Hands up who's survived Dry January thus far? We did, aside from a small run in with a Hungarian pinot noir one Sunday lunch. Whatever, free-flowing Feb is looming and that means the boozing can recommence with gusto. But wait, what - Negronis are no more, you say? Pisco sours are passé? Things have moved on during your month of teetotalism; get with the programme guys.
We headed to the very swish new Drake and Morgan in Kings Cross to grill their top mixologist, Jay Newell (ex Sushi-Samba) on the new cocktail trends coming up for 2016 and what we’re set to be drinking this year…
'Any bar worth its salt is now focusing much more on the quality of ingredients; bartenders are fancying themselves as ‘liquid chefs’ and this shows when you read some of their menus, home-made this, infused that, distilled something or other. Simplicity is catching on to highlight one or two incredible flavours or ingredients. There’s something beautiful about clean, simple drinks and it allows people to recreate drinks at home too.'
Try: Whiskey Thyme at The Botanist (nationwide) – a simple combination of Bulleit Bourbon, jasmine syrup with thyme and lemon zest.
DIY: Jazz up your normal gin and tonic by making yourself a little rosemary syrup. Sugar water and rosemary heated together in a pan and left to cool will transform your after-work tipple. A twist of grapefruit wouldn’t go amiss either.
Aperitifs & Amaros
'The ever growing popularity of aperitifs, amaros and bitters is more than likely to rise through the year.' FYI – aperitifs are dry pre-dinner drinks, amaros refer to a group of herbal, bitter tasting and usually Italian liqueurs usually drunk after dinner.'
Try: The Brit Spritz at Holborn Dining Rooms. Kamm and Sons aperitif is mixed with Chapel Down English sparkling wine, soda and elderflower.
DIY: Dispense Amaro from Asterly Bros. It’s handmade in south London using a blend of 24 botanicals and the brothers’ own vermouth (produced from British Pinot Noir). Usually a digestif, this one is doable as an aperitif, too, once mixed with tonic.
Speaking of Chapel Down, Jay says we should look closer to home for our vino this year, 'English wines are set to have a big 2016 and not just the (excellent) dry fizz that we’re used to. Whites and reds from the British countryside are exciting, different and increasingly popular – we’re going to be seeing a lot more of them.'
Try: Get yourself over to Covent Garden early Feb for the opening of Native, a new restaurant celebrating produce from the British Isles and an extensively English wine list. We’re having the Bolney Pinot Noir from West Sussex.
DIY: Great news – if you’re too skint for dinner, you can buy yourself a bottle or two or the Bolney wines to drink in the comfort of your own home. There’s ten to choose from including reds, whites and sparkling.
'People are more concerned about what they put into their bodies nowadays; the consumer is a lot more educated in drinks than they were 10 years ago, drinking better but less. Drop into any Drake & Morgan for a Superfood Collins containing Gin, Blueberry, Pomegranate, Blackberries and basil – full of antioxidants! Other key ingredients which will feature heavily this year are Coconut Water, Agave - ‘Nectar’ not ‘Syrup’ & Manuka Honey.'
Try: Jay’s new Kings Cross special - a Daiquiri made with Coconut Oil washed Bacardi Superior & Clarified lime juice. It packs a punch.
DIY: The Rivington Grill and D1 Vodka have kindly shared their recipe for a Greener Colada (geddit?). Shake up 35ml pineapple juice, 50ml coconut milk, ½ tsp matcha, 30ml banana puree, 10ml agave and 50ml D1 Vodka and pour over ice.
'Ingredients that you’ll find in your pantry or fridge will also crop up on cocktail menus everywhere so don’t be put off by drinks containing sugar snap peas, pumpkin, squash, fennel, beetroot… the list goes on. These ingredients have a savoury sweetness to them which makes them perfect for breaking down and drinking.'
** Try:** the ’Bil & Tonic’. Cruga Biltong beef and Seven at Brixton have created a limited edition mocktail which combines lemon and lime with Biltong infused sugar syrup, topped with Tonic Water. Interestingly there’s also a Cruga Biltong Peppered Beef rim. Quite.
DIY: Take baby steps with this trend and start with a classic Dirty Martini: Swill a few drops of good quality Vermouth (we like Belsazar) around an ice-cold martini glass. Fill up with your gin of choice and make the magic happen with a good twist of olive brine. The more the better.
So there you have it. No need to embarrass yourself with an ill-informed drink choice when you’re back on it.
PS. Drake & Morgan Kings Cross have a fabulous cocktail masterclass. You get your own pod and everything and can learn how to make some of these delicious things from the experts. Go.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.