Getting Creative with Cocktails


In life, many a Thursday evening can pass with a glass of something whilst cooking, a moan at the lack of decent television and an early night in preparation for the weekend ahead. Last night was no such evening. I sashayed along to Cocktail Hour & Champagne at No. 3 St James’s Street for Berrys’ only Champagne and Cocktail specific event of the year, where special guest ‘bacchanologist’ Mark Jenner of the Connaught was shaking up an exciting range of drinks. The development of Spirits within Berry Bros. & Rudd is further acknowledgment that Cocktails are more exciting than ever and not just for the stereotypical demographic but more about a genre of drinks that can integrate with our everyday lives.

Wine is a natural partner to food and their affinity is renowned but a number of restaurants abroad and indeed in the UK are starting to consider the benefits of Cocktail and food matching. Aside from extended ageing or perhaps altering the service temperature, once a wine is in the bottle, the flavours largely cannot be manipulated. With Cocktails, flavours can be created, developed or tweaked to precisely match your dishes. The great news is that you don’t have to be a drinks professional or a trained mixologist to get creative with Cocktail making. The majority of us will have a bottle of Whisky or Gin somewhere perhaps amongst one or two suspect dusty bottles leftover from a Tombola. Aside from the additional elements of juices, herbs and Vermouth, it is surprising how creative you can be with a few basic bottles to start your Spirit store cupboard collection.

When considering cocktails, it is best not to just think of the main Spirit. As with food, only knowing the main ingredient will not lead you towards the best drinks match conclusion. Accompaniments and mixers are key. Drinks can often be considered a condiment to food as we would with salt, pepper or olive oil. Baked fish often suits an acidic vinegar, salty tang and a citrus character with full flavours and therefore think of those qualities before coming to a conclusion. I love Sangria made with red wine, a dash of King’s Ginger Liqueur and loads of fresh lemon in these instances.

Flavour – Cocktail and food matching shares many shadows with wine and food matching. Ideas such as trying to balance the flavour components of your drink to the flavours within the dish is perhaps the most immediate consideration. For example, you would avoid the likes of a spicy rich Syrah with light sushi, and you wouldn’t try a salty, citric Margarita with a heavy game casserole. The flavours are vastly different, the balance is wrong and it would baffle your taste buds.

Strength – To continue with the wine and food pairing comparisons, alcohol content is becoming an ever increasingly important consideration. Alcohol will of course be stronger in certain mixes depending on the ABV of the Spirit, the generous nature of who’s pouring, the added sweetness and the level of dilution from ice. Cocktails such as a No. 3 Gin Martini or an Old Fashioned need equal power from dishes with stronger profiles like salty or fried foods, smoked fish or even cheese. Likewise for matching delicate dishes with subtle cocktails.

Body – The mouth feel of a Cocktail is as important as it is in wines and so the texture should be as accurately paired as possible. For instance a sweet Sauvignon/Semillon blend in the guise of Sauternes offers dramatically different characteristics to the same grape blend served as a bone dry, crisp white from Graves. The sweet suits a Foie Gras and the simply latter would lack as a match.

My matches worth mentioning:

Bourbon Sour with BBQ lime chicken
Iced No. 3 Gin and cucumber with sushi
Cranberry Cosmo with a turkey sarnie
Glenrothes Manhattan with herb crusted rack of lamb
No. 3 Dry Martini with ‘picky’ nibbles; from crackers and olive tapenade, cheeses, artichoke hearts or even oysters, caviar & blinis if you want to indulge.

Connaught Cocktails

For those who were unable to attend the Champagne and Cocktail event, here are the recipes from celebrity mixologist Mark Jenner of The Connaught:

Classic Dry No. 3 Martini

1 tsp Extra Dry Vermouth
85ml No. 3 Gin
1 Amalfi Lemon

Pour the Extra Dry Vermouth into a frozen martini glass (either 7oz or 5.5oz glass) and coat the glass in a circular motion. Top up to the rim with ice cold No.3 gin. Pare the rind of an un-waxed Amalfi lemon, and give it a twist to extract the oils into the glass. Then serve garnished with the lemon peel.

No. 3 Negroni

35ml No. 3 Gin
35ml Red Vermouth
35ml Campari Bitters
1 Lemon
1 Orange

Mix all the liquid contents together in a heavy-bottomed tumbler with ice. Stir. Add a slice of orange and lemon zest to decorate.

Ginger Royale
35ml The King’s Ginger
140ml Berrys’ United Kingdom Cuvée Champagne

Pour a generous measure of The King’s Ginger into a flute.
Add chilled UKC Champagne to taste.

Laura Atkinson & Anne McHale