Cocktail, bottled and bespoke4 min read . Updated: 30 Jan 2015, 08:46 AM IST
The bottled cocktail is going to be one of the key drinks trends in the year ahead
This year is big for me. I am getting married. Yes, you heard it right. And like all weddings, mine is also taking a lot of time in planning things out. But the best part is trying to figure out where we are going for our honeymoon. The ease of travelling these days has made the world our oyster (best served with champagne, remember?) and my future wife and I have been looking extensively at where we want to spend three whole weeks of fun and sun. Any guesses? India, of course.
Having looked at different packages, we have not made any firm decisions as yet and things are still in the planning stage, so if you have any suggestions for places we should visit (and I’m talking proper high-end, exclusive stuff), then do drop me a line on Twitter @joeldram or through my website www.joelharrison.info.
Our wedding, in stark contrast to the colours, aromas, sights and sounds of a vibrant India, will take place in the quiet countryside of central Scotland, in a village that is about as high in altitude as it is possible in that part of the world. I’m hoping that the clean, crisp air should be the perfect, invigorating partner for the food and drink that will flow from dusk ’til dawn.
But alongside the traditional champagne served for most of the afternoon, I am also evoking, just to make our lives easier, the bottled cocktail that also happens to be one of my key drinks predictions for 2015.
One of my favourite all time books is a compendium of articles by English writer Sir Kingsley Amis called Everyday Drinking. It is a highly entertaining read; funny and loaded with great advices for cocktails as well as simple drinking tips. Towards the start of the book, Sir Amis talks about the rise of the great cocktail age (the second of which, I believe, we are in right now), which coincided with the birth of the Jazz Age in the US.
Both of these cultural trends died at around the same time, and Sir Amis concludes that the death of the cocktail age was, in part, down to the disappearance of the household help. How so? Well, if we host a party, we don’t want to be in and out of the action, shaking up and mixing cocktails; so if you haven’t got someone to make drinks for you, it is much easier to stay in the action by simply opening a bottle of wine, or pouring some champagne—that way, you are always in the thick of it.
But in this day and age, there are many easy ways to entertain without making complicated cocktails: the gin martini and a punch are two examples (check out my pieces on making the perfect martini and another on the ideal punch on the Livemint website); the former is simple and can be made quickly, minimizing the time out of the room, and the latter can be made well in advance, keeping you at the heart of any party you are hosting.
There is a new way though which those of us in the inner circle of the drinks world are starting to see emerge from some of the more focused cocktails markets such as London, New York and San Francisco, and that is the trend of the bottled cocktail.
I’ll focus on the man who started it all: Ryan Chetiyawardana. Chetiyawardana started his cocktail journey in Edinburgh, Scotland, which is home to some of the best bars in the West. Having pioneered a cocktail revolution there, he quickly found himself in London, working in the scene that gave us micro-cocktails: drinks that had been deconstructed and reconstructed using scientific techniques.
After stints at some of the most pioneering establishments in London, Chetiyawardana opened his own bar White Lyan in ultra-trendy East London; a bar with no fresh citrus fruits, no ice and no branded bottles on the backbar.
The unique idea for White Lyan was that all the available cocktails are prepared in advance, which simply need to be taken out of the fridge and consumed with little or no addition from the bartender. Simple and easy. The whole process is fully controlled so there is no variation between cocktails, no old lemons and limes sitting around the bar, and no dilution from ice to spoil your drinking experience.
White Lyan is now into its second year, and Chetiyawardana has since opened a new bar (Dandelyan at the new Mondrian Hotel, Sea Containers House, on London’s South Bank) and consulted on various venues around the world.
Chetiyawardana’s legacy, however, is the first bespoke range of bottled cocktails, his Mr Lyan Handcrafted Cocktails range: a unique take on the Old Fashioned, martini, Manhattan and a host of other cocktails. Available through the online retailer Master of Malt, these bottles have also been given the seal of approval by top London retailer Selfridges, which is also stocking up on these.
And here is the key: as forward thinking as this idea is, you can adopt and adapt it for your own means. In the same way that you can prepare a punch in advance, you can simply make your own batches of Old Fashioned or Manhattan, whack them into some bottles, and stack ’em up in the fridge like you would stack up your beer. When friends come over, simply hand the bottles out to them, and have a stack waiting on ice in the same room, ready to go when the glasses run dry. Simple, and it will keep you at the forefront of a drinks trend and an upcoming cocktail revolution!
Joel Harrison is a drinks writer and consultant and co-founder of the website Caskstrength.net.