Sunday August 26, 2012
Hooked on classics
Our columnist kicks off a series of columns focusing on classic cocktails, starting with gin.
CONTRARY to popular belief, cocktail-making is not just about chucking a couple of ingredients together into a glass and serving it. Like cooking, it is an art that requires a bartender to pay a lot of attention to every single ingredient in the drink, from the ice and the spirit, all the way down to the glass and the garnish used.
The cocktail culture in Malaysia is growing, but has not yet been able to hit the heights of, say, the beer culture here. The main reasons point to a lack in various areas: Qualified bartenders trained in the art of cocktail-making; establishments putting an emphasis on cocktails; and education on the part of drinkers on the subject.
Missing kick: Gin is one of the forgotten ingredients (in mixology),
Not being very well versed in cocktails myself, I decided to ask some of Malaysia’s finest bartenders to whip up a few classic cocktails for me to try.
There is a reason some cocktails are considered “classic”. Such drinks were invented decades ago (some over a century ago), and have stood the test of time.
These drinks have been acknowledged as some of the best cocktails in the world, which any self-respecting bartender would need to know how to make. If you ever find yourself in a proper cocktail bar wondering what to order, these are the ones that you can never go wrong with.
For the first in this series focusing on classic cocktails, I thought it would be appropriate to start off with the spirit that was instrumental in kick-starting the cocktail phenomenon in the first place – gin.
Although the first ever recorded cocktail is supposedly the whisky-based Old Fashioned, gin was the spirit of choice for cocktails during the American Prohibition period in the 1920s and 30s (when alcohol was banned) because of its transparent colour (making it easier to disguise with juices and other mixers), and also because it didn’t give you that distinct “alcohol breath” you get with other spirits like whisky.
Our bartender for the day is Ash (full name Arsenio Mariano Jr.), who hails from Sandakan, Sabah, and has been a bartender for 16 years. He is currently a freelance beverage consultant for the B.I.G. Group’s Estate and Tate outlets in The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur. Ash, 34, was one of three bartenders to represent Malaysia at the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender national finals in Singapore last year.
Three Gin & Tonics made with three
different gins: (from left) Tanqueray
London Dry, Tanqueray Ten, and Hendrick’s Gin.
“Gin is one of the forgotten ingredients (in mixology). In the old days, gin cocktails were the first ones to pop up during the Prohibition era, but the trend these days is towards vodka,” Ash said.
“The point of a cocktail is to bring out the flavour of every ingredient. Gin as a cocktail ingredient is amazing; it’s got so many flavours in it. Every gin has its own unique flavour, although the overpowering flavour still comes from the juniper (berry).”
All the cocktails featured here were made and photographed at Estate @ The Intermark, Jalan Tun Razak, Kuala Lumpur.
Michael Cheang dares anyone who thinks cocktails are only for female drinkers to go tell James Bond or Winston Churchill that his martini is too ‘girlie’.
Gin and tonic