Steve here...was on a quick trip to Vienna and had the chance to sample the cocktail scene there. I had heard a lot about Bar Italia which was one of the finalists in the TOTC "best international cocktail bar" competition. Unfortunately, the only time I had for a visit was Sunday night. It's a very unpreposessing storefront on a busy commercial street just outside the first district, with a short bar and about 10 tables. I was disappointed when I sat down at the bar, rubbed my hands together and asked the bartender what cocktail specials they had. The answer..."none...we don't serve cocktails on Sunday nights, just straight regular drinks." With only about 4 other people in the bar, it didn't bode for an exciting evening, so I trudged off into the spitting rain and drowned my disappointment at the Sacher Hotel with a melange (Viennese coffee drink) and the eponymous Sacher Torte.

Monday we had a bit better luck at Dino's American Bar where Rene van de Graaf greeted us like long lost friends. Rene has been a big help to us in developing signature cocktails, and is, in my view, the archetype for what a professional bartender should be. As he explained it to me,as a kid he took a parttime job as a bartender and knew right away that's what he wanted to do as a career. When you ask him what he recommends, he asks a couple of questions about your preferences, thinks a bit, makes a couple of recommendations for you to consider, and proceeds to create something that's always special. Skill, style, flair (not "flipping bottles" flair, but the real kind) and great conversation. Turns out there were a couple of other bartenders on our side of teh counter, one from Prague, the other from Berlin who were really interested in picking our brains about brands and the U.S. cocktail scene. I know I should have quit after the 4th "Dark Knight" (I'll have to ask Rene for the recipe...I sort of forgot) and a Montecristo Lonsdale. But all in all, a perfect evening of conversation, cocktails and culture.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Wine Cocktails?

I run a small independent Wine Merchants in the UK and are doing a tasting day over the Christmas period. Any chance of a Christmassy themed idea for a Wine based cocktail?