As Chad Parkhill will tell you, travel has always been a part of the cocktail’s DNA. His book Around the Word in 80 Cocktails will take you on a tour of the planet without leaving your liquor cabinet.
Now I’m a beer man myself, and quite the connoisseur, I might add. But my love of beer doesn’t preclude me from enjoying the odd cocktail. However, my knowledge of cocktails and ‘mixology’ (as all the ‘trendy’ people call it these days) is limited.
So, I got in touch with the author (and bartender – fancy that!) Chad, and asked him a few hard-hitting questions about the essential liquids and ingredients for your liquor cabinet, the best cocktails to make (and drink) and the ones that should not exist.
Now, as far as I’m concerned, writing a book about travel and the building and imbibing of alcoholic masterpieces sounds like an author’s dream. So, I couldn’t start the interview without asking Chad:
Q. How much fun did you have making this book?
A. Chad. I got to spend a few months feverishly researching drink history and writing by day, then recipe testing by night. It was a terrible ordeal, obviously, and one that I plan on avoiding in future by writing books about more sensible topics such as taxation law and the history of feudalism in the middle ages (What I mean to say is, it was an absolute pleasure to research and write – especially during recipe testing!).
Q. Which is your favourite cocktail to drink? Is it different from your favourite one cocktail to make?
A. My favourite cocktail to drink depends entirely on my mood – to my mind, part of the art of drinking well is knowing what cocktail best suits your present circumstances. Having said that, I usually opt for something simple and elegant, like a classic Martini or a Bamboo, rather than something with dozens of ingredients. When I’m making cocktails for others, I follow the same idea and have a chat with the person about what they feel like before starting to mix. It’s good to have a library of classics to draw on that you know will impress people – if someone says they like gin and citrus, you can blow their minds with a well-made Pegu Club or a Corpse Reviver No. 2, for example.
Q. Of the Australian cocktails, which is your favourite to drink/make?
A. There are three Australian cocktails in the book – the Japanese Slipper (invented in Melbourne), the Mesha (invented in London for a Brisbane bar) and the Rhubarb Fizz (invented in Sydney). Of the three, I reckon the Mesha is the most fun to make for others, but if I had to drink just one for the rest of my days, it would be the Rhubarb Fizz.
Q. If you could only have three ‘desert island’ liqueurs, which would they be?
A. The first choice would have to be an orange liqueur of some kind – Cointreau, Grand Marnier or (my favourite) Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao. So many classic cocktails call for an orange liqueur that it’s simply indispensable behind the bar. The next would be maraschino, preferably Luxardo brand, because little dashes and splashes of this stuff are found in a bunch of pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes. The third is a tough call – I’m torn between Green Chartreuse, Benedictine, and crème de cassis. The first two appear in more classic cocktails, but without the third you can’t make a Kir or a Pompier, two of my all-time favourite drinks.
Q. Which are the three most versatile ingredients for making a wide range of cocktails?
A. Most people have the odd bottle of whiskey, vodka, gin or tequila kicking around their liquor cabinet, as well as access to fresh fruit for juices. But in order to turn that into a proper cocktail, you need what are known in the industry as ‘modifiers’. To my mind, the most useful and historically important of these is a bottle of aromatic or orange bitters – the very first ‘cocktails’ as such were distinguished from mere slings (sugar, water, and spirit) by the presence of bitters, and without bitters of some kind you’ll struggle to make most of the great cocktails of the pre-Prohibition era. In second place, but only by a whisker, is vermouth of either the sweet or dry variety – without which you can’t make either the Martini or the Manhattan. Finally, a surprising number of cocktails call for a little dash, splash, or rinse of absinthe – it’s not an ingredient many consider necessary, but it is remarkably useful.
Q. Which cocktail just should not exist?
A. I’m a firm believer that there’s a time and a place for every single cocktail, no matter how tacky or unpleasant it might be. Having said that, I’d shed no tears if the Fluffy Duck disappeared from the face of this earth and all traces of it were expunged from the historical record. That drink is an abomination.
Chad’s book Around the World in 80 Cocktails is one of the most beautifully illustrated books I’ve seen in a while. Even better, the cocktail recipes are easy to follow and feature a brief, yet detailed history of the drink and are accompanied by bartender’s tips. Once you’ve read it, you’ll look like a pro knowing the background of your booze and how best to build your cocktails (build is a bartender’s term – see, you already sound like an expert!).
What’s your favourite cocktail? Have you ever made up one of your own?