London Cocktail Week gets underway

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Today marks the start of London Cocktail Week, a celebration of the UK capital’s unrivalled cocktail culture. Running from October 8 to 14, it features seminars, pop-up bars, tastings, parties and masterclasses, including many aimed at bar professionals as well as consumers. This year, the festival’s events will be concentrated on the historic area of Seven Dials in Covent Garden, with events and pop-ups run by drinks brands both large and small.

At the same time, London Cocktail Week will feature Cocktail Tours, taking people to some of the best bars across the capital. All the partnering venues will offer £4 cocktails throughout the week and can be visited via vintage Routemaster buses that will be free to ride for anyone wearing a London Cocktail Week wristband. With over 17,000 wristbands allocated in 2011, this year’s festival is expected to be even bigger, attracting bar professionals from across the UK and around the world.

A pop-up shop is being set up in Shorts Gardens in the heart of Seven Dials with Diageo Reserve Brands, where people can collect their wristbands and guide to the festival. It will include a speakeasy bar and events space where masterclasses will be held for Diageo brands such as Ketel One, Johnnie Walker, Zacapa, Talisker, Singleton and Grand Marnier.

Here are some of the many highlights of the week ahead:

The final of the UK heat of the 2013 Angostura Aromatic Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge will take place on Thursday 11 October. A panel of judges including Bar magazine editor Mark Ludmon will decide which bartender will compete in the international final in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in February 2013 against contenders from 12 other countries including India, New Zealand and Russia.

The Monin 2012 UK Cocktail Cup Final will take place at Paramount, where winners of regional heats will compete to represent the UK in a global final in Paris in December. Finalists will also compete in the UK final of the Angostura Aromatic Bitters Global Cocktail Challenge at The Club at the Ivy, hoping to win a place in the international final in Trinidad.

Legendary bartender Salvatore Calabrese will be holding a masterclass exclusively for the trade at his bar, Salvatore at Playboy in Mayfair, in association with Angostura Aromatic Bitters. At a separate event at his bar, Salvatore will try to break the Guinness World Record for creating the world’s most expensive cocktail costing £5,500 a glass. Click here for the full story.

At Covent Garden’s Tristan Bates Theatre, Marian Beke of The Nightjar will lead a seminar on how to use and craft ice for cocktails, sponsored by Isolabella Sambuca and Eskimo Ice.

Notting Hill’s Ginstitute, upstairs from Portobello Star, will be in Seven Dials for the festival, with drinks specialist Jake Burger leading daily talks on gin, including a chance to blend your own. Ian Hart of north London’s Sacred Distillery will also hold a session at the Seven Dials Club on blending and creating gin.

Bacardi Brown-Forman Brands will be setting up its Cocktail Culture trade training sessions in Mercer Street, Seven Dials, over all five days of the festival. The training team will cover topics such as flavour combinations, drinks-making techniques and different spirits categories. Click here for more details. It will also host an opening-night trade event on the Monday.

A pop-up bar for Monkey Shoulder whisky in Neal Street, Seven Dials, will host events including a panel discussion on Scotch by Georgie Bell of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Glenfiddich malt master Brian Kinsman and Monkey Shoulder’s global brand ambassador Dean Callan. Other events will look at whisky cocktails that “changed the world” and new ideas for using whisky in drinks.

Hi-Spirits will be setting up The Bourbon Exchange in Tavistock Street, a pop-up bar for Buffalo Trace Distillery’s whiskeys including George T Stagg. Daily masterclasses and tastings will be led by master blender Drew Mayville.

London Cocktail Week will also encompass RumFest and Boutique RumFest on October 13 and 14 at ExCel in London Docklands. Visit www.rumfest.co.uk for details. It will also include the international Golden Rum Barrel Awards.

For information about all London Cocktail Week events and details on getting a wristband, visit www.londoncocktailweek.com. Wristbands are £4 for the public but free for members of the trade.

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