Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tanqueray's Mixology Expert On Chicago's Vibrant Bar Scene, Cocktail Trends & More

Angus Winchester, global brand ambassador for Tanqueray. (Photo: Tanqueray)

I warmed up to Angus Winchester the moment he told me his favorite cocktail was The Negroni.

The dashing Englishman, who was in town last week for the Tanqueray Green Room Tour, serves as the well-known spirit's global brand ambassador, which means he is one hell of a cocktail expert.

Winchester has one of the greatest jobs on the planet: He travels the world sharing his vast knowledge of gin, cocktail culture and his experiences in the scene (The James Bond of Bartending?!). He's so popular, in fact, that he was named the Best International Brand Ambassador during last summer's Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Awards. On Tuesday, the talented 'tender was named Wine Enthusiast's Mixologist/Brand Ambassador of the Year.

Chicago was one of several cities on the tour he visited to conduct a number of cocktail seminars and bartender evaluations. A few hours were also set aside to hang with several of us food & drink writers at some of his favorite bars in town.

He took us to The Aviary, Sable Kitchen & Bar and Violet Hour, which he believes have some of the city's best gin cocktails. We sipped a number of classics, including the Aviation, Bee's Knees, Gimlet, and, of course, the Negroni.

During our little cocktail pub crawl, he answered a few burning questions:

What's the Most Overrated Cocktail Trend?

Barrel-aged cocktails. They're redundant, especially when aging a Manhattan. The whiskey's already been aged and the cocktail doesn't taste any different.

What's the Most Underrated Cocktail Trend?

The 50/50 cocktail. It's the perfect martini because it uses equal amounts of gin and dry vermouth. It's the idea of the lower alcohol and more subtle flavor. People (these days) are always looking for big, bold flavors. Most drinks today are the equivalent of someone shouting in your ear; sometimes you need something more subtle like the 50/50.

Where would you love to guest bartend in Chicago if given the opportunity?

Sable Kitchen & Bar and The Whistler. Both of them are relatively serious about their drinks and they have an energy to them. They recognize that it's not just about the drinks, it is also about the interaction with guests. They're also sort of fun, and that's important for the overall experience.

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