Bar None Turns 1!


Bar None Turns 1!

A Recap of our Journey

with Debbian Spence-Minott

Thursday, January 09, 2020

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It's official. Bar None celebrates its first year! We have covered so many areas, from the basics and business of wine, beer, the seven spirits, mixology to the celebration of our bartending community. We reminded readers of the importance of drinking and serving responsibly, explored some of Jamaica's rum distilleries, and celebrated some women in wine. We are not done yet. Our 2020 goal is to do better; the greatest challenge is improving upon what we did yesterday rather than comparing. This week I share some of the highlights from a number of my favourite articles as we stroll down the Bar None memory lane. Thank you for your kind words and feedback this past year. We encourage you to stick with us as we highlight some of the amazing happenings in the world of beers, wines, spirits and mixology.

Bar None's Top 6

1. Let's 'Rewine'

We sought to simplify wine education making the subject approachable and improving consumer confidence. It worked. After writing this article, I met so many of you who were able to tell me what 'varietals' you enjoyed and how you were able to sit confidently at a business dinner and order wines from the menu.

But how to explain the term 'varietal'? Let me explain by using an easy comparison. As Jamaicans we all know mangoes. We have different types of mangoes, correct? Of course! For example: Blackie, Stringy, Number 11, East Indian, Julie, and the list goes on. We can say these are different varieties of mangoes. They look, smell and taste different; however, they are still mangoes. Let's say we planted the same East Indian mango tree in two different places: Kingston and St Elizabeth. Based on the climate and soil type we can expect the East Indian mango tree planted in St Elizabeth will produce a sweeter fruit. We can use this same analogy with grapes. There are different types of grapes – in fact, over 10,000! They look, smell, and taste different and if we planted the same grape in two different places, the climatic and soil conditions will impact the quality of the grape. Some examples of the different grape varietals are: Chardonnay. Merlot, Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec, Shiraz, Riesling, and so on.

2. 'Beerly' Drinking

In this issue, we brought beer to the forefront of our discussions. Often, we learn about wines and some spirits, but beer not as much. So, our aim was to, again, simplify the mystique that is beer and to celebrate our own iconic Jamaican beer – Red Stripe. We were delighted to see the unveiling of a new beer in 2019 – Red Stripe Watermelon!

The term 'beer' refers generically to ales, lagers, pilsners, and stouts. The alcohol content of beers is approximately 1/3 to that of wine. However, when the average servings of the two beverages are compared, the contents are not very different. Beer needs only four (4) ingredients: water, malt (barley), hops, and yeast. Similar to wines, beers can be paired with food to highlight and complement the flavours of the meal.

3. A Spirited Celebration of Rum

How could we not celebrate the spirit of Jamaica? Indeed, this is rum country with six distilleries producing over 20.5 million litres of rum per year! The first (and hopefully annual) Jamaica Rum Festival was an amazing experience which united rum lovers and saw them descending on Hope Gardens. I was pleased to not only see and experience established rum brands like the Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, but also experienced brands such as Hampden Estate, Rum Fire, Monymusk and Tortuga rums.

Rum is defined as a spirit distilled from the fermented products of sugar cane, which has its origins in Papua New Guinea and was introduced to the Caribbean by Christopher Columbus circa 1493. This grass-like plant buoyed Jamaica's economy for many years with the production of sugar, molasses and rum. In 1893, Jamaica had 148 distilleries which produced approximately seven million litres of rum per annum. Today, six distilleries remain: Hampden Estate, Long Pond Estate, Appleton Estate, New Yarmouth, Worthy Park Estate, and Monymusk. Rum is considered versatile, given its infinite variation of colour, body, style and age.

Characteristics of Jamaican rum:

• Made using Jamaican limestone-filtered water.

• Uses molasses in fermentation.

• Must be fermented and distilled in Jamaica.

• If designated aged in Jamaica, tropical ageing and minimum age statements apply.

4. Congrats, Trevor Luke

The inaugural Jamaica Observer Bartender of the Year came to its crescendo with the awarding and designation of Trevor Luke, bartender of the Marriott Courtyard. Luke was meticulous and wowed the judges with not just his cocktails, but his professionalism and showmanship.

Thursday Food (TF): You were announced winner of this very prestigious inaugural designation. How are you feeling?

Trevor Luke (TL): Thursday night onstage, I was just proud to be standing there. I heard all the bartenders' names being announced including mine, then I heard my name for a second time. I was wondering why my name was called twice, then I heard everyone clapping. That was when I realised I had been declared the winner. Wow! I cannot begin to describe the feeling.

TF: What does this win mean to you?

TL: It means that my talent has been recognised. It also means that I have a responsibility to ensure that I stay on top of my game and use my influence so that other bartenders elevate their game as well. It means that I may be given the opportunity to showcase my talents in other settings such as corporate events or private parties. I can travel within and outside of Jamaica to showcase my cocktails and also demonstrate how the use of effective tools can enhance the bar and cocktail experience.

5. Drink Responsibly

It is our duty to celebrate the industry and the work it continues to do, but we also have a responsibility of conscience to safeguard our consuming public of the dangers associated with excessive drinking. We stand resolute in support of the adult beverage companies that make the mantra of drinking responsibly a way of life for all stakeholders.

Responsible alcohol service should be promoted because:

• We can help to reduce the number of deaths and injuries in automobile accidents caused by drunk drivers

• We protect not just our customers but our entire community

• We protect the reputation of our own business

• We protect our guests inside the bar – a loud or belligerent drunk at the next table can permanently impact a guest's impression of a bar or restaurant as can an employee who handles the situation badly.

• We protect our employees and the establishment itself from violating any alcohol consumption laws, lawsuit, negative publicity and financial strain on the business

Responsible alcohol service means protection of your business and livelihood!

6. Celebrating the Women In Wine

This was certainly a no-brainer for me to celebrate and highlight the work of some of the foundation women in the business of wine here in Jamaica. In fact, I long awaited this opportunity. I do not wish for our male counterparts to take on any offence as we also see your work and your celebratory moment will come. Unfortunately, I was not able to highlight all the women, given the short time span, but I wish to take this opportunity to also recognise Judith Douglas and Marilyn Bennett, who were very influential in the establishment of wine as a business in Jamaica.

Cecile Levee

CL: I love the ceremonial nature of wine in terms of presentation and tasting. The wines tend to speak for themselves from opening, aerating, and decanting.

TF: So what about wines in screwcaps, certainly the ceremonial aspect would not be as appealing?

CL: Most times, when I select wines for my personal consumption, I will select the ones with cork. I like ceremony, tradition and elegance. However, from a business purview, I totally understand the decision of these wineries to choose screw-cap wine closures. The quality of the wine is not determined by its closures. However, my preference will always be the bottle that requires a wine opener.

Chesna Haber

TF: Describe some of your 'wineventures'.

CH: Well, I enjoy visiting the vineyards as the experience is different. You get to see first-hand what goes into making this fantastic product from the planting and harvesting of grapes in the vineyard to the transition to wine in the wineries, ultimately leading to the final product – a beautiful bottle of wine that we get to sip, savour and enjoy. I remember visiting Louis Martini, and William Hill in Napa and Sonoma; Champagne (Epernay and Reims) in France – while those experiences are contrasting, one thing was similar – the passion and love that went into creating these wines for consumers to enjoy.

Jaime Bicknell

TF: Jaime, explain for our readers what is a WSET Level 4 designation.

JB: A Level 4 WSET diploma is the highest level of the WSET wine programme. This designation is equivalent to getting a master's degree. I wish to note that a Master of Wine is not the same – a Master of Wine is equal to a PhD. Internationally, having the WSET level 4 diploma, a person is considered an influencer in the world of wines.

TF: After completing the WSET Level 4, what's next?

JB: I really have no plans. I genuinely like to learn about wines – but I have no plans to do anything once the designation is conferred. Right now, I am just happy with the knowledge I have attained.

Debra Taylor

TF: If you had the power to change the status quo, what would you do?

DT: I would take a two-pronged approach: top-down and bottom-up. I would attack the issues from both angles – interfacing with the servers to ensure they perform well and having one-to-one sessions with the managers to assist them in identifying areas of improvement. I believe that what anyone doesn't know about wines is what they don't want to know, as there is a wealth of information on the Internet, as well as the wine label also provides data about the wine; all persons need to do is read. The fact is, wine is the beverage that will continue to grow. Wine is not as complicated as we may believe anymore. Wine has been demystified. Many persons come to our shores who are used to engaging wine service providers about the wines being offered. At Select Brands, we have had to place brand ambassadors in the trade so that they are able to perform this basic requirement of explaining the wines and providing additional insight as necessary.

Kerri-Anne Reckord

TF: Since the opening and subsequent exit of Bin 26, have you seen any changes?

KR: Bin 26 started as a wine bar – our key focus was on wines. We realised that we had to add an element of food; however, we were fully dedicated to wines and wine services. What I see today are a number of restaurants with a good wine selection and staff possessing reasonable knowledge about wines. The knowledge base has certainly improved; however, there is tremendous room for improvement. Those of us who have had the opportunity to travel have experienced staff who can have a full conversation about wines – we are not there yet. In Jamaica, you may find a few persons who possess a real passion for wines, but this is not consistent across the restaurant ad food service industry.

Thanks again to all our Bar None readers who continue to make this journey worthwhile. Cheers to new beginnings and continuations of those experiences that delight us.

Readers' Feedback:

Extraordinary wonder and joy are interwoven through ordinary life; seek for them relentlessly. Please share with me your wine, spirits and cocktail experiences or comments on the above article at, or follow me on IG @debbiansm #barnoneja.

Debbian Spence-Minott

An Alumna of the US Sommelier Association

CEO of the Academy of Bartending, Spirits & Wines

President, Jamaica Union of Bartenders and Mixologists (JUBAM) Limited

Marketing Studies Lecturer – The University of Technology, Jamaica

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