Our consultancy company Barworkz Berlin has been involved in the yearly bartender seminar "Bols Barcoaching" since 2005. The famous Dutch Liqueur invites over 300 bartenders to seminars in 5 German cities, where they meet well-known bar entrepreneurs and international bartenders, who teach them about skills, trends and cocktail history.
In the last couple of years we had big names like Angus Winchester, Naren Young, Philip Duff and Wayne Collins in the program. This year we invited speakers from Canada and Holland: Darcy O’Neil and Andrew Nicholls. We’ll now introduce them both in our blogs. Darcy’s webblog Art of Drink has been an inspiration to bartenders around the world. We asked him a couple of questions about his background as a chemist and the level of the Canadian bar scene.
Darcy, you’re from Canada. Please tell us
about this countrie’s bar scene. A Pernod-Ricard representative recently
told me it had the most balanced cocktail culture and the most advanced
mainstream bar scene. Do you agree?
I wouldn’t say that Canada has an advanced cocktail scene yet, it is
still in its early stages here. Cities like Vancouver and Toronto are
just starting to develop cocktail bars that have a strong focus on
great drinks. Outside of the main cities, it would be hard to find a
great cocktail. However, Canadian bartenders do create well balanced
At a recent North American cocktail competition, the
Canadian bartenders did show a talent for elegant flavour balance,
compared to their American counterparts. It may be part of the Canadian
personality, but big, bold cocktails don’t sell as well, in Canada, as
simple, subtle ones.
You are a chemist by trade. Please tell us about this craft and where it comes in handy for the bartender.
great bartender is consistent, so many of the skills that I learned
working in a lab, like accuracy, help in that area. Additionally,
having an understanding of things, like distillation and dilutions,
gives me more insight into the characteristics of ingredients and how
to mix them.
For example, wine usually has an alcohol percent (ABV)
between 12% and 16%, residual sugar of 4g to 45 g/L and balancing
acidity in varying quantities. Using wine as a template, I’ll calculate
the concentrations of ingredients, and make a balanced cocktail. Most
people make cocktails by trial and error so this technical aspect helps
me think in non-traditional ways, and brings something new to the art
When did you enter the bar arena? Where did you learn the bar? Who was an inspiration for you?
started bartending in 2003, after 10 years of work in a lab. First I
did contract work on weekends and then I picked up a regular bartending
position at a casino. My first impression about the standard cocktail
recipes was fairly negative, and I wondered why people even drank them.
From that point I committed to do whatever I could to make cocktails
My passion for quality cocktails has got me fired on more than one
occasion, but those events did teach me a lot about what needs to be
done to improve quality behind the bar. Most of what I learned
came from books like the Joy of Mixology and Diffords Guide, but early
on I worked with some "old time" bartenders that gave me some insight
into the business. There wasn’t any particular bartender that inspired
me, but the British cocktail scene was something that I admired.
What will you teach the audience at the Bols Barcoaching Seminars 2009 in Germany?
BBC I’m going to be focusing on how people taste. Many bartenders never
consider that everyone’s sense of taste is different, including their
own. These variations are what makes one person loves a drink and
others hate it. This can, not because the drink is bad, but genetically
some people find alcohol tastes sweet (non-tasters), while others find
it bitter (super-tasters). This can have a significant impact on drink
quality, but once you understand it, you can use it to improve the
quality of a cocktail.
During the sessions we’ll do a genetic taste test to determine
whether participants are a super-taster, normal taster or non-taster.
Depending on the outcome, that information will help attendee’s
understand their personal preferences and how it relates to others.
We’ll also use it to improve their bartending skills.
I’ll also be talking about how flavours work with one another,
provide some simple tricks to modify drinks to make them better and
talking about how this applies to the guests at the bar.
What is your favourite bar currently? And what’s the last cocktail you had?
My current favorite bar is Bar Chef in Toronto. They are being really
creative with cocktails, experimenting with unique ingredients and
making house bitters. It’s one of the few bars in the area that brings
a level of professionalism and artistry to drinks.
last cocktail I had was a Filby. I’ve recently become fascinated with
it, after finding a newspaper article from 1979 that detailed the
recipe. The cocktail won a Paris bartending competition and was created
by Peter Brennan from England.
1¼ oz Gin (London Dry)
½ oz Amaretto Liqueur
½ oz Dry Vermouth
¼ oz Campari
Combine all ingredients in a shaker glass with ice and stir until well
chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Express the oil of a large
orange zest, igniting it if you have pyromaniac tendencies. Rub the
zest around the rim and plunk it in the drink.
Thank you for your time, Darcy.