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Tips from Tales of the Cocktail

l love a great cocktail or spirit, but like many, I also love a well-crafted beer packed full of texture and flavour. Fortunately, one of the most interesting up and coming trends in mixology today – beer-tails - brings together the modern craft of the cocktail with the global explosion in boutique, craft beers.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in New Orleans at the annual Tales of the Cocktail, an homage to all things cocktails attended by over 15,000 people from around the world. It was here that my eyes were opened to the world of taste and texture that can be created by bringing together a great cocktail base with a great beer. Mixing beer isn’t a new idea; classic drinks such as the Black Velvet have existed for many years, but true beer cocktails are closer to the classic definition of a cocktail — spirits, sugar, bitters and water. Or, in this case, beer.

Of all the cocktails I’ve enjoyed this year, the beer-tails in New Orleans were among the most memorable. What’s important, I learnt from Francesco Lafranconi, Doug Frost and Adam Seger at their seminar, to select a beer that compliments or contrasts a balanced cocktail base. Beer is the world’s most chemically complex alcohol, and this gives an incredible texture that can enhance a cocktail. The best beer-tails have the spirit base built in a glass filled with ice, with the particular beer you have chosen floating on top (do not shake the beer!). The effervescence is an amplifier of the aromas of the base cocktail, adding its own flavour and texture to the drink.

As with any cocktail, understanding your ingredients is crucial. Doug Frost’s advice is to stay away from beers full of hops and to experiment with flavoursome beers – I learnt that rice-based beer works like a carbonated mixer for highball drinks, sour beers are a novel way to bring acidity and texture to a cocktail and malt beers work well with malt spirits. One of my favourite drinks of the year is a mix of Bulleit Rye, citrus, maple syrup and egg white, topped with a creamy Belgian peach beer and a dash of BBQ bitters – simply gorgeous!

With such diversity of beer across Asia, and the talent of Asian bartenders, I am sure that in 2013 I will find new and delicious beer-tails in bars across the region – no longer will I need to ask myself “cocktail or beer” when I can combine both.

Recipe (courtesy of Adam Seger):

“Rub and Rye”

1.5 oz Bulleit Rye

0.75 oz lemon juice

0.75 oz maple syrup

1 oz egg white

With over 15 years of drinks industry experience, Andy Gaunt has a unique and global perspective on the development of modern drinking culture around the world, and especially across the Asia region. Beginning his career behind the bar, before jumping to the other side and working in international sales and marketing roles for some of the world’s most respected premium spirit brands, Andy has established his own business - Source Consulting - specialising in the development and advocacy of premium wine and spirit brands, and of the drinks industry.