There’s blood all over the oranges while customers try their best to sing along to the karaoke, a live band playing the instrumentals. “You gonna have to go to A&E mate…this is bad, like stitches bad, maybe,” warns Morten Kjareulff, bar manager of London Cocktail Club in Shoreditch. I gather my senses. I’ve cut my right ring finger slicing oranges for the ‘Whisky Old Fashioned’ cocktail. I call an Uber and I’m off to Whitechapel’s Royal London Hospital.
On any given night, our head bartender James Drummond can be found whacking an ice bucket with a bar spoon, screaming at customers, “Shut the fu** up please! We’re going to play a game of sharks. Imagine they are everywhere around you. I’d advise you to get on top of the tables right now and dance to the next song.”
This is London Cocktail Week, bravely organized by a company called ‘Drink Up London’ in its sixth year running. From 5-11 October, bars all across London battened down the hatches. With over 250 bars participating in £5 specials, it would seem that the romanticism of cocktails never did die out. My aim was to write about my experiences working in a cocktail bar during cocktail week, but it seems my aim is terrible, as I’ve now sliced open my finger with a cutting knife.
“Most people have no idea what they are drinking – they just wanna have a good time. And what’s so wrong with that?” says Mattia Conti, Bar-Manager at the London Cocktail Club in Shoreditch.
I am in the waiting room of A&E. After an hour of holding my skin together with a blue cloth, now drenched in blood, I am called in by a very friendly nurse, who says that I can return to my mixology duties for the rest of the weekend so long as I don’t get my finger wet. She then holds it together with butterfly stiches, and plasters it up in a fabric cast. The gash is about the width of a five pence piece.
I take the Friday off to rest up, but am called in on Saturday. There are easily one hundred and fifty people in the venue. I do the night with one hand in a glove, taped together in a make-shift sling of electrical tape. Our owner, JJ Goodman is on top of the bar, pouring tequila straight from the bottle into customers mouths shouting, “Sorry for the wait guys, here’s something to hold you over…we’re really busy!” Reflectively washing the glassware, I vow never to rush the cutting of an orange wedge again.