The Barproof Awards on September 25th will gather the Russian bar scene together at Estrada Theater in St. Petersburg. It’s a highly anticipated event to honor the movers and shakers from Eastern Europe working in the cocktail world.
Russia is not, as the old clichés would have it, a country where people drink only flavored and frozen vodka. Like its European neighbors, the country was quickly overwhelmed by the new wave of mixology and is full of highly creative places and bartenders.
The World’s 50 Best Bars list for 2017 testifies to the quality of its establishments: two renowned bars are included in the runner-up 51-100 list, with El Copitas in the 70th place, a bar specializing in agave-based spirits, and Chainaya Tea & Cocktails, an amazing speakeasy in 85th place. And there may well be other surprises when the full World’s 50 Best Bars 2017 list is revealed on October 5th. Before that, the Russian scene itself will showcase the countries best bars at the Barproof Awards.
Russia, a scene in full evolution
The bar industry was reborn after the dissolution of the USSR in the 1990s and really began to grow from 2004, when the first cocktail bars started to bloom. “For 12 years, many bars have opened in more than 10 cities in Russia and the quality of service and serving drinks improves year by year,” said Dmitry Sokolov, one of the leading players in the Russian bar scene and owner of Moscow bars Mr Help, which was one of the first cocktail bars in Russia, Law & Son, and Stay True.
The development of the Russian bar scene took more time because of its strong history, the ignorance of the world of spirits and a less festive lifestyle. “The Russian bar industry is younger than in other countries. The people here were not used to go to the bar. Ten years ago, customers consumed only vodka and XO cognac with cola. For 15 years, the culture of the bar has grown among consumers who enjoy drinking Sazeracs, Negronis, and other great dry classic cocktails,” adds Sokolov.
Recently in St. Petersburg, the French cocktail historian Fernando Castellon was able to soak up a few days of this atypical but dynamic world of Russian mixology. “Moscow and St. Petersburg are leaders of influence and are on line with the European and international bar codes but the cocktails bars are developing in small cities all around the world. We can find establishments with well-studied concepts – some of them in reference to their origin and terroir as in the Orthodox Russian Bar which uses ‘cha cha brandy,’ a Georgian eau-de-vie made from grapes – or with excellent food pairing as in the bar Kabinet,” says Castellon.
In fact, tastes are changing in gastronomy as well as mixology. “One can say that today the Russian clientele has a very epicurean side and are connoisseurs of cocktails. Concerning products, Mexican alcohol made from agave, mezcal is the new spirit of the bartenders. You find amazing things at El Copitas,” says Castellon.
The Barproof Awards: An event to highlight the Russian scene
Following on from the influential Moscow Bar Show on September 5th to 7th, the Barproof Awards will hold its second edition on September 25th in St. Petersburg at the Estrada Theater. The awards were founded in 2016 by Bartender Brothers, an independent community of bartenders that began eight years ago thanks to eight pioneering Russian bartenders. Today, it is run by six members: Dmitry Sokolov, Vyacheslav Lankin (Delicatessen), Alexander Kan (Nikuda ne Edem), Vladimir Zhuravlev (Clubaratory), Mara Saddarov (Noor Bar) and Roma Milostivy (Chainaya Tea & Cocktails). The Barproof Awards aims to promote the Russian industry. This year, the awards are going beyond Russia’s borders with new participating countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. “The Bartender Brothers community started to develop the bar culture in Russia, and popularize bars and cocktails in our country through masterclasses and competitions…That’s why we decided to organize the first Barproof Awards,” says Sokolov. All the winners receive a neatly symbolic trophy: an aerometer, used to measure the strength of liquids.
An innovative voting system to make things more equitable
The voting process at the Barproof Awards differs from other award shows, like the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS. The Barproof Awards unique voting system aims to make the final decision as objective as possible. The participants themselves vote for the winners from a list of bars in 21 categories chosen by experts from all the eligible countries. “This list was created by 30 opinion leaders – professional bartenders, bar owners, food journalists, and brand ambassadors – according to quality, cocktail menu, food menu of the bars. The first vote was held at the end of June for the top 10, the top 3 and the winner will be announced on the evening of September 25th,” says Sokolov
Animations to discover the best bar scene in St. Petersburg and abroad
During the day, the Barproof Awards will offer a program of three seminars to discover three stars bartenders on the international scene: Maxwell Britten, a renowned American mixologist and founder of Maison Premiere in New York, famous for its oyster and absinthe concept; Hidetsugu Ueno, owner of High Five in Tokyo and a great master of working with ice; and Arnd Henning Heißen, the man behind Fragrances and The Curtain Club, at The Ritz-Carlton in Berlin. The three will share stories about their philosophy of bars, their cocktails, their hospitality, and some specialties of the countries where they live. To round off the evening, the Barproof Awards will organize a tour of the top 15 bars of the city, including some of the venues mentioned above. Clearly, St. Petersburg is the place to be on September 25th.
Bildquelle: Photos via Barproof