin Pines is also getting involved in the worldwide coffee scene too by planning on showcasing different international roasters every month. “It’s really interesting to see (& taste!) what people are doing globally as well as the UK.” As a bartender, coffee was a small aspect of what Wil did operationally. He went on to explain how the different dynamic of flavour profiles, variables and serves he finds fascinating.
So, once a bartender always a bartender, but perhaps not in a bar! He leaves me with the final comment “focusing on creating an authentic, different experience is paramount” and my flat white is done. I highly recommend this place and can see it boosting Brighton’s already fantastic coffee scene. Follow Twin Pines on Facebook or send the team a holla if you liked this article at [email protected] Big up the buzz!
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