The founder of the best bar in the world wouldn’t rule out roast-potato cocktails for his Christmas drinks menu. Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr Lyan, who owns Dandelyan on London’s South Bank (crowned number one at the World’s 50 Best Bars awards this year) is explaining that cocktails can be made with pretty much anything, really – and that kitchen pantries are a great place to start. He has a drink on the Dandelyan menu made of potato purée and vodka, and another mixed with catnip, so he should know.
Cocktails are enjoying a renaissance, with new bars opening all over the country (look out, London), and discerning drinkers mixing up more Aperol spritzes and negronis at home, too. Last year, the UK cocktail industry was worth £506 million, a 10 per cent rise on 2016, while the venues serving them increased in number by 13 per cent, according to a CGA Mixed Drink Report purchased by Cellar Trends. The fact that 500 pubs shut in 2016 puts this growth into perspective.
Home cocktail-making is also more popular (fuelled by the gin boom, of which more later), with sales of John Lewis martini glasses rising by almost 30 per cent this year from last, while sales of cocktail staples Aperol (Sainsbury’s reports Aperol sales are up 38 per cent year-on-year) and vermouth are booming, too (Berry Bros and Rudd announced a whopping 41 per cent growth in sales of the aromatised wine).
Chetiyawardana realised just how much the landscape has changed during Sunday lunch with his father at a country pub near Birmingham this year. “They gave us a cocktail menu as soon as we sat down, which I was quite surprised by – being almost in the middle of nowhere at a proper pub – but I was more shocked when my dad ordered a rum mule,” he says. “He’s a staunch beer or wine drinker, who’d sometimes stretch to a gin and tonic.” For Chetiyawardana it was a signifier of how much 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 that 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 British day to somewhere exotic.” And Christmas party season is the perfect time to try out new flavours and techniques: see the recipes over the page for festive inspiration.
The gin boom helped pave the way for a reappraisal of cocktails; drinkers realised different bottles had completely different flavours, and started looking beyond tonic as a mixer.
“Gin cocktails are by far the most popular because the spirit is so versatile,” says Alex Lawrence, the founder of Porter’s Gin, which is made in Aberdeen. “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 Sixties it started to be seen as a stuffy and people switched to vodka, which was seen as a party spirit.”
With 47 million bottles of gin (worth £1.2 billion), consumed last year, according to the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, it’s been a huge comeback. There are now around 315 UK distilleries, double the number that existed five years ago, and the process is no longer exclusive to specialist spirit makers.
At the Rathfinny wine estate in the South Downs in Sussex, they use the rebêche, the by-product of the third pressing of the grapes, to make a gin called Seven Sisters (named after the nearby chalk cliffs) that works perfectly in a classic martini, (five parts gin to one part vermouth). The Botanist, an artisanal Islay gin, adds 22 wild local flowers and plants, including white clover, wood sage and watermint. Another, Silent Pool, is made in the North Downs from 24 botanical ingredients, and its garden was one of the most popular at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, partly because it showed you how to grow some of the ingredients: lavender, camomile and angelica.
For there lies the cocktail’s appeal: you can do so much at home; grab a rosemary garnish from the garden, raid the larder for a last-minute flavour boost from your favourite marmalade. Bars may be cropping up everywhere, and are a wonderful option for a night out, but for a Christmas party at home or a wintry night in, try making cocktails at home to elevate the evening.
- 40ml Pisco Quebranta
- 25ml fresh lime juice
- 20ml sugar syrup
- 25ml egg white
- 8 ice cubes
- 3 drops of Angostura bitters
Add all the ingredients except the bitters to a cocktail mixer and shake for 13 seconds. Strain into a tumbler martini glass. Garnish with a few drops of the Angostura bitters.
Recipe from the Lost Alpaca Bar at Lima Floral, London
- 50ml Xeco Amontillado
- 25ml lime juice
- 15ml sugar syrup
- Autumnal fruit and herbs
Muddle a small amount of the fruit (pears, plums, damsons and quinces work perfectly) in the bottom of a highball glass, before adding the other ingredients and ice and stir to mix. Garnish with lots of fruit.
A non-alcoholic take on this year’s most popular drink, the negroni.
- 25ml Seedlip 94
- 25ml Monte Rosso Non-Alcoholic Apéritif
- 25ml Blutul Bianco Vermouth
In a shaker, stir the spirits (available at Tesco, Waitrose and Amazon respectively) over ice for 15 seconds, then strain and pour into a tumbler over ice. Garnish with an orange wheel.
Recipe from Petersham Nurseries, London
- 50ml Silk Tree Irish spirit
- 25ml basil and black peppercorn syrup
- 25ml fresh lemon juice
- 25ml apple juice
- 2-3 drops of egg white
Roll the rim of a short glass in salt and black pepper, then shake this non-alcoholic, gin-like spirit with the other ingredients over ice, pour and serve garnished with pomegranate seeds and a sprig of basil.
- 35ml Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal cognac
- 30ml Cointreau
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe glass for this short, slightly sour drink that’s made with King Louis XV’s favourite cognac.
- 50ml Warner Edwards Harrington sloe gin
- 10ml creme de mure blackberry liqueur
- 20ml sugar syrup
- 20ml lemon juice
- 4 fresh raspberries
Shake all ingredients together and pour into a coupette glass. Garnish with raspberries, or anything you can forage while out walking.
- 60ml aquavit 20ml lime juice 12.5ml gomme
Make a gomme by boiling 2:1 parts of sugar with water. When cooled, shake all ingredients and fine strain into a coupe glass.
Recipe from Aquavit, London
- 10ml Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto
- Prosecco, to top up
- One scoop of lemon sorbet
- Lemon zest, to garnish
Add the Italicus (a bergamot liqueur), then prosecco to a coupe, then top with a scoop of sorbet. Garnish with grated lemon zest, to taste
- 50ml Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum
- 15ml runny honey
- 15ml fresh lemon juice
- 150ml hot water
- 1 tsp sugar
- Piece of cinnamon stick (or pinch of ground spice)
- Pinch of grated nutmeg
Mix everything into a mug and serve with cinnamon stick, grated nutmeg to taste and half a slice of orange.
Eight to 10
- 1 grapefruit
- 300ml gin
- 300ml sweet vermouth
- 300ml campari
- 6 blackberries
- 1 sprig rosemary
Peel a strip of zest from the grapefruit and add to a microwave-safe bowl with the other ingredients. Cover then blast in the microwave for three minutes on full-heat, allow to cool, strain, bottle and refrigerate. Pour over ice into a rocks glass to serve with a grapefruit garnish.
- 50ml Don Julio Reposado
- 50ml mulled wine
- 25ml lemon and orange juice
Serve warm in short glasses, garnished with orange wheels for a punchy equivalent to plain mulled wine at the start of the evening.