2016 is all about fresh ingredients, says Lam Chi Mun — director of Diageo Bar Academy Asia Pacific
Bartending is all about understanding flavours, fresh produce, spices and herbs, and it will be more so in 2016, says Lam Chi Mun, director of Diageo Bar Academy Asia Pacific. And seasonal specialties from a specific region would be the focus — think Latin flavours, British classics, Asia-inspired menus, and a real opportunity for restaurants to pair cocktails with food. Therefore, cocktails such as mad men, sex on the beach, screwdriver, classic martinis and margaritas will continue to rule, except that bottled syrups will be replaced with fresh juices and homemade syrups, and follow a much simpler recipe,” he adds.
“The days of complicated cocktails are over. Today, international destinations such as Singapore and Taiwan prefer classic drinks that are simple, tasty, and made with fresh ingredients,” Mun adds, emphasising that to a customer the overall taste of the drink comes first. The base spirit comes second, followed by the kind of ingredients that go into it.
Today’s cocktail lovers are calorie conscious and hence prefer their cocktails to be either less sweet or made with fresh fruit juices. Preservatives are an absolute no-no, and this trend will continue to remain in 2016, he predicts. “With customers turning health conscious, the focus is on using fresh produce,” he says, adding that an interesting feature in creating good cocktails is to go back to our roots. “The bartenders in southeast Asian countries love to borrow old methods and ingredients to create new flavours, such as single infusions of herbs, barks, and so on,” he says. In fact, Mun says, “The bar once maintained a distance from kitchen and worked as separate kingdoms, eyeing each other warily. But that’s changed now with bartenders raiding kitchens today for vegetables, herbs, and even meat (such as bacon-infused bourbon). The sauces for cocktails are being made in-house too.”
A new shift
Unlike how it has been in the last five to 10 years, where the younger generation (18-35 year olds) was more inclined towards cocktails, there is going to be an interesting shift in drinking patterns across the globe. Mun says, “The core cocktail consuming segment is set to evolve. We have noticed how people above the age of 35 are beginning to experiment with cocktails, whereas those under 35 are exploring the distinct tastes of single malts etc.”
Among Mun’s personal favourites are classics such as the whisky sour. “The Negroni (made with gin, Vermouth and Campari is another favourite,” he ends.
— Nandini Kumar