Building the perfect cocktail

Nick Mautone

When we first met Nick Mautone, Grey Goose’s US ambassador, at the brand’s Blue Door series in the Hamptons, he was shaking up sunny, farm-to-table cocktails. But now that fall’s here and we’re about to hit cozy house party season, we checked in with the master mixologist for his tips on how to make a mean cocktail from the comfort of our kitchen.

Find your balance

“The first and most important tip is to make your cocktail balanced,” says Mautone. “What I mean is if you use too much lemon juice and not enough simple syrup or agave, the drink is going to taste highly acidic and it won’t feel refreshing — it’ll bother your stomach. It’s really about the right balance of alcoholic strength, acidity and sweetness.” And although there’s no exact ratio, Mautone imparted to us an old saying for a classic recipe: Two parts strong (that’s alcohol) one part weak (which would be a cordial or something similar) one part sour (lemon or lime juice) and one part sweet (simple syrup or agave). “Try to follow the recipe as close as possible and adjust according to your needs,” he says.

‘You can’t bruise the gin’

“You can’t shake or stir a drink too much,” says Mautone. “Most people give it one or two jiggles and then they go ‘Gee, this doesn’t taste as good as the bar or restaurant I had it at.’ You need an appropriate amount of dilution in a cocktail, the amount of water from melted ice really does make a difference. So stop being lazy — put a little muscle into it.”

Use good ice

When throwing a big party, we all hit up the grocery store for bags of ice. But if you’re having a smaller affair, impress your guest with perfect, shiny cubes. “Get a bunch of ice trays and fill them with hot tap water,” instructs Mautone,  “which will freeze slowly and therefore freeze very clear.” And if you’re feeling ambitious for your bigger events? “Pop your ice out of the ice tray, put them in a Ziploc bag and do multiple rounds.”

Play up flavors

Margaritas aren’t the only drinks deserving of salt. “Take a thin slice of cucumber and float it on top of your drink and sprinkle it with some smoked salt. Then it will gently infuse and flavor the drink without being overpowering.”

Trends
   
Savory herbs:
“One of my favorite trends is the use of savory herbs in cocktail making. It’s something I’ve been doing for a long time and I’m glad to see it take hold, whether it’s the use of sage, rosemary, thyme,” says Mautone.

Wood-aging cocktails: “This a minitrend we’re working on. You take a cocktail like the Negroni and putting it into a small barrel and let it sit for a couple of days and then serve it at a party.”

Drink this!

GREY GOOSE Wise Old Sage
   
1½ parts GREY GOOSE La Poire flavored vodka
1 part agave nectar or simple syrup
½ part Canton ginger liqueur
½ part lime juice
4 fresh sage leaves
4 slices of cucumber

Directions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker place syrup, sage and cucumber and muddle thoroughly. Add ice and the remaining ingredients. Shake vigorously until the outside of shaker is frosted and beaded with sweat. Double strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with sage or cucumber.


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