Welcome drinks are a fast-emerging trend as drinkers look for a sophisticated start to an evening. “It’s ideally something that’s low alcohol,” explains Sotti. “Something celebratory that shows your guests you’ve gone that extra mile. In modern-day entertaining that gets lost sometimes.”
When creating his welcoming concoctions, Sotti always has a very specific goal in mind. “I look at traditional cocktails as a base, using different styles to create drinks that cater to all palates, while staying true to the welcome-drink philosophy.”
Here are five of Sotti’s Welcome Drinks, with tips on how to make two favourites at home.
The Royal March
“This is an emulation of champagne that speaks to the tradition of the drink as an aperitif, but will also surprise and delight. It’s based on Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve, which carries a lovely, fruity characteristic, with the dryness of a nice nutty Manzanilla sherry providing a rich backbone to the drink. Then it’s just a little touch of lemon juice to bring that acidity to the table.”
“The Boutonnière is the flower you place in the lapel of your tuxedo. This drink evokes that sense of class and occasion, but also speaks to two of my favourite Martini variants – the Tuxedo and the Chrysanthemum. But Martinis are an acquired taste. Everyone loves the idea, but not everyone loves the drink itself. So I’ve created something a lot lower in alcoholic strength. You can have that sophistication of a classic Martini glass and a nice garnish without it knocking your socks off.”
The Eton Cobbler
“The Cobbler was one of the first classic low-alcohol cocktails – some sherry shaken with citrus, sugar and served over crushed ice, then garnished with seasonal fruits. I’ve played around with the ingredients, fortifying the base with some Ketel One Vodka, riesling and eschewing the sugar and fruit for a nice strawberry jam that you could get at any supermarket. Then it’s just some lemon to garnish. This is a very easy drink and perfect for trying at home.”
“There’s a beautiful tequila-based cocktail called the Paloma. With the Frida Fizz I wanted to recreate that, but with a slightly more masculine edge. I’ve kept the tequila but added coriander and orange syrup, a bit of Aperol aperitif, a touch of lime and topped it with a local sample pale ale.”
“I’ve combined coffee with the Negroni to create this bittersweet and aromatic drink. It’s coffee-infused rye whisky combined with sweet vermouth, Campari and stirred down over ice. It’s not for everyone, but has a cultish feel to it, and offers up something a bit different.”
Sotti has created his Welcome Drinks to be easily made at home but recommends both the Eton Cobbler and Boutonnière in particular.
A reimagining of the classic fruity sherry Cobbler – light and delicious.
Approximately 1.5 standard drinks.
30ml Ketel One Vodka
45ml dry riesling
1 heaped tsp of strawberry jam
2 dashes of celery bitters
2 wedges of lemon
Shake, then pour over crushed ice. Serve in a copper julep cup or any metal vessel, and garnish with seasonal fruit and berries and a mint sprig.
A low-alcohol martini where dry vermouth plays the leading role. Tanqueray brings spice and complexity to the table while thyme creates a herbaceous profile. An elegant, modern classic inspired by the Chrysanthemum and Tuxedo cocktails.
Approximately 2 standard drinks.
20ml Tanqueray gin
40ml Noilly Pratt (dry vermouth)
10ml thyme syrup (dissolve 100g of caster sugar in 100ml of boiling water and 1 small bunch of thyme, allow to infuse for 1 hour)
1 dash of Angostura bitters
Stir over ice and serve in a frozen Martini glass. Garnish with a thyme sprig.