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Gaucho plans 2012 bar roll out

Gaucho is planning to roll out a series of its new cocktail bars this year, bringing a classic, upmarket Argentine twist to the UK scene.

Having just opened its first venue, Galante, next door to the group’s South Kensington branch in London, plans are already underway to open further bars at Gaucho on Swallow Street and in Leeds.

“It’s finishing off what Gaucho does,” said Lance Perkins, head of group bar operations for Gaucho. “We’ve never been able to offer a top bar experience too.”

The planned Swallow Street bar will take over the venue’s ground floor following a refurbishment, which will also see its Cavas de Gaucho wine cellars displayed more prominently. Beginning in April, the revamp is expected to be complete by October.

Meanwhile, according to Perkins, “we’re looking at the fourth quarter of this year for Leeds too.”

Explaining the reason for choosing this city, Perkins remarked: “It’s the perfect place; it’s such a drinking city ­– so many bartenders you see in London started in Leeds.”

Just as Galante is named after the nickname of Santiago “Pichin” Policastro, widely acknowledged as Argentina’s most famous bartender, the bars currently in the pipeline will honour other stars from the country’s cocktail history.

Emphasising that the new bar is very much a standalone destination, “not a holding bar for the restaurant by any means”, Perkins described Galante as “very much our take on the classic Buenos Aires hotel bars.”

To implement the project, Gaucho has brought over top Argentina bartender Tato Giavanonni, who has imported a selection of bar tools and ingredients to replicate the authentic Buenos Aires cocktail experience.

These include handmade silver julep strainers and bar spoons, as well as a bitter orange liqueur made from the delta and Pineral, which Giavannoni described as a “Jägermeister-style herb liqueur with a 140-year old history.”

In addition to Argentina’s most popular national drink, Fernet Branca, and the bitters which Giavanonni maintained “characterise Argentine cocktails”, he also hopes to revive the clericot, a wine-based cocktail which he feels has “become spoilt like Sangria because people just used cheap wine and cheap fruit.”

As for the attraction of working in the UK, Giavanonni said: “I love London; for me it’s the capital of the world, even more than New York.”

Having spent time in both cities, he elaborated: “For me it’s the people who work behind the bar in the UK. You see they love what they are doing and they’re more open to learning.”

Insisting that “there’s no other concept like this on the bar scene in London,” Giavanonni remarked: “Everybody is focused on Jerry Thomas, the speakeasy or New York and New Orleans classics, but there’s no single bar focused on South America. Buenos Aires in the ‘20s-‘40s was one of the biggest destinations in the world.”

As for the legacy left by Pichin, “El Barman Galante”, who died three years ago, Giavanonni highlighted the inclusion of Pichin’s bartenders’ code of conduct, which has been included in the back of the cocktail menu.

“It was the way he took the profession and devoted himself to this,” he recalled. “Even when he was 98, he was still doing things for bartenders.”

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