The Welcome Drink is fast becoming a favourite with drinkers looking to begin their evening with a palate-preparing starter, as well as with bartenders searching for more room to explore different flavour profiles. “It’s in the same vein as a glass of champagne. Something celebratory,” says Jack Sotti of Boilermaker House in Melbourne, and winner of the recent Diageo Reserve World Class Australia Grand Final. “You’re also bringing back the old school and the traditional. That’s the beauty of the welcome drink.”

Nathan Beasley of Melbourne’s Black Pearl agrees: “They are definitely becoming more popular,” he says. “I think the trend in low-alcohol cocktails is encouraging bartenders to create more aperitif-style drinks which the public are embracing.”

Welcome drinks also work perfectly with citrus. The citric acids in fresh fruits such as lemon, import the fresh sensation so inviting in a cocktail, while the malic acids are arguably even more important, exhibiting that sharp, tingly and enlivening taste. “You want your first drink of the night to be exciting,” Beasley says. “Citrus is bright and awakens your palate.”

But it’s each citrus fruit’s aroma that has the most impact on taste – particularly when it comes to the oils stored in the flesh, which are released as the fruit is prepared.

In a recent trip to Melbourne to host a temporary pop-up of their award-winning New York-based bar PDT (Please Don’t Tell) at the Black Pearl, Jeff Bell (former Diageo World Class US Bartender Of The Year) and Jim Meehan shared with Beasley their Jan Collins recipe, which is modern-day twist on the Tom Collins and a prime example of a citrus welcome drink.

Built on Ketel One vodka instead of gin, Bell’s recipe leverages the crispness of the base spirit and the addition of zesty orange and lemon accents to create an effervescent and easy-drinking cocktail. Check out the recipe below.

Jan Collins – Jeff Bell & Jim Meehan, Please Don’t Tell (NYC)
Approximately 2 standard drinks.

Ingredients:
45ml Ketel One Vodka
25ml fresh lemon juice
15ml Mandarine Napoleon
15ml simple syrup

Method:
Shake with ice and strain into a chilled Collins glass. Top with Soda. Garnish with an orange and cherry flag.