Words by: Fabio Bacchi
Israeli bartender, Oron Lerner, is a classic example of how life can take a different turn when finding your passion, and in this case, it was his passion for bartending. Heading towards a career in technology, bartending was just some fun for Oron, no more than a side job.
He started serving coffees, followed by the first innocent drinks he prepared for tourists on the beaches of Tel Aviv, and the passion grew for Oron. At the age of 30, after carefully questioning what he really enjoyed, Oron realised that bartending would become his life. That passion became a revelation that would lead to a great career. Today, Oron is an example, a leader and ambassador for the bartending generation that has elevated the hospitality industry and cocktail culture in his country. And he continues to do so from the privileged stage of the Imperial Craft Cocktail Bar of Tel Aviv.
"This line of work isn’t about you. It’s about your customers. How you interact with them, the great drinks and the hospitality you provide them, will make you someone special to them, almost like a family member. We have a social responsibility.” Bars are influencing society more and more. “In many ways, yes. Less waste, less energy burned, more thoughtful processes and considerations. Bartenders are leaders of their communities, they shape a lot of how people act in their everyday lives and we do that through positive actions and fun experiences rather than that lecturing-style of old religion or moral high grounds. We can make the world a better place, and more bars and bartenders are finding out how".”
From a participant of the Cocktail Apprentice programme in 2013, to seminar presenter at Tales of the Cocktail in 2016, Oron has met people and brands that have made bartending history. Curious by nature, Oron has drawn from everyone like a sponge. His introduction to Cherry Heering took place a good while earlier.
"Cherry Heering was the first bottle I tasted from my parents’ liqueur cabinet, obviously while they weren’t watching. While it’s not a very exciting story, this is a great example of the liqueurs' heritage – it was sipped, mixed and even baked into cakes by our parents, and their parents before them. It has inspired countless interesting occasions and is still as relevant today as it was back then. It is a pillar of drinking cultures across the globe and that is no small feat.”
“I'd get more women involved. Our industry is surprisingly unapproachable for women, not to mention other genders, races and groups. Bar culture, and its sub-category, cocktail culture, isn't as diverse as I'd like it to be. We're about to start a series of events aimed at training more women in the industry. It has taken a lot of hard work with gender-studies professors to learn about what we are doing that’s not gender-friendly, and to come up with proper solutions to these issues. But we aim to train the next generation of local bartenders and offer more equal opportunity than there is now. In one of Terry Pratchett's favourite paradoxes, people are afraid of going back in time when a small change in history could result in huge changes to their current present and future – but very few people in the present believe they can make a difference with small gestures. In other words, the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, but the second-best time is now."
"On one of my trips, I came across a bar I'd heard of in a distant part of Europe. The bartender invited me to take a seat and I happily obliged. Instead of reading the menu, I opted for the bartender’s recommendation and he asked if I preferred gin or rum. ‘Rum,’ I replied. ‘Strong or weak?’ ‘I can do strong,’ to which he replied, ‘We'll start you off at level 3.’ Apparently the menu is divided into levels of strength, from 1 up to 5. I browsed the menu while drinking some of the best cocktails I've yet to taste, to see that listed at level 4, among a few other cocktails, was the Zombie. I thought to myself, ‘A place that makes such excellent drinks will have a Zombie I must try.’ But when I asked the bartender to make me a Zombie he replied, ‘Hold on, hold on. You can’t have the Zombie yet. Come back a few times, be a regular, let us know you can hold your liquor and then I’ll be happy to serve you the Zombie. ’ ‘An appreciative approach,’ I thought, and browsed the menu to the page listing just one drink at level 5. The writing was smeared on the paper as if to make you drunk just by reading it. I was surprised there was a level 5, and just one drink listed there. If I couldn’t have a level 4 unless I turn into a trusted regular, I asked what one needs to do to sip on that potent level 5 drink. The bartender explained that level 5 had NO alcohol at all. It’s a large drink, well garnished, that is meant to ensure that any guest walking in and immediately going for the strongest drink in the menu does NOT get drunk but merely enjoys the suggestion of drunkenness."
"1983 was the year Terry Pratchett's first book was published – The Colour of Magic, the first of the Discworld series. Cherries have a certain magic to them – they’re bitter, sweet and sour. Colour has a lot of meaning in a cocktail, and some colours invoke strong emotional responses – red, violet, dark colours, and in Terry Pratchett's world, the colour of magic (Octarine as it’s called) is described as 'a greenish purple'. I opted for something that would give the cocktail a similar colour, served in a coupe glass, making it look like the Discworld itself."
Glass: Flat-surfaced coupe or stemmed glass
Garnish: Orange zest
20ml Cherry Heering liqueur
20ml Chinato Vermouth
20ml Palo Cortado Sherry
2 dash Orange bitters