01 September 2008

Dave Broom/ Interview /September 2008

This month I thought I would mix it up by doing an interview a drinks writer/author rather than a bartender so here we go with the great Dave Broom...

1. What is the first alcoholic drink you remember tasting?

Crabbies Green Ginger at my Uncle Tom and Auntie Ei's house in Perth at Christmas time. I'd have been about 10. All other drinks were off limits, but in Scotland green ginger wine was somehow an exception to the rule.. like a vegetarian not classing bacon as meat I suppose. It was a long and slippery slope from there.

2. What are your 3 favourite drinks, cocktails or spirits? recipes if you have them?

Only three?! Mixed drinks I go classic: Negroni (made with Carpano Antica Formula and Beefeater), Manhattan (sweet, ideally with rye, if not Wild Turkey 101).

As far as spirit goes, it's a close call between aged rum and single malt Scotch, but not every expression of both!

3. Tell us about a new flavour you have discovered recently?

It's not a flavour it's an aroma and you showed it to me. It's called helional and is the smell of sunshine. Am searching for the equivalent turbo boost of life and brightness in alcoholic drinks. Am still deeply intrigued by the exoticism of Japanese whisky and some of the new gins [Jensen, Krahn, 209 in particular] oh.. and Japanese rum from Okinawa and Kagoshima. It's an exciting time at the moment.

4. If you could pass just one thing, on to a bartender what would it be?

Always ask why .. oh and don't believe the hype.

5. What does the future hold for yourself and what do you see happening in the future in the industry?

I never plan. I used to make plans, but they never quite worked out the way I believed they would. I'd love to get a new edition of the rum book out there and a whisky book as well, which looks at the subject from a slightly different angle. There will be more teaching and more talking and more travel. As for the industry .. predictions are dangerous things, especially given a volatile economic climate. The big firms will get bigger (either in size or in market share, or both) but there will be opportunities for the smarter smaller firm, but they'll have to be really smart. Everyone will be dazzled by the sheer scale of China and forget about the real long-term gains which can be made in America and Europe. Rum will continue to grow globally, but in different ways in each market. I hope that the bar scene will now spread beyond its strongholds and out into the world and that quality and flavour will be the key messages. I'd hope that people will finally see through the Emperor's new clothes with which vodka has attired itself.

6. What has been your biggest satisfaction from working behind in the spirits industry?

Free booze? Seeing the growth of the bar scene and a realisation on the part of the guys working there -- and some of the more enlightened companies (or some parts of some of the more enlightened companies!) that it's flavour which is the key. If that's your starting point and your obsession then a world of possibilities opens up for you. When I started (20 years ago this year!) you'd have to seek out shady bars in Soho to get a decent drink.. it was like finding a speakeasy, you went on recommendations and whispered conversations. Now every pub is making mojitos. OK, they're often crap [where the Mojito Hit Squad?] but that's still a huge shift in mindset in a pretty short time. I worry about the eiltism which has crept in .. people believing their own hype.. and regret the lack of work that's been done in getting the mass-market excited about quality drinks. That said, I'm genuinely enthused when I go to shows or do teaching gigs that there's a new generation of bartenders who really want to learn.

7. If you were to have a conversation with a cocktail/spirit, (and presuming it could talk back to you and tell you its past). Which cocktail/spirit would it be and why?

I've often had late night conversations with a spirit. It's told me marvellous things, has revealed the secrets of life and ways of solving the world's problems. Oft has been the time where these messages down only to find the trickster god of drink has scrambled the writing (and the brain) while I sleep, rendering the page unintelligible when I awake.
I'd ask a Manhattan where it came from, I'd ask Chartreuse about its past, I'd ask the rocks of Scotland why they called forth barley and then whisky, I'd ask a Jamaican rum "why??!! thank you, thank you for existing.. but.. what madness created you?"

8. What influences your drinks from outside the industry (i.e. art, fashion)?

Music. Anything from (he scans around) Congotronics to Leonard Cohen, folk to Japanese psychedelia. Nick Cave. Dub. No U2 though, or Queen. Or the fucking Verve. In fact no-one who plays in a stadium (bar the Stones) and has flags waved at then. It gets me through the day, it's a soundtrack to writing and sets mood and helps with the thinking. As I write this it's Harry Smith's 'Anthology of American Folk Music' Books as well. Lots of poetry, nature writing,techy things on perfume. Walking influences me.. getting out there and smelling the world. People give me a wide berth sometimes. Actually, always.

9. If you where to break a writers/journalist golden rule what would it be?

Rules like deadlines are made to be broken. How can you be creative if you're constrained by rules and regulations?

10. Outside of flavour and the craft of the cocktail what in your opinion affects the appreciation of a drinks the most?
Occasion. That's how drinks are brought into being. Get the occasion right and the drink will be perfect.

11. If you where to champion a drink, cocktail or spirit which would it be?
At the moment, rum, but then there's sake... actually there's gin! Jeez.. I'll keep on talking about them all.