It's funny that barmen don't have the same reputation as chefs. A great cocktail is just as creative as a dish - often cleverer as they rely on fewer ingredients. The cocktails I've had made for me by three of London's best barmen, two of whom appear in the Independent's feature on New Year cocktails today - have just blown me away.
Salvatore Calabrese who works at the London private members club Fifty, is the ultimate suave Hollywood bartender - the sort of guy you'd want to make you a Martini. He taught me how to make the perfect G & T (crucial tips - fill your glass full of ice and use a freshly opened can of tonic)
Nick Strangeway (above, on right) used to work at my son's steakhouse Hawksmoor and now works at the new basement bar at Hix. He's an absolute genius at reinterpreting cocktail classics. He used to do fabulously kitsch punches in vintage punchbowls at Hawksmoor but I love the sound of his new cocktail Sbagliato, a mixture of Campari, sweet vermouth and Prosecco - easy enough to rustle up for a crowd for New Year's Eve.
And my third is Dick Bradsell, creator of some of the best modern classics - cocktails such as The Cowboy and The Bramble (you can find the recipes and some of his other creations here). I once went on a bizarre bourbon trip to Kentucky with him and Carol Thatcher. I've no idea where he's working now - like most barmen he tends to move around.
Incidentally Salvatore's website has a useful page on hangover cures if you overdo it tonight ;-) A very happy new year to you all.
Do you agree these are London's three best barmen or do you have a favourite of your own?