Nightjar workshop – one of the best bars in the world
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When we found out we were going to a private masterclass at Nightjar, which was voted the second best bar in the world, Jesper and I couldn’t believe it. Neither one of us thought we would be sitting down at such a bar like this. And yet here we were going to be taught by one of their head bartenders Marian Beke. Ever since finding out we would be going it was all we could talk about and we were counting down the days until we would go.
Being a speak easy bar Nightjar follows the theme set during the Prohibition from 1920 to 1930 meaning there is no big sign highlighting where it is, and it is generally tucked away from prying eyes. Nightjar is located behind a very unassuming black door which I’m sure many have walked by without knowing what lies on the other side.
[ebs_redbox img=”http://www.tickettotheworld.net/files/2014/12/3125_nightjar_img02.jpg”]Some tools of the trade (not, this isn’t “Hostel”)[/ebs_redbox]
Jesper and I arrived early in the morning, it was planned that we would also visit the markets where they purchase their produce but due to the overwhelming London traffic this could not happen. We were given the address yet it was not as easy as that, no sign highlighting where it was, Jesper and walked up and down the street even passing the bar a few times before we located it. We rang the doorbell and were greeted by Marian. The entrance takes you down into what appears to be a basement, keeping in line with what a speakeasy is. The decor was straight out of the 1920’s and instantly transports you back in time.
As we walked down the stairs and entered the bar we were greeted by an assortment of items that were used in the Nightjar Cocktails. Some we easily recognized and others that neither Jesper or myself had ever seen or heard of. After a brief introduction on what the plan was for the Masterclass, normally it is hosted over a few days, we were going to have a crash course in just one day.
Marian talked us through each and every ingredient , constantly asking questions on what we thought some of the more exotic items reminded us of. The produce used was staggering and we were told that unlike many bars Nightjar spends all of the morning and afternoon prepping everything they needed, thus making service a lot smoother. At Nightjar they also believe in constantly improving quality and taste, so week by week ingredients are added or subtracted depending on taste. Even their Grenadine syrup is a complex mix of ingredients, Jesper and I have not tasted any better. They have a rotation where each bartender has to go out in the early morning and collect everything they need from the market. It isn’t just one market either as some of the ingredients were so exotic only a handful of places traded them.
After tasting each of the ingredients it was time to move onto the more technical sides of bar tending, ice cub carving. Neither Jesper or myself had done this before. It starts from the very ice used, it must be clear and contain no air bubbles, this creates an aesthetically pleasing ice cube. The tools used to carve were extremely expensive and came all the way from Japan. Marian talked us step by step through the process, how to gauge how big the ice cube needed to be and the technique needed to carve the chunk away from the block. Once the desired size is reached you must then grab an ice pick and slowly and precisely chip away at it until you have the finished spherical ice. It was definitely a steep learning curve and Marian made it look easy which it is surely not.
[ebs_redbox img=”http://www.tickettotheworld.net/files/2014/12/3125_nightjar_img10.jpg”]Not bad for a first attempt[/ebs_redbox]
Having gone through ice carving it was time to move onto the different style of mixing cocktails. Shakes, stirring and a very interesting technique called rolling. Rolling a cocktail consists of pouring the liquid from one shaker to another while progressively increasing the distance between each. A similar technique is used in India to make Chai Tea. Having first seen the technique in Barcelona, Jesper and I wanted to see if we could do it. And sure enough before long we were both rolling, progressively increasing the distance the stream of water would travel. Happy with our technique we sat down and moved onto what we had both been waiting for, Cocktail Tasting!
[ebs_redbox img=”http://www.tickettotheworld.net/files/2014/12/3125_nightjar_img12.jpg”]Easy when you know how[/ebs_redbox]
The cocktail menu at Nightjar is extensive with over 50 cocktails on the menu, these ranged from Pre-prohibition, Prohibition, Post-War and the Nightjar Signature cocktails. Each era of cocktail bringing new flavours and experiences. Marian talked us through each and every cocktail he was going to make for us, a few from each era. It was one of the best Cocktail experiences either Jesper or I have ever had. Explaining each ingredient used and most importantly why they were used, we travelled through time. So many different techniques were used to get the balance of flavours just right, everything complemented each other resulting in truly superior cocktails. One very interesting cocktail was served in a tea cup and had mustard ice-cream, a chocolate spoon and crispy bacon, which doesn’t sound too appealing left both Jesper and I with sheepish grins, making us feel like little kids trying
[ebs_redbox img=”http://www.tickettotheworld.net/files/2014/12/3125_nightjar_img04.jpg”]Hell yeah this is a cocktail![/ebs_redbox]
Making each cocktail precisely and with meaning Marian made it look like a work of art and we couldn’t stop looking at the cocktails being made in front of us. Our palate was expanded as there were flavours and combinations we had never tried. Each cocktail was both beautiful to look at and absolutely delicious. It was hard to believe we had been at the masterclass for over 8 hours. This is where Marian and Nightjar truly come into their own, they have such a passion for what they do, you can’t help but be drawn in. Hours feel like minutes and we found no matter what questions we asked Marian always had an answer for it. His biggest philosophy is always ask why you add an ingredient or garnish, if it doesn’t add anything in particular to the drink even it looks nice there is no point in adding it. There must always be a reason you add an ingredient to a cocktail.
Sadly our time at Nightjar had to come to an end, our only disappointment was that we couldn’t stay longer. It felt like we had barely been there but the whole day was spent learning and exploring the fine art of Cocktails. We can definitely see why Nightjar is ranked as one of the best bars in the world, and anyone wanting to improve their knowledge or try something truly out of the ordinary should make their way to this superb speak easy bar!