All shook up: why cocktails are stirring up the drinks scene
Move over pints and chardonnay – discerning Irish people are discovering there’s much more to cocktails than Sex on the Beach
Cocktails are becoming more and more popular in Ireland.
The days of getting sloshed on chardonnay are long gone. According to those in the know, the Irish are drinking less, but drinking much better.
“The age-old Irish attitude is starting to change,” observes Nial Molloy, brand ambassador for Diageo Reserve World Class Ireland. “Back in the day, cocktails were basic things like Long Island and Sex on the Beach, and all you heard was, ‘there’s not enough alcohol in that’. But people are shifting towards lower alcohol options. They want to have a clear head for the next day, which is why some cocktails work well.”
The rise in popularity of cocktails in Ireland has much to do with timing, says Molloy.
“I think a lot of it started with people travelling after the boom years and exploring new cultures,” he notes. “We realised that there’s so much more going on than just pints. And now, Irish people are buying premium spirits and going online to research how they’re spending their money.
Nowadays, says Molloy, bartenders are taking the Masterchef approach to cocktail making. They apply up-to-the-minute technology, like evaporators and smoking techniques, to create flavours that have rarely been tasted in Ireland before.
“Fermentation has become hugely popular, too,” he adds. “People are making their own keffirs and kombuchas, which taste so clean and refreshing.”
Oisin Davis, founder of Great Irish Beverages, has also noticed an exciting new trend in the Irish cocktails scene: sustainability. Many bars, like Cask in Cork, prefer to use ingredients from within a 15-mile radius of the bar, and given Ireland’s bounty of fresh produce, the results are magical.
“Bars are getting rid of plastic straws and using bamboo, paper or glass straws instead,” he observes. “If you’re making cocktails, you’re squeezing a lot of lemons and limes, and people are just getting smarter with their waste, making syrups and infusions with them.
“Another big thing I’m seeing is frozen cocktails,” he adds. “In Mother’s Ruin in New York City, they are giving them a new lease of life. And in places like the Westbury hotel, you’re starting to see frozen gin and tonics, as well as frosé (frozen rosé wine).”
Frida Andersson, bartender at the Liquor Rooms in Dublin, has observed the somewhat unlikely rise and rise of poitín in cocktails.
“It’s a really cool spirit with work with,” she says. “Originally, I found myself staying away from it, but once I started experimenting I found that it’s almost got a sweet taste, like orchard fruit.”
Another drink likely to make a comeback, according to Molloy, is vermouth, especially served with tonic: “We will probably be hearing a lot about Belsazar, a German vermouth, a lot in the near future,” he predicts.
No matter what is happening in trends, according to Davis, there is one cocktail that’s perfect to deploy in all occasions.
“Every Irish person should learn to make at least one good punch, almost like how you learn to make a decent spaghetti Bolognese” he says. “From dinner parties to large wedding receptions, I’ve made some great ones for my family. Ideally, they should contain at least one type of spirit, one wine, one type of fruit and one sweetener.”
Molloy offers a simple bit of advice for making cocktails at home: “I always say keep it simple. Look at trends – pick a great gin and get a great tonic to go with it.
“If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, you can’t really go wrong with whiskey sours,” he adds. “My personal favourite is a Bloody Mary because it’s one of those great drinks you can alter to suit your own flavour profile.
“On Saturday nights, an espresso martini is a really great idea,” he adds. “I make one with Ketel One Naranja, which adds a really lovely bitter orange note through it.”
Molloy is happy to debunk a widely held myth among amateur cocktail connoisseurs: “People are wary of using ice as they think it dilutes the drink, but ice in fact keeps the glass colder for longer, and the colder the glass, the slower the dilution of the drink.”