Cocktail Culture

Lucy Britner provides the definitive lowdown on cocktail culture

I HAVE SEEN many interesting cocktail trends on my travels over the past 12 months. The most original and inspiring has been the evolution of the Gin & Tonic. The Gin Tonica is a progression of a simple drink that incorporates all kinds of garnishes and little extras - depending on the venue and the drinker. It has been driven in part by the glassware. In my opinion, copa glasses make this drink. The trend for Gin Tonicas started in Spain and the long drink in its large, round glass is now seeding itself all over the world. 

Further afield in Australia, Bar Americano in Melbourne has done away with brands on the back bar altogether. It’s the job of head bartender Hayden Scott Lambert to know which spirits are right for the cocktails on the menu. All the liquids sit in beautiful decanters of various shapes and sizes and, for me, it also took away the dilemma of choosing the ‘right’ spirit if asked for my preference. 

Back in the UK, it’s hard to talk about innovation without mentioning Tony Conigliaro. The man behind 69 Colebrooke Row, Zetter Townhouse and Le Coq in Paris, he has designed the drinks menu at the Grain Store in London’s Kings Cross. 

As well as some killer cocktails, Conigliaro has been playing around with wine, exploring the Greco-Roman tradition for aromatising wine, and he says the addition of herbs, spices and honey “extend the bridges already present between wine and food”. 

Cocktail and food pairing still lurks in the background and is usually confined to places where a tasting menu has been created – like Dry Martini in Barcelona – but perhaps aromatised wines will plug the gap between wine and cocktails when it comes to choosing what to drink with dinner. 

The evolution of the cocktail competition has also driven both the craft of bartending and the skill and knowledge level required to create new cocktails and ultimately drive new trends. Although Diageo’s World Class sounds like a luxury holiday – a five day cruise around the Med this year – the challenges are gruelling and require careful research and preparation. For example, the Time to Play challenge featured a one-hour masterclass on botanicals and infusion equipment – before coming up with two contrasting Tanqueray 10 cocktails. And that was only one element of the competition.

So here, in this A–Z, we celebrate all things cocktail – from the bold to the slightly bonkers and beyond. 

A – Advanced cocktail cultures

There are certain places around the world – such as London and New York – where cocktail culture is so far ahead that trends are no longer evident, according to Beefeater global brand ambassador Tim Stones. 

“In the advanced cocktail cultures, I’m noticing that there don’t seem to be cocktail trends anymore. Each bar is doing its own thing and this makes for a more exciting drinking scene than loads of places jumping on a bandwagon.”