World’s Most Imaginative Bartender UK – Dan Berger

Bar reviews, Cocktails, Events

Massive congratulations to this year’s UK winner of Bombay Sapphire‘s World’s Most Imaginative Bartender competition; Heddon Street Kitchen‘s Dan Berger.

I was lucky enough to be invited along on the day by Dan, one of the ten finalists in the UK, who got through to the top five with his take on a G&T; Portal to Exploration.

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On the eve of the world final, I caught up with Dan at Heddon Street Kitchen to talk cocktails and the competition. 

The small but carefully crafted cocktail list features 18 drinks – 10 of which are new, following the first menu change a few months after opening. Dan’s WMIBUK winning cocktail, Age of Discovery, also features. It’s a deliciously rich drink designed to enhance all the flavours of Bombay Sapphire. Featuring Darjeeling tea syrup, lemon, marjoram, Indian Dhania infused chestnut honey, and olive Oil, this drink is small, powerful and fragrant, which lasts on the tongue. 

 Age of Discovery features on Heddon Street Kitchen’s current cocktail menu, which recently changed for the first time since opening. N.B. They’ll give you a full one – I drank most of mine in eagerness before taking a picture. 

So what makes him a strong prospect for World’s Most Imaginative Bartender?  “I’ve always been good with flavours, but I really found a new creativity when I started working in bars”, says Dan. Clearly it runs in the family; his mum is a “great cook” and his sister a former chef. 

A huge part of this challenge (and ultimately, what every cocktail should be) is to create something innovative, something that showcases the spirit and ultimately looks good and tastes great. It’s clear that Dan has the eye, nose and, erm, taste to create pretty special (and now award-winning!) cocktails. 

Now get down to Heddon Street Kitchen and try one for yourself. 

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Bespoke Bombay Sapphire bottles

Events

Exciting news for those of you still struggling for Christmas present ideas; this weekend (12 and 13 December), Bombay Sapphire is offering bespoke engraving on their bottles of gin.

Pop into Selfridges between midday and 8pm, and for the price of a bottle of gin (£29.99), they’ll engrave a personalised message while you finish your shopping. Tempted to get one for myself and have them put ‘NOT YOURS’ on it in big letters.

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Bombay Sapphire’s Ultimate Gin & Tonic Pop-up

Events

Nestled in the courtyard of the beautiful Rosewood Hotel in London, Bombay Sapphire’s Ultimate Gin & Tonic Pop-up bar is designed to take gin-lovers on an exciting ride through the Mediterranean, Africa, China and Indonesia with a variety of twists on the classic G&T.

You can win a stay at the Rosewood by sharing a photo of your experience at the pop-up on Twitter or Instagram, following and tagging Bombay Sapphire UK, and using the hashtag #UltimateGT. It closes tomorrow night, so get down there fast for the ultimate G&T in ultra-luxurious surroundings.

The Rosewood Hotel, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN. Open 12 – late

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Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium

Events

This week I headed along to the Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium, a pop-up bar above the wonderful Callooh Callay in Shoreditch, that serves fantastic cocktails by the UK and Ireland’s Most Innovative Bartender 2014 – Rich Woods.

On a balmy, sunny evening, part of me wanted to sit in a beer garden, by a river, or on whatever patch of grass I could find and bask in the sun’s rays for the remaining hours of the day, but instead I made the wise decision to head inside Callooh Callay, through their famous wardrobe door, and up some stairs to reach the beautifully decorated Imaginarium.

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Photo courtesy of @themrwyatt

We were the first customers at the week-long pop-up, and were welcomed by Sean Ware, Bombay Sapphire UK Brand Ambassador, with open arms and humongous gin and tonics; the perfect reception. 50ml Bombay Sapphire, 100ml Fever Tree tonic, a wedge of lime, and bucket loads of ice poured into these goblets; The Ultimate Gin & Tonic.

The cocktails on offer were varied and, at just a fiver a go, hard to refuse! We had four between us: the Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini, the Oops-a-Daisy, the Essence of Mary, and The Artist’s Impression (with a Happy Ending, naturally).

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The Oops-a-Daisy (left) and Blue Cheese & Chocolate Martini (right).

Each drink had been designed to “dazzle the senses, and spark the imagination”, and boy, did they deliver. Each cocktail was carefully crafted, beautifully presented, and had the most amazing aromas and flavour combinations – a heady mix which created a fantastic experience.

The Essence of Mary, made with Duck and Waffle’s own spiced tomato consommé made for a great, lighter (although no less boozy) alternative to the Bloody Mary. The Artist’s Impression, a classic gin Martini, was available as bitter, with a twist, or with a Happy Ending. Our version of a Happy Ending was made with Vanilla essence and cola. Sweet, dry and delicious.

I’ve always thought Bombay Sapphire works incredibly well in cocktails, and the Imaginarium did not disappoint. Personally, it’s always been my gin of choice in a Martini, as its ever-so-slightly oily texture sets it apart from other gins, working well with the vermouth.

I asked Rich Woods, the mastermind behind the cocktails and our excellent bartender for the evening, how he got into his line of work (he is head of spirit and cocktail development at Samba Brands Management, and can be found heading up Duck and Waffle in London’s Heron Tower).

“I wanted to be an architect! I just jumped behind the bar once to help someone out, and thought, ‘hey, I really enjoyed that!'”. When asked, “isn’t bar-tending a bit of a leap from architecture?”, he replied, “Well, you’re still building something”.

The Bombay Sapphire Imaginarium runs until 24th May at Callooh Callay, 65 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY.

For more details, and to reserve your place, call 0207 739 4781.