Cocktails don’t need to be complex. Timeless classics –Daiquiris, Martinis and Negronis – are often the simplest.
“The best cocktails in the world only contain a few ingredients,” says Charlie Ainsbury, World Class Australia Bartender of the Year 2016 and co-owner of This Must Be The Place. “Like the Negroni, which is simply equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Or the Martini, which is just gin or vodka with dry vermouth. And the classic Daiquiri is just white rum with fresh lime juice and sugar.”
So what advice does Australia’s top bartender have for us when it comes to making simple but great cocktails? Balance. “Bartenders may seem nonchalant when making cocktails but we’re actually following a range of formulas and ratios to create that perfect balance in a drink,” he explains.
One of those “golden ratios” is 2:1:1, or two parts spirit to one part sour (lemon or lime), and one part sweet (sugar or a simple syrup). If you stick with this formula, says Ainsbury, you will always make a decent drink. “As long as that balance is there,” he says, “you really can’t go wrong.”
Fresh ingredients are also key. “Pay attention to what’s in season at your local grocer. If you want to make great-tasting cocktails, start by using great-tasting ingredients. If you are searching for something that is out of season, chances are you’re buying something imported, so it won’t taste as good as it could,” says Ainsbury.
Ainsbury also advises stocking your home bar with one decent spirit from each category (he recommends Don Julio tequila, Tanqueray gin, Ketel One vodka and Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky) before experimenting with different flavours. “Since your sour ingredients usually come in the form of lemon or lime, you can start to think about different sweeteners like honey and maple syrup,” he says. “They’ll add a different dimension to your cocktails.”
He suggests the Gimlet as a simple cocktail to have in your repertoire.
Makes one. Approximately 1.9 standard drinks.
50ml Tanqueray No. TEN gin
25ml fresh lime juice
2 tsp caster sugar
Add all the ingredients to a shaker or a jar with a lid, shake with ice and strain over fresh ice or into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a wedge of lime.
This article is presented in partnership with World Class.