Dick’s Bar

Genre: Food and Drink
Channel: Channel 4
Transmission: 25/02/2000 - 28/04/2000


Our all time favourite cocktail is a fairly simple one. Half a pint of cider with a shot of absinthe in it. Most people recoil in horror when we mention this, but it's delicious. It really is. It's like drinking an entire pack of Black Jacks, but with the added bonus of not getting stuck in between your teeth. Unfortunately, side effects tend to include lurid and manic dreams coupled with 4am dashes to the porcelain telephone. Maybe we need to seek out something more sophisticated. Maybe we'll start at Dick's Bar.

Dick's Bar is a curious little watering hole manned by Dick Bradsell. Episodes are shot from the point of view of a boozy customer, indicated by the camera veering from side to side. Dick begins talking to the customer and a choice remark leads him to making a specific cocktail. This is concocted before our very eyes and then served to the customer. Dick then regales us with the history of the drink and any interesting side notes about it. The recipe is shown onscreen and then the bar closes down for the night. Some of the cocktails featured at the bar included: Bloody Mary, Mint Julep and French 75.

Dick's Bar was a Multi Media Arts production which aired in early 2000. 10 five minute episodes were produced by Mark Gorton and directed by Dinkesh Miesuria. It was part of Channel 4's much missed 4Later slot. Consequently, it aired very late, usually around 1am to open the 4Later programming.

Dick Bradsell is one of the world's foremost bartenders and was credited with revolutionising London's cocktail scene in the 1980s. A million miles away from Tom Cruise as Brian Flanagan in Cocktail, Dick is a fairly ordinary, unassuming fellow from the Isle of Wight. However, his ability to blend spirits, liquers and practically anything else into sharp, sophisticated cocktails is second to none. His career started in the late 1970s in the Zanzibar club where he began to build up an encyclopaedic knowledge of cocktails. Creating modern classics such as the Espresso Martini has seen Bradsell shaking and stirring at fabled London watering holes such as the Groucho club, the  Atlantic Bar and The Green Fingernail. He currently runs The Pink Chihuahua in Soho.

There's not a scrap of footage online of Dick's Bar so we had to head to London for another visit to the BFI Archive; we watched the 'Zombie' and 'Martini' episodes. It's typical 4Later fare with it's woozy, late night feel and this suits Bradsell's style. At first glance, you could easily mistake him for a civil servant, but once you're acquainted with him, you begin to realise that there's something mysterious at his core. If you were to discover an old abandoned bar, you wouldn't be surprised to find Bradsell there, Boston shaker in hand. In the blink of an eye, though, he'd be gone. And in your hand, you'd find the perfect cocktail.

Anyway, the actual content of the show is... ok. Instructions for making the drinks are clear and simple, whilst Bradsell's history lessons act as a nice bit of trivia. However, it's not much of a show. A man mixes up a drink, tells us the story behind it and, before you know it, he's gone. In a book, fine, you can pick it up when you want and have a quick flick through. With TV, I doubt many people would have been tuning in for so little. The 'cocktail lesson' concept is, we think, better handled on Something for the Weekend, where Wayne Collins has a short segment involving the presenters and guests. It's a brief palate cleanser inbetween all the food talk and it works well. Summing up then, Dick's Bar, whilst no Sunday morning hangover, is not exactly a Saturday night absinthe and cider high either.

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