Mover and shaker
Whether it's a Raspberry Martini or a Russian SpringPunch, Dick Bradsell is the man to mix it. Michael Jacksonmeets the bar supremo and introduces his speciallycommissioned Observer cocktail
'It's as important as good food.' That's cocktail king Dick Bradsell's view on 'decentdrink'. After a moment's reflection, he decides the imperatives are not equal. 'If someone said I had to eat the same thing every day for the rest of my life, I couldsurvive on organic brown rice. If I were limited to one choice of drink, I would hate it.What would I choose? Perhaps Campari and soda.' Another time, he thought he'd prefer mint juleps.Even if your repertoire of summery drinks extends no further than gin and tonic, youcan learn from Dick Bradsell. He may let slip an acid jest as sharp as a twist of lemon peel, but it is largely thanks to his influence that Britain now has a scattering of proper bars with well-made drinks.As a shy boy in an 'inbred weirdo' corner of the Isle of Wight, with a 'mad professor'father, Bradsell was bullied for being a bookworm. 'I liked Harper Lee_ don't sayanything about Tequila Mockingbird.' Now, he favours Charles Bukowski. Thechange began when he became a punk rocker. 'There was a party at which our housegot trashed. I was sent away and put in the care of my Wicked Uncle, a former navalman, in London. He ran the Naval & Military Club in Piccadilly. He knew everybody:the police, the criminals, the ladies. The complete training he gave me would have been hard to find elsewhere. At the club they made pink gins. Where else could youstill get pink gins in the mid-70s? I had to buckle down, learn to make Pimm's,martinis, gin and tonics_'The gin and tonic is still the acid test for Bradsell. 'I can tell you if a person will ever make a bartender by watching them make a gin-and-tonic over and over again. Some people could try for three months and still not make a decent one.' Not 'three cubes of ice' but a glassful. Not 'equal parts' but two shots of gin. Not 'ahorrible, thin little piece of lemon' but a fresh, healthy slice; not inserted by 'diggingabout with a spoon, spilling half the drink', but popped in by hand. And always a fresh bottle of tonic.Another boss drew diagrams to illustrate the interplay of flavours in a mixed drink.Bradsell does the same for me on a napkin. 'Classic cocktails are the starting point for most new recipes. The flavours of the principal elements must be in balance. Betweenthem are gaps in flavour. These gaps must be filled. We are trying to create one longflavour on the palate. I want my customers to enjoy it so much they order another.'The diagram now looks like a geological section, but it is actually a BrandyAlexander. 'The Cognac is here, the cream there, the dark cacao, and the white... '