Brighton Gin – Raoul-style!

A couple of years ago, I was in Oman, running a Management Audit course for a dozen  employees of a well-known petro-chemical conglomerate. The group they had sent me was the usual mix of nationalities, religions and language abilities.

Years of practice meant that I could judge how difficult or easy the week was going to be within a couple of hours of our first meeting. In keeping with my own tradition, I asked the course participants to interview each other and then introduce the person they’d interviewed. That gave me an idea of what they were all about but more importantly, their English Language skills.

We were is a very posh hotel for a week which gave me the opportunity not only to teach them some “hard-skills” but as usual, I planned to spend some time with each delegate informally – especially those who I felt might be “shy” and not ask questions or fully participate.

Having spent many years in hotels all over the world, I have two very simple rules: When I’m working I don’t drink alcohol or eat abnormally. However, this particular course turned out to be an epic which caused me to break one of my rules, for a very unexpected reason.

The Brazilian delegate spoke Linguaphone American (what I call the “tennis-player” accent) and although his English was passable, he was the most withdrawn of  the whole group. He was the lone accountant …the others ranged from a couple of crazy drillers from the USA to a petrol station manager from Poland…all wildly extrovert.

On the second night, I asked the Brazilian to sit with me over a drink to see how he felt. We chatted about this and that, he noticed that I was nursing a lime juice. “Don’t you drink alcohol?” he asked.

” I MOST certainly do,” I replied…”but never when I’m running a course.”

” I see you are drinking LIME. Have you ever tasted a proper Vodka and Lime?”

I had only ever had a British Vodka and Lime…you know, the one with a shot of vodka plus a shot of cordial, topped-off with ice. He smiled…..
“Let me make you a REAL Vodka and Lime!”

JUST to be sociable, you understand…I nodded…and that simple nod was to lead to one of the most memorable drinks I have ever tasted.

We both walked up to the bar and  he asked whether he could go behind the bar.

The barman said “Yes, of course” and my new Brazilian friend, Raoul was away!

He asked for sugar and fresh limes. A vast quantity of each was brought from the hotel kitchen and he began…and as he worked, I saw his demeanour change from standoffish accountant to Vodka super-hero!

Needless to say, the other course delegates gradually gathered around the bar to witness Raoul’s alchemy.

He cut limes in half and squeezed juice into a jug. Then he sliced limes and ground them with sugar to release oils from the rind (a Mortar and Pestle had been delivered from the kitchen). The green sugary Lime-sludge was deposited in the jug with the Lime juice. Then he crushed ice and threw it into the jug with a Brazilian flourish. Finally, a fresh bottle of vodka was brought from the freezer and glugged over the jug’s ingredients.

By then we were all slavering. Raoul lined up many glasses, placed ice cubes into each and began to pour his elizir. He then popped a swizzle stick in each and casually said “Enjoy!”

And we did!  For most of the night……..and Raoul became the most popular (and extroverted) course delegate – although my 9 a.m. training session the following morning felt a bit flat!

You may be forgiven for wondering what precipitated such self-indulgent nostalgia….

Last week I invested in a bottle of Brighton Gin and as soon as I opened it, I knew that this was not just gin…this was GIN….Gin which deserved some  care and special attention….and while I am sure that tipping Tonic into it and floating a slice of lemon is perfectly fine, I felt that it deserved more….SO…..

I gave it the FULL Raoul!

Only FOUR ingredients: Lime , sugar, ice and Brighton Gin…..but WHAT a mix!

It was sublime (geddit?), delicious and I have a new hobby….although, for the moment, my wife continues to have me on vision only!