Hop water. Walnut bitters. Horchata. Salted caramel. Goat cheese. If you were in a kitchen commandeered by a mad genius chef like Heston Blumenthal, this list of ingredients might make a little sense. Might. A little.
But what we’re dealing with here is cocktails. Forget hangovers – upset stomachs seem like the real danger from imbibing drinks forged of these unusual elements. Yet in the deft hands of mixologist Pawel Mikusek, who mans the bar over at perennial hotspot Lily, these disparate components are combined with exotic alcohol types to form boundary-breaking beverages such as a Snicker’s Old Fashioned (Snickers-infused Michter’s American Whisky, vanilla Demerara sugar, chocolate and walnut bitters) or a Mexican Ribbon (Grand Marnier, horchata, pimento dram, walnut bitter, chilli and Don Julio Blanco). He shares with us his thoughts on modern mixology, as well as tips on making your own cocktails at home.
What was the first cocktail you ever made?
The Blue Lagoon.
Where did you learn how to make great cocktails?
Some of your new cocktails use quite unusual ingredients — celery bitters, wasabi shrub, goat cheese … what’s the strangest thing we’ll find in a drink you’ve designed?
One day we found a bottle of breast milk substitute in a bar fridge in Floridita…
You’ve recently redone the cocktail menu at Lily. Which cocktails have been most popular with customers? What’s your own favourite?
I really like the Not Even Mary (gin, beetroot, wasabi and celery shrub with the side of goat cheese), because for some reason you always love your weird kids more, I guess! But the most popular new cocktail must be the “London Fogcutter” (gin, rum, cognac, passion fruit, elderflower, apple), because of the presentation and the fact that although it is fruity flavor it packs a serious punch.
We’ve seen a lot of infusions being done in recent years, and use of molecular techniques — what’s the next big trend you predict we’ll see in the world of mixology?
People get more and more cocktail savvy, so maybe we get back to just making tasty drinks rather than using laboratory techniques just for the sake of using them. That said, I am a huge fan of new trends and inventive cocktails, but sometimes you just ask yourself, what was the purpose of that?
What’s one cocktail that’s easily made at home? Can you share the basic recipe and ways our readers can do their own twists?
Everyone likes an Old Fashioned, and it’s surprisingly simple. Tweaking one or more ingredients lets you reinvent it over and over.
Start with 5-10 ml of simple syrup (sugar diluted in water in a 50/50 ratio) or other sweetener of your choice. Add three dashes of Angostura bitters or other bitters of your choice, and 50-60 ml of a spirit of your choice. Stir with ice until you reach the level of dilution you like, then garnish with an orange peel or whatever else you wish.
Which cocktail should only be consumed when made by a professional?
Probably something fat-washed. With Fugu fish.