When we heard Manabu Ohtake was coming to London, we couldn’t wait to have a drink with him. After all, this is the man who now wears the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year 2011 crown. So off we went to Village East in Bermondsey and not only did we get to raise a glass to the new title holder, we were treated to heavenly libations from last year’s winner, Erik Lorincz as well…
Lucky us. First Erik mixed up three drinks (a version of Manabu’s Billion Pound cocktail; an absolutely mindblowing martini made with celery bitters and vermouth infused with green tea and lastly, his own signature drink, The Green Park available at the American Bar at The Savoy). Meanwhile, Spike Merchant talked us through the evolution of the competition and treated us to his version of a Blood & Sand. Which would have been an exceptional night of cocktail drinking, we mean ‘research’ ordinarily, however, once Manabu turned up after filming his World Class commercial, we witnessed first hand what the fuss is all about.
The balance of flavours in his four drinks would make grown men weep with appreciation. Firstly, he presented his Billion Pound (Tanqueray No. TEN gin, Midori, pineapple juice, camomile syrup and egg white, garnished with freshly milled pink peppercorns). More Asian in taste than Erik’s earlier version but absolutely delicious.
Next came the Green ‘T’ Fizz (Tanqueray No. TEN gin, green tea vermouth, green tea powder, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup). Oh my, what a corker this drink is: deceptive in it’s virtuous green, almost sludge-like hue, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some kind of detoxifying elixir. Which it would be if it didn’t have a healthy glug of Tanq TEN in it. If we hadn’t seem him pour it in ourselves, we would have been convinced that we could have one of these bad boys for a power breakfast.
On to Manabu’s Bloody Mary (Ketel One vodka, pressed tomato juice, celery, basil leaf, olive juice and Tabasco) which would definitely go down a treat with brunch. The beauty of this cocktail was in the preparation: the muddled celery and basil leaf worked as harmoniously as a young Torville and Dean gliding on ice, adding a subtle but distinctive difference to this often massacred drink.
Manabu’s homage to the devastating volcano in Japan is The Green Season (Don Julio Reposado tequila, fresh cucumber, fresh perilla, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, celery bitters). It’s a triumph of flavours, again, so deftly blended it’s like the tequila had banished from the glass. The perilla (shiso), lime and cucumber bring a delicious perkiness to the party while the overall aroma and appearance is delicate, refreshing and so honed to the nth degree, it would be hard for anyone not to enjoy it. Even those like Mr G who would usually do anything to avoid cucumber. On a plate or in a glass.
And then it was time for last year’s World Class winner to hand over the sleek trophy to its new rightful owner: we’re sure Erik will agree, it couldn’t be in safer hands.