Whiskey cocktail being poured from shaker into glass with ice

Blogs & Inspiration

Make Simple Cocktails with Minimal Ingredients

A delicious and flavourful cocktail doesn’t need to be complicated. Learn how to make the perfect drink with just a few simple ingredients.

Authors: James Grant, World Class Winner 2021, Hannah Sharmon-Cox, Founder, London Cocktail Week and Siobhan Payne, Founder, London Cocktail Week.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Shaking up delicious serves every time isn’t complicated. The simplest cocktails are made with just a handful of ingredients like spirit, bitters, sugar, and water - creating delightful, flavourful, and well-balanced drinks.

London Cocktail Week founders Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne discuss the latest flavour trends for simple drinks, and World Class bartender James Grant shares his favourite simple cocktail.

James Grant’s Favourite Simple Cocktail

Along with the likes of the Negroni and the Martini, James Grant, World Class Winner 2021, likes to make a classic Bobby Burns when he’s looking for a serve that gives maximum flavour but requires minimal effort.

The Bobby Burns usually contains scotch, vermouth and Bénédictine liqueur, and it was named after Scottish poet Robert Burns. James says, “Depending on the scotch that you use, this cocktail changes a lot. I like to use blended whisky to give a beautiful, round, and complex flavour profile.”

Watch the video below as James makes his favourite cocktail.

Watch Now: A Classic Bobby Burns

New Cocktail Flavour Trends

Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne founded London Cocktail Week, the UK’s biggest, award-winning drinks festival. With over 300 bars participating, Hannah and Siobhan have a great insight into what bartenders across the UK and further afield are mixing in their bars.

We asked them to share the new cocktail flavour trends they’ve been seeing this year.

Savoury & Vegetal Cocktails

Things are moving away from the sweet side and towards more savoury-flavoured cocktails. You might think of cocktails being only sweet, sour or bitter, but umami cocktails are increasingly trendy with bartenders.

They’re experimenting with mezcal, Scotch, green tea, wasabi, tomato, and any vegetal ingredients. For small batches, you can use ready-made vegetable juices from your local shop to create fresh savoury flavours.

Tips for Experienced Bartenders

Tomato is a favourite trend among adventurous bartenders, especially in clarified form. Clarified contributes to the simple style, and you can bring out the different flavour profiles of the tomato by replacing the base spirit. For example, the spiciness of mezcal pairs perfectly with the sweet, tangy, flavours of the tomato. 

A great tip is to add a bit of saline to savoury cocktails to help round out the flavour, just as you’d add a bit of sugar or fruit juice to a sweet cocktail to balance it. 

Simple Savoury Cocktail Recipes

  • This Dirty Martini recipe takes savoury to the next level by using a bleu cheese stuffed olive. 
  • Try this Gibson recipe for a classic serve with an umami undertone. It’s made with gin and vermouth, like a Martini, but with a pickled onion garnish instead of an olive. 
  • Mix sweet and savoury in this Tanqueray gin serve that uses almond liqueur and bitter. 

Cocktail with Seasonal Ingredients

Bartenders are looking to seasonal ingredients for their cocktails rather than relying on imported produce.

During London Cocktail Week, Hannah and Siobhan saw a lot of stone fruit-based cocktails, especially plum, being used in the signature serves. They soon realised that stone fruits weren’t the trend, but local and seasonal ingredients were.

Using seasonal ingredients means that the flavours are always in flux and allows you to get creative.  Experiment with different fruits and produce throughout the year to create variations on a serve, giving your customers regular new options.

Tips for Experienced Bartenders

  • When you find seasonal ingredients that work for you, try preserving them to extend their shelf life.
  • Making a cordial or infusion is a smart choice – you can mix this with your base spirit to create a shorter, stronger drink.
  • Finishing a drink off with a seasonal garnish can also maximise its presentation.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s easy to make flavourful and tasty cocktails with minimal ingredients. 
  • Don’t be afraid to make more savoury cocktails – vegetal flavours taste just as great! 
  • Think seasonally – this will give you endless variations of a classic cocktail for your customers to enjoy. 
  • Cordials and infusions can add an extra element of flavour. 
  • Similar base spirits can change the flavour of a cocktail – change up your serves by switching a malt whisky for a blended whisky cocktail. 
  • Focus on superior quality ingredients to offer tasty cocktails for your customers. 

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