Within the dynamic world of mixology, bartenders have long pushed the boundaries of creation by incorporating new and unusual flavours and ingredients. Encompassing a wide range of tastes, textures, and even drawing on culinary traditions, the trend is driven by the spirit of innovation and creativity.

One such example is the incorporation of tea into cocktails, and a collaboration between Dilmah Tea, Fever-Tree and Little Lon Distilling Co is combining the world of mixology with the art of brewing through a series of tea-infused cocktails.

From February through to April, the Gin and Tea Oasis at Spring Place in Melbourne has seen Dilma’s 85 Reserve tea range become the centrepiece of an eclectic range of gin and tonic teas, gin and tea-infused spritzers, and tea-inspired cocktails.

For tea connoisseurs and cocktail enthusiasts alike, these unconventional combinations are designed to take consumers through to the colder months and showcase the perfect union of Dilmah tea, Little Lon gins and Fever-Tree mixers.

Tonight’s masterclass will teach attendees how to pick the right mixer, before the series concludes on Wednesday 3 April with a workshop unveiling the secret to crafting innovative tea-infused cocktails.

Part dessert, part cocktail

After Folderol, a Parisian natural wine and ice cream bar, saw viral success last summer, Australian brands jumped on board the boozy ice cream trend. The East Coast of Australia enjoyed a touring Fellr and Messina cocktail collaboration through December which paired three limited-edition seltzers with Messina’s most popular sorbet flavours, while Sheep Dog Peanut Butter Whisky held a month-long Espresso Wooftini pop up.

Not too dissimilar to ice cream loaded cocktails, the revival of the Sgroppino has even made its way into Australian bars. The origins of the Sgroppino, which typically comprises lemon sorbet, prosecco and vodka, date back to 16th century Venice, and traditional iterations of the cocktail can be found on the menu at Icebergs Dining Room and Bar and Pellegrino 2000 in Sydney.

Taking it one step further, Newtown martini bar Bar Planet puts its own ever-changing riff on the cocktail with the release of its Weekly Scorpino, each week showcasing a new combination of wine, spirits and house-made sorbet.

While the dessert-cocktail hybrid seems to be taking off, some bartenders are turning to a more natural sweetener, and pure maple syrup seems to be attracting interest as an alternative.

Expert mixologist Rachel Mynczywor says one notable trend across Australia’s hospitality industry is the continued movement towards whole foods, and in cocktail making this translates as seeking alternatives to refined sugars.

“Pure maple syrup is an ideal alternative to sugar syrups that form the basis of many cocktails, thanks to its natural sweetness. It’s the ideal choice for this trend, plus its complex flavour profile offers versatility as it complements a variety of botanicals and flavours,” says Rachel.

Showcasing the versatility of maple in mixology, Rachel’s cocktail Epitome is made with a mix of bourbon, maple and apple shrub, cinnamon blossom honey water, and a spiced salvaged red wine reduction.

“Another product bartenders should be aware of is maple flakes, they’re made from freeze-drying maple syrup which leaves golden and crunchy flakes that melt in the mouth. I like to mix the flakes with salt to create a sugar rim with contrasting flavours, it works really well for a twist on cocktails like spicy Margaritas,” she added.

Culinary inspiration

While tea, syrup and ice cream might all be unconventional ingredients to add to a cocktail, their flavours are easily incorporated and offer a sweet surprise.

On the other hand, bartenders are also incorporating savoury flavours into their cocktails, and a key driving force behind this trend is the overlap of bartending and culinary worlds. Bartenders are doing more than introducing new elements, they’re drawing inspiration from chefs and popular cooking techniques.

At the helm of Bar Manager Jai Lyons, Smoke at Barangaroo House released its cocktail menu Memories last year as a nod to fond childhood memories and familiar flavours. Made up of eight signature cocktails, the menu combined adventurous flavours and experimented with complex techniques that are usually reserved for a kitchen.

The Half Time Orange, a citrus-forward drink served with an edible jelly orange wedge, featured Patron Reposado that had been switched with blood orange, and tamarind-infused Campari which was made using the sous-vide technique.

Adding even more complexity to the Memories cocktail menu, Jai’s Chicken Salt Martini featured a chicken-salt infused Lutsau Amontillado Sherry, rice syrup and potato tuile, all made in house.

“The Martini is a sophisticated and refined cocktail, whereas chicken salt and chips is quite the opposite. To be able to package them together and get the right balance is quite rewarding. The potato tuile chip on top makes the Chicken Salt Martini very similar to a Dirty Martini, but in a way it’s a lot more expressive and fun,” said Jai.

Much like Jai, Hello Chu Bar Manager Peter Pham also gravitates towards food flavours that remind him of his childhood. Peter is known for putting unsuspecting twists on classic cocktails, and his What The Pho, otherwise known as a Phogarita, fearlessly combines sweet and savoury, spicy and herbal.

Mixing pho syrup, spiced fish sauce and Crème de Gingembre with classic Margarita ingredients, what sets Peter’s What The Pho apart is the artful blend of seemingly disparate elements.

“I didn’t want to make a cocktail that tasted like pho, but I wanted to use all of the elements from a pot of pho to enhance the flavour of the cocktail. Expect a Margarita, with the elements of pho hidden in it,” he says.

One of the great things about being a mixologist is being able to experiment with different flavour profiles, and Patrick Pistolesi, Founder of Drink Kong, knows a thing or two about not-so-classic flavour concoctions.

An expert in unconventional mixology, Patrick has his own list of fool-proof flavour combinations, which he refers to as ‘ad-hoctails’, guaranteed to work every time.  

First on the list is the Pickleback, a combination of whiskey and pickle juice that can be found in dive bars far and wide, alongside Adult Chocolate Milk, an Avocado Margarita and a Chocolate Cake Shot. Patrick even experiments with tea in his own version of the Hot Toddy, combining tequila and chamomile tea in what he says is one of the great unsung alcohol combinations of our time.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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