It can restore one’s faith in mixology when a libation invented by a long-dead Spanish king is both well-made and made available at an unexpected moment, and so it was with an Alfonso Special I had last night at the Fairmont Hotel’s bar Champagne. This particular cocktail was made by guest bartender Eric Lorincz, of The American Bar in London’s Savoy Hotel, during a demonstration.
I arrived at The Fairmont in disarray. Badly in need of a haircut. Having walked from Sanlitun to the hotel in lieu of a taxi. Feeling the effects of a sizable pairing of Chinese wines and French cheeses the night before (more on this soon). Lacking the will to battle for bar space with those who position themselves a few feet from the bartender and endlessly take photos, blocking the view.
I dropped into a comfortable chair, stewed in my Wednesday eve funk, and waited. As the show wound up an hour later, I heard Lorincz mention a blog post that asked about his ability make a certain drink. I guess someone told him about the following that I wrote:
…the Fairmont is billing Lorincz as the “world’s best bartender” because he won Diageo’s World Class competition in 2010 and Conde Nast named him best hotel bartender in 2011. Nice credentials, but does that mean he can make a decent Alfonso Special?
In about a minute, that cocktail sat on the bar. I made it from chair to drink, grabbed the glass, and headed to the sidelines to try that Alfonso Special. Very nice.
I also tried a Negroni (smooth and balanced) and a Graydon Carter, named for the Vanity Fair magazine editor who hosted The American Bar’s reopening party and was wonderfully played by Jeff Bridges here in “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People“. That one had vodka, vermouth, lemon juice, simple (or agave) syrup and green Chartreuse, topped with soda. Exactly the kind of refreshing drink you would want while flitting about at an opening party: you could probably drop ten of these before dramatically collapsing into a sloppy mess on the floor, long after the departure of the paparazzi.
Anyway, despite the fame, Lorincz’s job is less glamorous than many might think, at least based on what I saw last night. The reality: dealing with the same questions over and over again, having people grab cocktails before he could add the garnish, enduring a ruckus at the back of the room that made it hard for us to hear, having every move dissected by cameras, etc.
And at the end, with ten thirsty people still left at the bar, being inundated with requests such as, “Do you know how to make [name of drink]?”, “Give me something bitter“, “I want something bitter, too”, “What do I like? Hmm, vodka and whiskey. Make me a drink with one of those”, “How about some Sazeracs?” and “What’s your favorite single malt for everyday drinking?” That last one was from me. Lorincz’s answer: Yamazaki 18.
If you want to learn how to make cocktails, Lorincz will teach two classes, one tonight and one tomorrow, from 7 PM. The fee is rmb200. Make sure to RSVP (8507-3617 or thecut.beijing (at) fairmont.com) as Champagne bar isn’t very big and there really are limited seats. If you want to try an Alfonso Special, which includes Gin, sweet Vermouth, dry Vermouth, Grand Marnier and bitters, the options include George’s and Q Bar. And give Champagne bar a try: The Fairmont’s Anthony Evangelista and his team know what they are doing.