Classic cocktails on a grand scale

Amanda Humphrey, Mickael Perron and Chris LaceyIn July, trade and consumers will come together in the Art Deco setting of the Heritage Rooms in Bloomsbury, London, for Cocktails on a Grand Scale. Organised by drinks company Maxxium UK for Courvoisier, this event will promote cognac’s mixability by highlighting three classic drinks: the champagne cocktail, the Sazerac, and punch. Maxxium UK’s marketing controller for Courvoisier, Chris Anderson, says: “The event will present cognac cocktails in a grand and surreal manner and create an immersive and explorative experience for consumers that will transform their appreciation of cognac cocktails and motivate them to embrace Courvoisier as part of their cocktail repertoire.”

Maxxium enlisted three leading bartenders to help put each of the three sections of the event together: Annabel’s bar manager Mickael Perron, Rules bar manager Chris Lacey, and Amanda Humphrey, former bar manager of Paramount and now at private members’ club 5 Hertford Street.

Amanda Humphrey

Bartender Amanda Humphrey is working with the organisers of July’s event to create a champagne cocktail experience in a grand rococo ballroom. Reflecting the heritage of this classic drink, the room will look like a party that has been waiting for its guests to turn up for about 200 years. “It’s the party of the century that never happened,” Amanda says. “For me, the champagne cocktail is about extravagance and history.”

Amanda, aged 28, was bar manager at Paramount at the top of Centre Point in London’s West End for three-and-a-half years, although she has just moved on to private members’ club 5 Hertford Street. Previously she was in Manchester, where she studied business at university, and worked at Harvey Nichols Second Floor Bar for three years and at Ithaca for a year and a half until it closed – both times with leading mixologist Jamie Stephenson.

She admits it is an “uphill struggle” to encourage consumers to try cognac-based cocktails. “It has incredible mixability but it’s a lot more challenging which is what scares consumers. You have to challenge people’s mentality that it’s for the over-60s and has to be quaffed in a balloon and can’t be mixed.”

Mickael Perron

Traditionally, punch contains only five ingredients: sour, sweet, strong, weak and spice. Mickael Perron from Annabel’s has been inspired by this to create spaces dedicated to punch at July’s event based on the five human senses. This means guests will hear music from different countries where punch ingredients come from and will be able to touch ingredients used in the recipe. They will smell the spices and, of course, taste the punch, although his recipe is under wraps. The visual experience will appeal to the sense of sight. “They will see that cognac is really versatile and understand the spirit itself,” he adds.

French-born Mickael, aged 32, started his career in London as a bar back 12 years ago, working at Bar Madrid before training at TGI Friday’s. He became a bartender at Sketch in 2002 and then Milk & Honey before running a consultancy, working with brands such as Marie Brizzard and Grand Marnier. Last year, he became bar manager at Annabel’s where, he says, cognac features in popular drinks such as a Horse’s Neck. “For me, punch is about simplicity, togetherness. It’s something to share – and it’s fun.”

Chris Lacey

Chris Lacey from Rules has been championing and researching the Sazerac for years. “The drink has a lot more complexity and length than nigh on any cocktail I know of,” he says. “If you make it correctly, the drink evolves as you drink it.”

The Sazerac is best known as a rye whiskey cocktail, mixed with absinthe and Peychaud’s Bitters, but it dates back to 1850s New Orleans where it was made with Sazerac de Forge et Fils cognac. Whiskey was used after phylloxera devastated France’s vineyards and cognac supplies in the 1870s. The bitters came from New Orleans apothecary Antoine Amedie Peychaud, and this history has inspired Chris to recreate a 19th-century American “mad chemist’s” at July’s event.

The 38-year-old took over as bar manager of Rules at Christmas from Brian Silva whom he worked with for two years at the Connaught Bar. Chris has also managed London’s Met Bar, The Speakeasy in Plymouth, The Bike Shed Theatre Bar in Exeter and Bahri Bar at Dubai’s Madinat Jumeirah resort and set up the Hotel Seattle bar in Brighton. He started out as a DJ and began bartending at Hotel Barcelona in Exeter.

Pictured (left to right): Amanda Humphrey, Mickael Perron and Chris Lacey

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