A Cantinero's Christmas

18 Dec. 2019
Stuff you'd love to find below the tree

It’s that time of the year — again. If you’re anything like us, at the moment you’re planning the holidays and a last minute rush for suitable stocking fillers. And if you’re here, you’re probably working in the hospitality industry or have near and dears who do. So chances are we have some shared interests… Just to be helpful — and ain’t we always helpful round these parts? — we’ve put together a short list of items that, you know, would please anyone with a passion for the art of good mixed drinks. And cherry on the cake: they’re all linked to good people we love dearly. 

It starts with a recipe

Well, technically a recipe is the end product but, as you know, the recipe will tell you what you need. So let’s pick one first. And the most suitable recipe-indexing Christmas present is — and always will be — a book. Now, many cocktail books are published each and every year and we could point you towards a rum book. Tiki, by Shannon Mustipher, was one of the year’s highlights. And for a deep dive into the category and the latest cocktail trends, there’s nothing better than rum expert Matt Pietrek’s Minimalist Tiki. But in the ecumenical spirit of Christmas, we want to open up the doors to other booze and so our number one recommendation goes to JJ Goodman’s Kitchen Cocktails: Recipes of the London Cocktail Club. JJ was one of the finalists at this year’s Havana Club Bar Entrepreneur Awards and his banging, loud and flashy book is filled to the brim with the recipes that made his London Cocktail Club bar chain a success. 

It’s nothing without a good spirit

OK, OK, we’ve just suggested you go for a book featuring gin, vodka or whiskey on top of rum. But, let’s be honest here, rum is what you really should be drinking. Good rum, of course, and preferably from Cuba. And who doesn’t love to find a good bottle below the Christmas tree? Now, there are many options. If what you have in mind is a truly exceptional rum to be enjoyed straight at the end of the meal, well, you’re really can’t go wrong with Havana Club 15 años… Or, since Christmas is all about sharing, Seleccion de Maestros is a perfect fit — it is after all the result of all the maestro roneros of Cuba sharing their knowledge. This being said, for its versatility, we’d like to put a good word for Havana Club 7 Años. It’s the heart of the range and it best represents the spirit of Cuba. You can drink it on its own — delicious — or use it in cocktails. With JJ’s book and Havana Club 7 Años, you really, really cannot go wrong.

It has to be poured in something, right?

Yes, indeed. You have the recipe, you have the spirit and, we assume, you have a few bar tools lying around the house. You probably also have glasses but let us suggest an upgrade. Our good friend Stephan Hinz — winner of the Innovator of the Year category at the Bar Entrepreneur Awards — masterminded Spiegelau’s Perfect Serve Collection. Those glasses — they come in all shapes and forms — have been designed to be both absolutely fit for purpose and visually stunning. We don’t know of any cocktail lover who would not love to have those available for his drinks, whether at home or at the bar. By the way, Stephan also has a couple of books out — but you’d need to read German — and an ice-machine — but you’d need a lot of space and serious budget. Stephan Hinz, the one stop address for all your bartending needs?

But maybe a present shouldn’t look like work?

We get it: if you — or your near and dear — are making drinks for a living, maybe finding more work under the Christmas tree is not ideal. So maybe opt for an experience that all can enjoy and no one has to work for. A ticket for a meal, for example. And while options abound wherever you’re based, one of the year’s hottest offer comes from London Tayer + Elementary, the venue launched last spring by Monica Berg and Havana Club Professional Edition C & D co-mastermind Alex Kratena. Elementary, the front part of the venue, has strong drinks and delicious bites but for a truly memorable experience, look no further than the chef’s table in Tayer. From Wednesday to Saturday, four lucky people (you really need to book in advance) get to sit a a bar overlooking the kitchen. The set menu, designed by Ta Ta Eatery, changes daily — as do Tayer’s cocktails. And if no work really means no cocktails, the short wine and beer lists are very carefully curated. Honestly, that’s a present we’d love to receive (if anyone’s reading, there’s a hint…).

And with this we close an eventful year. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and… see you in 2020!