BEHIND THE SCENES WITH ANDRE DUNCAN

Grow your own cocktail in Dubai Behind the scenes with Andre Duncan 

Tell us about the taste of the Camel Milk?

I remember it has a sharp taste, a bit salty and a little acidic, but at the end of the day, it remains milk. Kinda reminded me of goat milk.

Tell us about the texture?

The camel milk we used wasn't too fatty and, believe it or not, had a texture I could describe as "milky".

What sort of ingredients have you discovered in Dubai?

We visited a Dutch lady who runs a greenhouse in the outskirts of Dubai. I was quite curious to see how she did it because I work with farmers in Quebec who also grow herbs, flowers and veggies all year round. The products were basically the same, but the context and challenges are so different since the outside temperature goes up to 40 degrees in the UAE and down to minus 40 in Quebec. I really enjoyed walking around the souk: so many colours, smells, spices, dried flowers, teas...

Any memories about the Souk you would like to share?

In one of the shops, a guy wanted to convince me to buy honey from Iran saying it was the best honey in the world, produced in Iran. After doing the conversion, I realized he wanted to sell me one kilo of honey for 250 euros. Before politely declining the very generous offer, I asked him if Iranian bees collect pollen from diamonds instead of flowers.

In another shop, the vendor asked me to close my eyes and inhale deeply from my nose on his signal. What could go wrong right? When I did inhale, I was surprised and no longer afraid of death! He burned a white prism of menthol and I inhaled the smoke through my nose. I was light headed for a few seconds, tears were coming out of my eyes and I could feel a cold and weird sensation in my head, my nose and my throat. If you ever feel coffee is a boring way to wake you up, straight menthol is just the thing for you.

Any advice or tips you would like to share about sourcing very local ingredients for your bar?

Be proactive. Go meet the producers and talk to them, see where your ingredients come from, what's the philosophy and reality of the person(s) behind them. The better you understand the ingredients, the better you can work with them and most probably, you'll have new inspirations and stories to tell.

Have you been to any cool bar in Dubai? Any Advice?

My trip in Dubai was short and intense. We've been to a lot of restaurants and bars and they were all very good. If I had to pick one as my favourite, I'd have to go with Iris. The food was delicious and Yaroslav Proshuta took such amazing care of us. The ambiance and the view are surreal since it is so high. We were there at night and it is impressive to see all the lights from the buildings nearby.

Tell us about the masterclass, how was the bartender community in Dubai?

I was expecting around 30 bartenders and nearly 70 showed up. I think the community in Dubai in quite complex and diverse it is composed of bartenders from all around the world, but even if they come from different backgrounds and culture, they are united by a single passion. I have a feeling that a lot of bartenders from the UAE take their business really seriously, which is a very good thing in my opinion. I wouldn't be surprised to see UAE bartenders perform really well in global competitions and since Dubai and Abu Dhabi are surreal places, I'm sure surreal bar concepts and designs will keep popping. Some people in Dubai in the UAE have a lot of money to invest in wicked projects and they have access to many talented bartenders to make the craziest ideas a reality.

Your best memory?

Tough question. The camel farm in the middle of nowhere was a cool experience, but honestly, it takes me good people to make good memories, so I'd have to say the day and Masterclass at MMI was the highlight. Brandon Grusd and Sudeera Lakmal Fernando were incredible hosts and Dubai is lucky to have them to push the boundaries and, most importantly, share knowledge and love. After the Masterclass, I had the privilege to chat with a lot of bartenders and everyone was so nice. I was so thrilled to have people taste maple water in the middle of the desert, that was cool. Finally, I'd like to say that Shane Dempsey, the UAE Jameson Brand Ambassador was the MVP of the trip: he's crazy, he's adorable, he's kind, he's the whole package... and John Cena kinda looks like Shane, just less muscular.

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