A Bartender’s Christmas
And she was not incorrect, I mean 2 days, 9000 visitors, 3 taste forums, 1 big mixology stage, 27 workshops (!), 72 speakers and 3 halls filled with 300 brands later, you really got a good cross section of who’s who in the European Bartending and Hospitality Industry. You also get a weird craving to become a multi-headed octopoid, outfitted with jet engines and the biggest shopping cart on earth. There’s too much to see, hear and taste in two afternoons. Like Ian Burrell – Global Rum Ambassador – said: “it’s a Bartender’s Christmas.” Yet the jingling you hear, is not bells, it’s literally thousands of ice cubes.
Trend Spotter’s Heaven
All this makes BCB a trend spotter’s heaven. Some dare say that it was the huge launching platform for the G&T invasion of our country (Belgium). I don’t know if that is entirely correct, but I do understand that if you spot something new and in abundance on BCB, you know that it will hit your deck too, sooner or later. Whence we were drooling with anticipation and excitement. What was going to be the next hit? Who will take over the crown from Gin and his buddy Tonic?
Alas, the ‘big revelation’ did not occur. We forgot that trends rarely follow a Julian calendar. And that they are fed by the consumer public, not even the best and most creative bartender can change that. That is because the best bartender serves people and they don’t force-pour drinks in somebody’s mouth screaming: “this is better, drink this!”
Rise & Fall?
A few things didn’t go unnoticed though. First: Gin is still wearing the crown (about 50 different brands that we saw). Second: there’s a lot of rum to explore (we stopped counting at roughly 42 brands). Thirdly: Tequila and Mezcal (27 brands) are rising, but will it break through? Fourth: no less than 12 different Vermouth brands ( most people only know one or two, without even knowing that it is a vermouth). Something’s definitely moving here, but it is still yawning and groggy. Then again, if we think of the country that has a rising number of ‘vermouterias‘ and vermouths, realising that it is the same country that restyled the G&T… Does that prove anything, no, of course not. Then again, it isn’t exact science also. We especially loved the Belsazar Vermut (German, yes).
Apart from that we had the rest of the usual suspects, like whiskey, cognac, sherry, vodka, pisco, grappa, sake, absinth, … you name it. A lot of Bourbon and Rye, but that could have something to do with the USA being the guest country for this year. Michter’s was new for me and a bloody delightful surprise it was!
Lot’s of tonic too, of course. Thomas Henry, for instance, came up with some new mixers, namely: mango, grapefruit and a new cherry blossom tonic. Nice for home bars and garden parties, club scene maybe, but not something you will find soon in any high-end cocktailbar, I think.
Also, a funny thing to observe was the large, revolving, circular bar with Campari, Wild Turkey, Appleton and Hendrick’s amongst others. At first you don’t realise it is turning and you feel a bit weird, but then you know it and you happily keep on walking after your drink. A comical sight… and damn good Negronis.
Belgium in Berlin
We were also very happy to see more than a few famous Belgian bartenders participating in the fair:
Ben Belmans, who shared the stage with famous Jeffrey Morgenthaler. Jeffrey gave us an amazing workshop on cocktail technique. Question everything, was the big message!
Hannah Van Ongevalle who (wo)manned the World Class Bar at the fair for a good couple of hours to show her signature cocktails to the public. And they were appreciated a lot.
Her brother Ran Van Ongevalle who became an ambassador for Belsazar Vermut and made us a wicked Dry Martiny.
Bart Neirynck proprietor of the famous Bar Herman in Berlin, specialising in – yes of course – Belgian beers.
BCB is big, maybe too big to see in only two days. Plan who and what you want to see very carefully.
Trends? Difficult and too early to say, but we personally will keep an eye out for rum (especially if ACR keeps on going like this), agave based spirits (if they get a foothold in the bars and I don’t mean only for the bartenders 😉 ), vermouth (but it will take some more time to reach the larger Belgian public). And we will keep a fourth eye on amaro’s (just kidding…or not?). As I said, very difficult to say, while we are sipping our second – excellent – Bourbon Highballer. 😉
Cheers! Enjoy some more photos: