The Trianon Palace Hotel, next to the Palace of Versailles, was our venue for the first night of the Grand Masters Rally which was to take us to Sancerre, Amboise and Cognac. Twenty four cocktail bartenders from the US, or mixologists as they term themselves, had won a national competition and flew in that evening as the guests of Grand Marnier. The welcome dinner was a short walk up the road at La Boeuf a la Mode, a restaurant full of old French charm and character.
It is rare to find a manual car in the USA so it was with trepidation that the mixologists sat behind the wheel, the next morning, and tried their hand at clutch and accelerator coordination! There were a few spinning wheels and sharp starts but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it and, after a briefing on how to read the Roadbook in conjunction with the rally meter, we were off!
We all made it to Sancerre for a late lunch and after checking in to La Panoramic Hotel there was time to explore the beautiful cobbled streets and picturesque views of the town. There then followed a tour of the cellars and wine tasting at the Castle, which towers over the town, before arriving at Restaurant La Tour for a most excellent dinner!
We headed for Amboise in the morning, travelling down the beautiful Loire valley and a coach took us from Le Fleuray Hotel, a wonderful hotel just outside town, to Le Shaker Cocktail Bar, situated on the Loire river, where our mixologists teamed up with 12 young students from a French Bartender Training College, to compare notes and compete at making cocktails with a few prescribed bottles of this and that …and the results were quite delicious!
The following day took us to the Grand Marnier Chateau at Bourg Charente and a tour of the distillery with the Cellar Master, together with a tasting session. Grand Marnier really is a fabulous liqueur!! There was then time to check into the Hotel L’Yeuse before a coach took us back to the chateau for drinks, a cocktail competition and dinner.
It was an early start the next day for our mixologists, who left in a coach at 7am for a few days in Paris, which no doubt included visiting a few local cocktail bars!
This left us with 12 x 2cv’s in Cognac and later that day a new team of drivers flew into Angouleme……. and so the ‘Crawford Capers’ began!!