A fascinating insight into the preferred tipples of amazing mixologists
Drinking to an expert standard, instead of drinking to excess? It’s a thought, certainly.
We at The Independent decided to up our cocktail game by finding out from some of the country’s top mixologists what their poison is, and why.
Despite being experts of innovation, surprisingly many of our interviewees were suckers for the classics, with most choices veering to the traditional with a twist.
In no particular order, here are some of Britain's top bartenders with their picks for their favourite cocktails, how to make them, and drink's Unique Selling Point.
Martin Siska – bar manager at Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood, London, voted best bar manager of the year at Class Bar Awards
My favourite cocktail from our menu is “Orbis Non Sufficit”, because it is a well-balanced and approachable style of Martini, remaining loyal to, and not deviating too far from the classic.
With the vermouth being aged for one month in barrels which have been pre-washed with pistachio liqueur, this drink offers a new flavour dimension of sweetness, with a level of dryness which allows its origins to remain clear.
It includes a few simple ingredients (Ford’s gin, roots Mastiha, pistachio-aged vermouth blend, pink grapefruit and pickled walnut), which we then elevate with a complexity of flavour profiles from interesting elements such as grapefruit zest and pickled walnut garnish, to replace the more typical olive or lemon peel.
Another unique aspect is the way in which this cocktail offers drinkers a less potent and sweeter option before approaching the classic version of a dry Martini, appealing to a wider range of palettes.
USP: This creation is based upon a bespoke caricature of James Bond, designed by artist Gerald Scarfe, to which the bar’s concept is dedicated. But our cocktail is not shaken, it’s stirred – as a real Martini should be.
Julien Billet – bar manager at The Salt Room and Brighton Bartender 2017
I am in love with classics that are as adaptable as the person drinking it. So a Martini – this can be gin or vodka, the garnish plays a big part of the drink, you can go sweet or sour, or add a savoury twist.
USP: This is a drink that if you ask the drinker the right questions to find out their tastes, you can mix the perfect Martini for them each time.
Rob del Giorno – owner / operator of 1-800-BARTEND, New York’s largest professional bartending school
My favourite warm season cocktail is a Hot Pineapple Guavarita. Similar to the way a Margarita is perfectly balanced on a person’s palette, I get to watch the customers eyes light up, smile ear to ear, and say, “That’s perfect”. With a salt rim, it distinctly allows the guest to taste spicy, salty, sweet if perfectly balanced.
It’s made with 1.5 oz blanco tequila, 2.5 oz fresh pineapple juice, 2.5 ozguava nectar, 1.5 oz homemade jalapeno simple syrup and half ice. Salt the rim of a hurricane or large format glass, shake the ingredients in a large metal shaker, pour over fresh ice through a strainer, garnish with a pineapple wedge and serve.
USP: It’s a sweet drink for ladies, but because of the jalapeño men aren’t ashamed to order it.
Lachlan Rooney, whisky writer and bar manger at The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh
My favourite cocktail at the moment is a sweet rye Manhattan. It oozes class and elegance, and has set in motion a plethora of twists and takes that have evolved the drink into the 21st century. I’m somewhat of a traditionalist, so the classic will do for me.”
The ingredients for my favourite version are: 50ml Hudson Rye, 25ml Antica formula, 1 dash angostura bitters, 1 dash orange bitters.
Thoroughly stir all of the ingredients down, then double strain into an ice-cold coupette. Zest an orange peel over the glass then discard, maraschino cherry optional.”
USP: Its timeless sophistication and aura of respect if commands. Many of the biggest names in Hollywood, politics, aristocracy and the military have all laid praise upon the drink, and when imbibing it almost feels like you’re tasting a piece of history.
Giovanni Tavano, senior bartender at Sexy Fish, Mayfair
If I have to choose then I would say a “Bobby Burns” with a nice Balvenie 12 Year Old DoubleWood.
The ingredients are Scotch whisky, sweet vermouth and a touch of Dom Benedictine. It’s stirred and served straight up, and I love to add cherry as a garnish. You can think outside the box and make your own alternative by substituting one of the sweeter ingredients with something more to your own taste.
USP: This is a classic. I would say it’s almost a vintage and forgotten cocktail.
Steve Pineau, Theme magazine’s UK best bartender 2002, founder of L’Atelier Du Vin, Brighton
I choose the Sazerac, a New Orleans version of the classic whiskey cocktail. I love the balance between the cognac and rye, and the Peychaud’s and Absinthe that finish the flavour. It’s one of the earliest cocktails that you drink like a spirit, with no ice and a large glass to let the cocktail breathe.
USP: A cocktail like this with just a couple of ingredients needs to be done properly, and you’ll know when it is.”
Francesco Cama, bar manager at Eve, Covent Garden
I am a huge fan of the Japanese mizuwari, meaning “mixed with water”, which is how people like to drink their spirits in Japan. It’s extremely versatile and the perfect sipping drink to enjoy at any time of day! One part Scotch whisky, two parts still water, and a pinch of salt adds the magic.
Build the drink in an high–ball glass with big chunks of ice in order to keep it at the right temperature and avoid any extra dilution.
Our version, Whisky Avenue, is our own twist on a Mizuwari, with Glenfiddich 12–year–old Scotch whisky. We also reduce a sour beer made from gooseberries into a syrup, and then we lengthen the drink with juniper–infused water.
USP: I like to think every single element that goes in the glass has a purpose behind it, either to add a particular flavour or aroma, or simply to enhance the drinking experience. We created this drink to tell a story, and history has never been so tasty!
Tristan Stephenson, drinks industry professional and author of The Curious Bartender series of drinks books
The best thing about cocktails is that you don’t have to pick a favourite! There are great drinks for every occasion, and cocktails can simulate the strength and taste balance of wine, beer, liqueurs and even juices.
If I’m drinking an aperitif I tend to go for light spirits and bitterness, so something like an Americano cocktail spiked with a gin (I personally prefer juniper-forward gins like Caorunn, Tanqueray or Beefeater) or a classic Martini with a drop of bitters. If it’s mid-evening drinking, you’ll find me holding a Rob Roy or a Sazerac (with Cognac, please).
USP: These drinks have a more concentrated flavour profile that keep you on your toes well in to the early hours.
Ricardas Znamenskas, crowned Be At One’s Best Bartender two years running
My favourite at the moment has got to be our Jet Pilot cocktail, comprising Plantation OFTD rum, plantation five year old rum, spiced lime liquor, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit, lime and absinthe.
USP: The Jet Pilot’s hint of spice and subtle sweetness perfectly complements dark chocolate – a match made in heaven for me.
Jared Brown, co-founder and master distiller of Sipsmith gin, author of Shaken Not Stirred: A Celebration of the Martini
My taste tends towards classic gin cocktails, of which there are many! My favourite has to be the Martini, made using classic quality handcrafted Sipsmith London Dry Gin which was created to bring alive a long neglected classic style of gin in London, the birthplace of gin.
A Martini should be thrown and made dry, with freshly opened vermouth. My favourite garnish here is a lemon twist squeezed over the drink and discarded, without ever touching the glass.
The best Martini and the perfect Martini are two different things. The perfect Martini is made with sweet and dry vermouth (just as a Manhattan made with sweet and dry vermouth is the perfect Manhattan). The best possible Dry Martini, in my opinion, is the one above made with Sipsmith classic quality London Dry Gin.
USP: For a good Martini you, like all generations of Martini drinkers, will have to explain precisely how you would like to have it made.
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