It’s going to be a cracking spring this year, and Sydney’s ready for some fresh flavours. Check out three drinks that will define the season, if you let them.
Cognac and Tonic
Hot off the press is a tasty, counterintuitive combo. Cognac as a spirit is a bit backwater at the moment, a bit old-worldy, but the noble drop was a tried and true favourite of mixology’s forefathers. Its heady bouquet combines deftly on the palate with a bunch of rich, diverse flavours, resulting in loads of potential for mixed drinks. Strangely, it is fantastic when freshened up with a bottle of tonic water. Grab a glass (short is best) in a reasonable size. Too small and your ratio of spirit-to-mixer will be out (four to one is ideal). Pop in a measure of cognac (Hennessy VS is fantastic for mixing) and loads of ice. Top it with the tonic water and a big, fresh slice of lemon. It’s a perfect spring session drink which oozes left-of-centre cool.
An aperitif cocktail that doesn’t fail in any season is the Negroni. If you haven’t experienced this combination of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth, you need to get out more, but you also need to have a go at the Negroni Spagliato. This interpretation takes the original ingredients and gives them a cheeky tickle along with some vivacious Prosecco. For those playing along at home, pour 20ml of the gin, Campari and sweet vermouth into a tall glass full of ice, give it a stir to mix, and charge the lot with a good splash of quality Prosecco. Garnish with a large, proud slice of orange and enjoy. Two of these will set you up perfectly for a meal. Five and you may not find your table!
Sloe Gin Collins
An oft-forgotten product that deserves some attention is sloe gin. Essentially, it’s classic gin soaked in sloe berries from the blackthorn bush for a few weeks until it absorbs loads of flavour and colour. The resulting plum-coloured spirit is delicious, with earthy, berry richness which develops in tang and dryness as it crosses the palate. Playing around with substitutions for gin this spring will get you ready for summer. The classic Tom Collins with Plymouth Sloe Gin is transcendental! This cocktail is a simple yet effective mix of gin, lemon and sugar charged with soda and served over ice. All barkeeps in the know should be able to mix you a tasty one without fuss, but if you are steering the ship, try this recipe: in a tall glass, mix 45ml of sloe gin with 20ml of freshly pressed lemon juice (it takes around 20 minutes for lemon juice to begin seriously oxidising, and like sweet corn that’s just been picked, it’ll never be the same again!) and 15ml of sugar syrup (equal parts white sugar and warm water stirred until clear). Stir briefly to introduce a little dilution, before topping with more ice and soda. If you happen to be wandering in a country garden wearing a nice shirt and vest while sipping one of these, you may even slip back in time. Consider yourself duly warned.
Mixing drinks in the home can be like cooking – at once stimulating and challenging. So I implore you to use plenty of dry, well-stored ice. Ice is one of the biggest concerns for professional bartenders, and is integral to making a great drink. The key factors involved here are temperature versus dilution – if your ice is in small pieces and swimming in water, your drink is destined to be tepid and watery. So, if you want to impress your guests this season, cram every glass with as much as you can. Happy mixing!
Adi Ruiz is an industry consultant and multi-award winning bartender.