By Sacha Delfosse

Keystone Group, in conjunction with 666 Tasmanian Vodka, The West Winds Gin and SouthTrade, hosted a cocktail seminar at theloft on January 8 where internationally renowned bartender Sam Ross shared his insights and expert cocktail making techniques.

Australian-born Ross, who is head bartender at New York’s revered Milk & Honey, gave a brief history of the bar, and his own bartending career before showcasing some of the bar’s cocktail-making processes.

He said that from the 1990s until the early 2000s Australia and the UK were making “better drinks than the US but there was no set formula or relationship between the drinks.”

“Milk & Honey turned the cocktail world around by moving away from drinks with lots of wild ingredients and pulled it back to using simple balanced formulas.”

“Everything has been done before, what we aim for is to make drinks better. We will only implement a new technique if it saves time and doesn’t affect the outcome of the drink.”

He said cocktails such as the Sour, the Collins, the Gimlet and the Martini provide time honoured formulas for making perfectly balanced drinks, and most cocktails are a derived from one of these “cocktail families.”

“A Sour’s formula always stays the same – it’s the perfect balance of lemon and sugar. Cocktails such as the 20th Century or the Aviation are just variations of the Sour,” Ross explained.

“Martinis and Manhattans are essentially the same drink, they follow the same formula. A Rob Roy is just a Scotch Manhattan… a Harvard is a Manhattan made with cognac. If you keep the two to one formula – two parts spirit and one part modifier there are countless variations.”

Ross mixed up a range of these classic cocktails, sharing some simple but effective cocktail making tips such as serving Old Fashioneds “under-stirred” and always straw-testing drinks.

“Always add ice last as you might get distracted or have to go do something, and once the ice is in your drink it starts to go to work,” he advised.

“It’s good to muddle with liquid in the shaker, and with muddling you don’t want to pulverise the fruit, just gently abuse it,” Ross joked.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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