Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in Enfield, north London, something of a cocktailing wasteland if truth be told (though we did sink a lot of Kiwi-flavoured 20/20 back in the day).
What did you aspire to be when you grew up?
Ambitions change. Mine have evolved through train driver, Lego-set designer, spy, Kurt Cobain, existentialist philosopher, journalist and finally, simply, a decent person.
How did you find your way into wine and spirits?
My eventual day job was writing features for the Evening Standard. I developed cocktailing as an enjoyable little sideline and it soon got out of hand.
Where do you find inspiration for your drink recipes?
I love poring through old cocktail books, such as W.J. Tarling’s Cafe Royal book from the 1930s, which is full of the strangest combinations that, just occasionally, work beautifully. I also find fresh ingredients a rich source of inspiration; I live in a very Turkish part of London were the greengrocers are always full of the most gorgeous seasonal produce. But my favourite method is to simply improvise cocktails according to mood, season, spirit, using whatever happens to be lying around in the kitchen.
What are your FOUR favourite cocktails from your new book, ‘The Spirits – A guide to modern cocktailing’?
I always find it hard to define what my favourite cocktail is as what tastes good at any given moment depends much more on the moment than the cocktail itself. The one I make most often is probably theGin & It, as it’s so simple – 2 parts gin, 1 part Italian vermouth, dash of bitters – and so infinitely variable (a dash of pretty much anything else will take it in an interesting direction.
Then there’s theEl Presidente, which I consider to be the most under-appreciated of all classics. I think this is partly because everyone makes it too sweet and partly because everyone uses crappy rum. If you dispense with the curacao (unnecessary), make it with homemade grenadine and use a decent base, it’s elegant and irresistible.
Of all the cocktails I’ve invented, I’m proud of myCampari Smash, which allies strawberry, mint, rose and Campari – faintly Middle-Eastern, faintly Italian, faintly something else altogether.And my favourite find? TheCotonianfrom the Cafe Royal book. Scotch, Drambuie, French vermouth and passion fruit. It shouldn’t work but does!
What interesting trends/themes are going on in the spirits world? What’s on your radar at the moment?
I’m a little tired of bartenders trying to reinvent the wheel the whole time, making cocktails with meat and cheese and plutonium phosphate and all manner of unnecessary nonsense. I’m increasingly appreciative of the places that do the simple classics reliably well – and applaud the fact that you can get reliably decent Negronis for £6. For me, the next “phase” of the cocktail revival is about ensuring that the classic recipes permeate all good homes – which is the point of my book.
What is your most indispensable cocktail ingredient?
There truly indispensable ingredients are of course gin, vermouth and bitters; but my over-used bottles tend to be in the herbal line. I can’t get enough Chartreuse, I’ve fallen deeply for Farigoule de Thym (a thyme liqueur from Provence), while Zirbenz Stone Pine Liqueur (made from Austrian pine trees) finds its way into a lot of my creations. I have an absolute pash for passion fruit too.
What is another of your favourite tipples?
Wine. Wine’s great! Not much effort, you know?
Find ourmore information about‘The Spirits: A Guide to Modern Cocktailing’by Richard Godwin here…
Illustrations |Andy Forshaw