Ingredients should be local, seasonal
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For some people, the phrase “cocktail party” has this stale, ‘80s whiff about it, evoking images of tiki parties, paper umbrellas and Ray-Ban Wayfarers.
“Cocktails were very naff,” says Jamie Walker, a London-based mixologist and Bombay Sapphire spokesman (“naff” being Brit-speak for tacky). “Coconuts, sparklers, umbrellas ... you know, people who wear far too much Brute aftershave while drinking ridiculous looking cocktails.”
Cocktails are finally shaking off their ’80s hangover, however. “There’s a resurgence and renaissance happening when it comes to cocktails,” says Walker, who also mixes drinks for celebs like Madonna and Elton John. Partly fuelling this renaissance, Walker explains, is the fact that people have grown more appreciative of ingredients, both in entrées and beverages. “People are a lot more savvy about ingredients and seasonality now,” Walker says. “They’re really looking into exactly what makes things taste a certain way.”
For Walker, seasonality has always been important and he’s adamant about only using fruit that are in season. When shaking up cocktails, he also likes to incorporate local ingredients. “It makes it much more personable to that area,” he explains, “and it really boosts the local mixology or bar culture.”
Here in Canada, berries are currently having their day in the sun and Walker is touring the country with some tips for throwing a Canuck-inspired cocktail party, just in time for Canada Day.
When infusing cocktails with some Canadiana flavour, Walker’s favourite ingredient to use is the Saskatoon berry, which he says is very high in demand across the pond. “I think they’re fantastic,” he says. “They’re huge in Scotland.” He suggests muddling the Saskatoon berry with some fresh basil and double straining it with gin and cranberry juice. “You can even add a crack of black pepper,” he says. “It will taste almost like a pinot noir.”
Mixing together homegrown berries, like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, also make for a tasty little patio drink, especially refreshing with a dash of chilled green tea. And while lemonade isn’t local to Canada, it is always in season, says Walker, and makes for a quick and easy summer cocktail when mixed in with some gin and mint leaf.
Easy on flavours, garnish ...