Tips on how to drink cocktails

As if you needed any encouragement... Drinks writer Tom Sandham helps you shake and stir your way around the globe

3 mins

1. Know your spirits

Certain liquors predominate in certain areas. For example, Scandinavia is the place for vodka cocktails, in Japan it’s whiskies, Spanish drinks feature gin and local brandies, Latin American specialities are largely rum-based.

2. Indulge in an aperitif

The pre-dining aperitif is more than a drink, it’s a social event: the time of the day to meet friends and put the world to rights. It could be dry, sparkling, sour and bitter, but never sweet. Think drinks with vermouths, sherries, Campari and gin, such as Americanos and Negronis.

3. Then a digestif...

Post-dinner drinks should complement a dessert or cap a meal. There are herbal liqueurs that aid digestion (eg bitter amaro), but most popular are creamy concoctions such as Grasshoppers and Brandy Alexanders.

4. Talk to your bartender

A good bartender will read your preferences: for instance, if you’re unused to the hit of a Martini, they’ll up the quotient of sweet vermouth; aicionados can take more gin.

5. Think seasonal

For example, you can drink a Bellini in Venice’s Harry’s Bar year-round, but it will taste better in summer, when the requisite peaches are ripe and fresh.

6. Look beyond the icons

Hemmingway’s fave Havana haunt, El Floridita, is a great place for a Daiquiri, but try other establishments too, like nearby Monserrate for example, which doesn’t have the Papa connection, but serves excellent drinks.

7. Pick a good bar

Five of my favourites are: Buck & Bread, Berlin, where bar-tending is theatre; Aviary, Chicago, which pushes the boundaries of cocktail science; Black Angel’s Bar, Prague, a cavern of cocktail quality; The Merchant Hotel, Belfast, for the best drinks on the Emerald Isle; and Eau de Vie, Sydney, the Ozzie answer to a speakeasy.

Did you know? It’s claimed the margarita was first served for Rita Hayworth (real name Margarita Carmen Cansino) or named for a lady saved from a shark by an orphan dolphin! 

Tom Sandham’s book, World’s Best Cocktails, contains 500 couture recipes (Jacqui Small, £30)

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