Blend in a bit of adventure

Bar staff should be bold this season, says Wayne Collins

Around two dozen Scottish bartenders were given a dose of Christmas ahead of the festive rush.

Mixxit bartender trainer Wayne Collins reckons whisky can give Christmas cocktails a lift.
Mixxit bartender trainer Wayne Collins reckons whisky can give Christmas cocktails a lift.

The tasting event in Glasgow’s Oran Mor venue late last month was led by The Famous Grouse master blender Gordon Motion and culminated in a demonstration of whisky cocktails by mixologist Wayne Collins, trainer at The Famous Grouse distributor Maxxium UK’s cocktail training arm, Mixxit.

With the festive season firmly on the horizon, whisky cocktails can take centre stage in Scotland’s pubs and bars in the coming weeks, according to Collins.
“When you’ve got blends you’ve got a good balance to work with,” he told SLTN.
“For me, with Scotch whisky it’s about understanding blends.”
Collins suggested that Scotch whisky has become increasingly popular among mixologists, thanks to the rise of some classic American cocktails which have fallen into favour with consumers.
“I think with the popularity of the American Old Fashioned, people are now seeing it works really well with Scotch whisky, good blended Scotch,” he said.
For those looking for less classic and more festive, Collins highlighted the array of options available to bartenders that will help them give their drinks list a Christmas twist.
“You think of the bitters and fruits and syrups, you’ve got so many out there now you can bring that Christmas cake character into your drink and really calm it down,” he said.
“There’s so many syrups out there you can use to add sweetness, bring some fruit into that, maraschino cherries, and you will start building drinks that have a real wintery flavour.”
It’s not just traditional cocktails that can be given a Christmas whisky twist either. Collins suggested publicans also   consider putting a bit of life into mulled wine by adding some blended whisky into the mix.
“Mulled wine with sugar, bitters and whisky will lift it lots,” said Collins.
“It’s like taking a Hot Toddy to the next level so don’t be frightened to use that.”
For Collins, the key thing is that bartenders have the confidence to give whisky cocktails a try and add some excitement to their drinks menu in the process.
“For pubs, let’s move away from cola, lemonade, bit of lemon, and let’s have a little bit of adventure,” he said.
“And don’t be shy of using bitters. Every pub I go to all over the UK has got Angostura bitters and they can add so much to a drink.
“Because Angostura is full of spices, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, orange peel,  so you put a few dashes in and it can transform your drink.”
It’s not just the liquid that can lead the way this Christmas.
Collins said publicans can also boost sales by presenting cocktails in such a way that it creates the right atmosphere in the bar.
“If [a cocktail is] done in a pitcher it can be brought to a table to serve six people in tumblers, try and bring that party atmosphere, the sharing thing, make it convivial for people – give it a try,” said Collins.
Not every bar will have a seasoned mixologist on hand, but Collins suggested that all outlets could benefit from going a step further with their cocktails this Christmas – without reinventing the wheel.
“It’s just slight little changes, you don’t have to go mad, it’s just subtle changes and someone will go ‘ah, that’s clever’ and if it works, you know yourself if you get a really well-made drink in a bar you’ll buy another one, and that’s the key for me, it’s the reordering thing,” added Collins.
“There’s the experimental side, get
a little bit adventurous, but don’t go
too mad.”