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Author: Wawan Kurniawan and Csaba Culyas

Diageo Bar Academy trainers Wawan Kurniawan and Csaba Gulyas discuss how you can expand your spirits knowledge and refine your mixology skills simultaneously. Learn from the best, with over two decades of experience in the industry, completion of WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits via WSET’s Online Classroom in 2021 and now a National Brand Ambassador for Diageo Indonesia, you're sure to enhance your cocktail making skills.


WHAT IS THE ROLE OF SPIRITS IN COCKTAILS?

Spirits are the base of many cocktails. They help to add flavour that's unique from the other ingredients used - this can often add a signature taste to the cocktail, adding something special.

Sustainable Cocktail with Metal Straw

Recognising flavour and textures

Learning about the different factors that impact flavour transformed how I viewed spirits. Each stage of production from processing the raw material, fermentation, distillation, and the many practices available post-distillation, will all impact the flavour, aroma and texture of a spirit.

A great example of this is one of the key choices in distilling gin; whether you steep the botanicals at the bottom of the alcohol still, or place them in a basket placed higher in the alcohol still. While the final distillate will be clear and colourless, there will be noticeable differences in intensity and texture.

If we use maceration, botanicals are soaked in an alcohol solution for a specific time before heating the still. This added contact time extracts more flavours to produce a fuller flavoured gin. If using a gin basket, the botanicals only come into contact with the vapour rather than the liquid, and this vapour infusion method produces a lighter style of gin.

HOW SPIRIT PRODUCTION IMPACTS FLAVOUR

spirit production

It’s not just the intensity of flavour that will be impacted by this distillation choice. Even if the botanical batch is exactly the same for these two different methods, the range of flavours extracted will be noticeably different.

PAIRING INGREDIENTS WITH GINS

Both of these approaches can used in making distilled gins such as the London Dry Gin style, so understanding how a gin is distilled is very valuable when deciding a style of gin for a particular serve.

With this advanced gin knowledge, I am now able to assess what gins are best to highlight different Indonesian botanicals. For instance, Tanqueray London Dry is distilled using the maceration technique, and so the fuller texture of this gin means it can mix well with syrups and juices. This means it will combine well with homemade local pomegranate liqueur, and lemongrass syrup, opening up an array of alcohol flavour combinations from rich fruit, to bright citrus profiles.

And for gins that have been distilled using vapour infusion, using delicate local ingredients like carbonated chamomile tea can really complement their refined flavours and elevate those aromas.


RECOGNISING SPIRIT FLAVOURS

A Nusantara cocktail on a bar beside a bottle of Tanqueray London Dry Gin

Indonesia has more than three thousand islands and every island has a different agriculture that can be reflected in cocktails. There is so much potential for bartenders to create signature cocktails using local ingredients with a rich backstory that showcases their heritage and country. This is something that can be done no matter where you’re from!

The traditional name of Indonesia is Nusantara, and I have developed a cocktail that bears its name. Using ingredients like jasmine tea, lemongrass, and dragon fruit, it highlights some of the rich local ingredients.

‘NUSANTARA’ RECIPE:

Ingredients:

Method:

Mix the ingredients together with ice. Top up with tea-infused tonic water

Alcohol content: 16.99g


Learn the art of tasting spirits

Now you have a deeper knowledge of spirits and the different factors that impact flavour, learn more on how to taste spirits correctly and how to distinguish the different flavours.


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