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Inside this issue

We couldn’t let Connaught Bar turn 15 without a bit of ceremony – the only question was, which of the bar’s three leaders should adorn the Spring 2023 cover of CLASS? We couldn’t decide, so did three shoots and three covers. Right now, you could be holding a Giorgio Bargiani, a Maura Milia or an Ago Perrone-fronted copy of CLASS. And yes, if you didn’t get your favourite, swapping is allowed – just don’t tell those concerned.

You might even get your hands on all three – if you do, line them up vertically to complete the picture. This was the best way we could think to illustrate the seamless excellence of the Connaught Bar over the years. In our interview, we hear all about how this venue launched in 2008 changed the hotel bar game.

While we celebrate the achievements of the best in our business, we have a word for the fallen too. In February and March we lost seemingly successful bar brands such as The Pineapple Club, Cottonmouth and Hedonist Bar. Indeed, they follow almost 5,000 hospitality venues which shuttered last year – can you believe rocketing operational costs have put paid to more venues in 2022 than in the pandemic-blighted 2021? Edmund Weil closed Oriole on New Year’s Eve and reflects, as many do right now, on what it is to close down a bar. It’s not necessarily the end of the road, he says.

Elsewhere in our comment pieces, Anna Sebastian enlightens us with her top tips for setting up a consultancy, Josh Linfitt of Ugly Butterfly debuts with an article on why the countryside makes for the perfect habitat for cocktail makers. Jake O’Brien Murphy returns with his meditation on the importance of classic cocktails – it’s considered thinking – while Monica Berg begins the first of a four-part series on seasonal drinks making.

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Getting our hands deeper into the liquid, we also unveil the results of The Bartenders’ Brand Awards 2023 – Class’s blind-tasted, value and design tested drinks competition. We pride ourselves on uncovering gems in these annual awards – and this edition is no different. Our Supreme Champion for 2023 is… disclosed in the BBAs section on page 31.

In our longer form pieces, Oli Dodd asks how we should consume and buy tequila ethically, we have spotlights on shochu, Southern European beer and Eastern European wine. Iain McPherson takes us through his freezing techniques, Julio Bermejo guides us through the minutiae of the Margarita and Tyler Zielinski reports on the new world of Old Fashioneds. Clinton Cawood opens the history books to the Last Word, which it isn’t quite. Last Orders closes the book with Satan’s Whisker’s Kevin Armstrong.