Milk and Honey is known to be the yardstick to compare bars against for cocktail quality and service. Milk and Honey, founded by Sasha Petraske, came about due to his annoyance at the number of packed, over-diluted, meat-market bars that were in abundance in New York – bringing bars back to what they should be, away from lots of ingredients and back to the basics. So it was obviously an honour to hear Sam Ross, American Bartender of the Year, take us back to basics for cocktails.
Being treated as “new inductees” at Milk and Honey, Sam Ross walked us through the basics of cocktail making, learning a few tricks of the trade, and guiding us through the simple formulas of balance to cover the majority of cocktails that can all be traced back to five or six families.
Over the course of the evening we, his blissfully captive audience, were treated to a few of his cocktails, including his invention …
2 oz. any favorite single malt or blended scotch (lightly peated)
1/4 oz. Laphroaig
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
3/4 oz honey-ginger syrup
Garnish with candied ginger
… as well as his listening to his advice on ensuring you end up with a great drink.
So what are the big tips to make sure you turn out amazing cocktails? To put it in Sam’s words, think of the lemon juice and sugar syrup as the bread of the sandwich. You can put anything in between, but 5mL over or under will mess up the drink. Always remember to pour the spirit into the mix last (it costs less if you muck up the mix) and be mindful of over-diluting the drinks.
So next time you are making a cocktail, remember to keep it simple and adhere to Sam Ross’ advice to ensure that you make it perfect, and remember recipes only need to be improved if they save time and don’t affect the cocktail.
Article by Natalie Manning. Photographs by Rebecca Varidel.