May 26, 2011|
I was finishing up last week’s Tory Burch column to get to a cocktail tasting hosted by Mark Jenner at grand old Mandarin Oriental’s M Bar last Tuesday 3pm.
Bacchanologist Mark Jenner was going to be crafting a series of exclusive cocktails using No. 3 London Dry Gin and The King’s Ginger Liqueur (specifically formulated by Berry Bros. & Rudd in 1903 for King Edward VII—rich and yumzo!) OK, so I got there at 4pm. I was fashionably stuck in traffic.
As soon as I perched on the high stool around the lotus bud-shaped bar, a chilled glass of water greeted me—something Jenner insists that his guests get immediately upon sitting down at the bar—a very welcoming sight for hot and humid Hong Kong indeed, and given the amount of cocktails we were tasting. That simple glass of water offered to the patron right away screams: “WE CARE about your skin.” And it’s the mark of a top end bar, which won’t be asking you whether you would prefer still or sparkling when you’re requesting H20 later.
I think all of the journalists Googled “bacchanologist” to see if it’s a real word. Mark Jenner said he coined the term himself when I asked him. Ben Branch has since coined “baconologist,” something he aspires to be. From what I gather, a bacchanologist is a mixologist upgrade, one who’s not just passionate about product and ingredient knowledge (like a fine chef), but also has a philosophical perspective on cocktails and their histories. Mark is also ridiculously eloquent and learnèd in his cocktail origins (as I am in my Marvel superhero origins), as he likes to get down and dirty at libraries with his white gloves, going through dusty old recipe books and manuscripts for information. I asked if he’d watched the BBC series “The Supersizers Eat…” where restaurant critic Giles Coren and comedienne Sue Perkins dress up in period costume, then eat and drink recreated Roaring Twenties, Edwardian or medieval British meals for a week. YouTube it, it’s rather entertaining and educational, kind of like what having a drink and chat with Jenner is.
What’s all this fuss about? Well, there’s tea, and then there’s the tea ceremony. In fact, Jenner does have a whole suitcase of his own shiny bartending equipment (shakers, strainers, stirrers and knives for different fruits) that goes wherever he goes. And when he proudly showed me his Japanese mixing glass (which keeps drinks extra chill), I couldn’t help but be reminded of my tea master’s elaborate collection of prized tea utensils and ceramics.
He’s also meticulous in his use of fruit, naturally—the lemon juice in his drinks have to be double strained, freshly squeezed three to four times daily. A visit to the local market got him thinking about incorporating Chinese fruit for his future concoctions. He showed us bowls of goji wolfberries (would be great with gin), salted plums, sundried tangerine peel and loquat. Loquat, or pipa in Pinyin, is a soft orange-colored fruit that tastes like a mix of peach, pear, mild mango and faint citrus. Its brown dried form packs a sugary punch, and Jenner thought it would make a great natural sweetener to infuse a liqueur with loquat flavor. Actually, I might experiment, as Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa, the Chinese cough syrup, is basically loquat syrup and is the local—and personal favorite—thing to drink when bored.
We tried cocktails and sips of gin and liqueur. I liked the historical MEN’S cocktail “Seventh Heaven,” as you reach Saturn (the seventh heavenly planet) with a sip. Some boys asked for dirty Martinis, and I couldn’t help but request one later from Jenner himself (a very pristine dirty Martini) and then I just HAD to taste Jenner’s Old Fashioned (strong). Most of us all ended up at the opening of Al Molo, to meet NYC celebrity chef Michael White. I don’t know how we all were drinking from 4pm til midnight…