Cocktails are enjoying a renaissance
Learn how to mix a sherry cobbler, classic sidecar or hedgerow martini
Cocktails are enjoying a renaissance, with new bars opening all over the show, and discerning drinkers mixing up more Aperol spritzes and negronis at home, too.
Home cocktail-making is also more popular, largely fuelled by the gin boom, and Aperol and vermouth sales are up internationally.
Ryan Chetiyawardana, who owns Dandelyan in London – crowned number one at the World’s 50 Best Bars awards this year – says cocktails have tipped into an everyday luxury.
“I think it’s partly because people are drinking less, and want something delicious and of higher quality when they do drink; but also because there’s always something unexpected and magical about a cocktail,” he says.
“People are definitely more adventurous now. They don’t baulk at unusual ingredients in drinks and have realised they can use their palate as a steer like they do in home cooking.
“If you like spiced, heavy autumnal dishes, then you know you’re going to like darker, spicier drinks, for example.
“Food and drinks use the same language – all you need is the words to translate your taste.”
The classics are a great way in.
“Look at the mojito and the Moscow mule: they do everything you want a cocktail to do.
“They are exciting and they have the ability to transport you from a dreary day to somewhere exotic.”
The gin craze helped pave the way for a reappraisal of cocktails. Drinkers realised different bottles had different flavours and started looking beyond tonic as a mixer.
“Gin cocktails are by far the most popular because the spirit is so versatile,” Alex Lawrence, founder of Porter’s Gin in Scotland, says. “It’s amazing, considering it was so uncool for a while.
“It’s been around for hundreds of years and it was drunk savagely in the 18th century when, it’s said, one in every three homes had a gin still.
“But by the '60s it started to be seen as stuffy and people switched to vodka, which was seen as a party spirit.”
The cocktail’s appeal is that you can do so much at home; grab a rosemary garnish from the garden or add a last-minute flavour boost from your favourite marmalade.
For a Christmas party at home try making cocktails to elevate the evening. Here are a few recipes for festive inspiration.
Ingredients 50ml medium cream sherry
25ml lime juice
15ml sugar syrup
Fruit and herbs Method
Muddle a small amount of fruit (pears, plums and quinces work perfectly) in the bottom of a highball glass, before adding the other ingredients and ice. Stir to mix and garnish with lots of fruit.
Ingredients 35ml cognac
15ml fresh lemon juice Method
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe glass for this short, slightly sour drink. Garnish with a twist of lemon if preferred.
Ingredients 50ml gin
10ml blackberry liqueur
20ml sugar syrup
20ml lemon juice
4 fresh raspberries Method
Shake all ingredients together and pour into a coupe glass. Garnish with raspberries.
How to start a cocktail bar
James Fowler, founder of a classy bar called The Library at The Larder House in Dorset, UK, says you can make 500 cocktails from 12 spirits if you know how to stock your bar.
He says there’s a really helpful guide showing you what to buy and how to use it in Difford’s Guide to Cocktails (diffordsguide.com), which he used when he was starting out.
“Base spirits to start with might include a vodka, whisky, rum, cognac, tequila, vermouth and champagne,” Fowler says. “Campari is very versatile, and sugar syrups and Angostura bitters are basic ingredients for a lot of drinks.
“Salt and pepper to season are key, and then get high-quality mixers – I recommend Fever-Tree tonic and ginger ale, plus Rose’s lime cordial – and think about fruit and herbs to garnish.
“A basic cocktail kit that includes a shaker and a few stirrers is really all you need, and decent glassware is important.
“Leave the massive martini glasses on the Caribbean cruise and forget about tulip-shaped hurricane glasses, just get some beautiful tumblers, highballs and smaller martini glasses to serve.”
Ice is often the most overlooked part of home bars, because lots of people are still scared it dilutes a drink too much, Fowler says.
“Just pay attention when you’re stirring it in and use ice moulds for professional golf ball-sized ice blocks in short drinks like you see in bars.
“What’s really important when making drinks at home is thinking about what you’re serving when, in the same way you would with food.
“Don’t start with anything too sweet that will ruin the guests’ palates, but ease them in with a champagne or sherry cocktail and serve richer, darker drinks later.
“I also found Tristan Stephenson’s The Curious Bartender really helpful, as it’s simple but geeky enough for you to really extend your knowledge of mixology if you want to.”– The Telegraph