There are always highs and lows in every month and September was no exception. Searching for a decent bar in Glasgow wasn’t exactly thrilling but meeting Joe Gilmore the king of kings in the bartending world certainly was…
We had our Monday evening in Glasgow all worked out: we’d get dressed up, sample a couple of cocktails in one, maybe two bars then we’d have a nightcap in our super-swish West End hotel. We didn’t count on rain. Nor did we think for one second that we’d return to base less than an hour after we started out. We blame GQ.com. Nice looking website, shame about the out-of-date information. Out of the three bars we selected from their sharp, seemingly straight-talking bar section, not one of them was worthy of a little cocktail lovin’.
Why? One had closed down, the other was a little bridge and tunnel for our taste (£3.50 Asian-inspired cocktails complete with photographs on the menu – need we say more?) while the last was just, well, just plain wrong. Perhaps if it hadn’t been raining and perhaps if we hadn’t run into a couple of Trainspotting types (drug addled rather than the ones wearing anoraks and brandishing notebooks), we might have persisted in our quest with much more fervour. Not that we didn’t give it a good shot. We’d already eyed up half a dozen bars in and around Ingram Street and Royal Exchange Square before we decided to hail a taxi and head back to the welcoming arms of Hotel du Vin at One Devonshire Gardens. The lesson? Never trust a website without personal recommendations. Oh, and always quit while you’re ahead (particularly when it’s raining).
Glasgow might not have delivered in quite the way we planned but meeting Joe Gilmore certainly did. The softly-spoken 86 year-old is something of a legend in cocktail circles having worked at the Savoy hotel’s American Bar from 1940 to 1976. It’s not often you get to spend time with someone who can count Winston Churchill as one of his many fans, or who can say that Frank Sinatra coined the phrase “set ‘em up Joe” for him when requesting his drinks. He shared some wonderful stories with us in the bar at the May Fair Hotel and even demonstrated how he makes the perfect martini using Smirnoff Black. Happy days indeed.
Words to the wise (or just plain curious)
Did you know that two-thirds of the brandy consumed in the US is produced on home soil? Even more interesting (or at least to us) is the fact that virtually all of it comes from California.