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BARS + DRI NK
hen the legendary actor,
director and theatrical teacher
Stanislavski uttered the seminal
words, "If you have a rifle, hanging
on the wall in the first act, it should fire in the
last act," little would he have known that almost
a century later they would be quoted within an
article about serving drinks.
�ese words were borrowed from Anton
Chekhov, and it makes me wonder whether
either of these seminal dramatists may well
have led a secret double life as a bartender.
When it comes to theatre, there is no doubt that
Stanislavski knew what made actors and their
audiences tick. So how does his philosophy
relate to ordering a great drink in one of
London's many cocktail bars? A little more than
you may think, as it happens.
"�e theatre in a bar is no different to rock
and roll, except no one is ever going to tip a
singer or an actor," muses Jared Brown, drinks
historian and author of more than 30 cocktail
books. "�e bar is a stage. People go to bars for
the experience; no one goes to a bar simply for
a drink. If you want a drink, you buy a bottle
for a fraction of the price and you go home."
For Brian Silva, bar manager at Balthazar
and an undisputed drinks industry legend, the
theatre behind the cocktail is an extension of
the bartender themselves. "For me, it's about
precision, calmness and care of the ingredients I
am using," he explains. "I also have to make the
drink in front of the guest whenever possible.
A well-made cocktail always gets noticed."
Silva's drinks follow an elegant simplicity:
one could say the equivalent of a brilliant
sleight-of-hand card trick between the
bartender and the customer, rather than
watching an escapologist wriggling free from
a straitjacket, suspended high above a pit of
hungry lions. Both have theatre - and drama -
but are from two very different schools. To see
him make a Balthazar, the bar's signature drink,
is sheer poetry: to eloquently bring together
two contrasting styles of vermouth with
vodka and maraschino liqueur demonstrates
that, sometimes, great theatre is not always
about how loud the characters shout, but how
engaging their conversation is.
BAG OF TRICKS
Mention the name Jerry �omas to most
bartenders today and you'll usually see a look
of reverence, combined with a slight fatigue.
Yet �omas was arguably the pioneer of
bartender showmanship in the US during
the mid- to late-19th century and his use of
flaming Blazer cocktails, alongside an assorted
bag of bartending tricks (which, according to
some reports, included trained pet rats and
gem-encrusted bar tools) is the stuff of legend.
�omas effectively created the template for the
cocktail "experience" - the equivalent of the
escapologist mentioned above - and has inspired
today's bartenders to rip up the rule book and
bring back the visual, theatrical element.
"I think the attention span of the customer
has actually shortened," explains Dave Tregenza,
co-owner of Brixton's �e Shrub & Shutter,
which looks to bring theatre - and above all else,
fun - to his culinary-based drinks and edible
garnishes. "When people used to blaze drinks, it
would always look amazing in a dark speakeasy
"PEOPLE GO TO BARS FOR
THE EXPERIENCE; NO ONE
GOES TO A BAR SIMPLY FOR
A DRINK" JARED BROWN
THE COCKTAIL TRADING
COMPANY'S SPILT MILK
LEFT: THE CONNAUGHT BAR
RIGHT: BRIAN SILVA
BRIAN SILVA PHOTO: SIM CANETTY�CLARKE