As exclusively featured on GQ South Africa website.
After eight years travelling the world, you recently moved to Cape Town from London. What has been your impression so far?
Cape Town is such an interesting city for me – it’s got such an enormous wealth of culture around its wine industry, incredible weather, and as such some really fantastic produce. One thing I find fascinating about the Mother City is that it has barely scratched the surface of what could be achievable here in terms of the cocktail scene, given its calibre and credentials in the international marketplace; something I hope to change…
You’ve worked with some of the world’s best mixologists, such as the late Sasha Petraske of Milk & Honey – what key things did you learn?
Both Sasha and Dale Degroff were always focused on the customer above all things – hospitality in its truest and purist state. I learnt how important it is to genuinely engage with your customers like they are welcome guests in your home. Some of the very best bartenders I know don’t actually make cocktails at all, they are simply fantastic hosts that make everyone feel truly welcome, time and time again; it really is as simple as that.
Tell us more about your approach to creating incredible cocktails?
When making drinks of a high calibre, it is the same as putting a great dish out in a kitchen – it’s all about the ‘mise en place’ (the prep you do ahead of time). Many of these techniques can be very time-consuming, but that is how the most complex flavours are achieved. Much in the same way that slow cooking meat will always yield a great result, if I use a homemade hot sauce I’ve been fermenting for 3-6 months, it’s going to dramatically step up the levels of flavour in a ‘simple’ drink like a Bloody Mary, versus a couple dashes of Tobasco; especially when mixed with a freshly made, tomato-heavy vegetable juice over something off the shelf.
In what ways do you challenge how cocktails are perceived and consumed?
The main thing I look to do is pleasantly surprise people with ways of drinking items that are familiar to them, but in ways they’ve never experienced before. For example, soft and savoury tequila drinks with brunch, light and fresh whisky or red wine drinks at lunch, and exotic and intricate gin or white wine led drinks once the sun has gone down.
For those not as familiar with cocktails, I make drinks similar in liquid quantity and ABV % (alcohol by volume percentage) strength as a glass of wine, to showcase that cocktails are not actually about being really boozy and pumped with sugar; they can and should be every bit as complex and sophisticated as the very best wine.
Read the rest of this Q&A on GQ South Africa website.