Cocktail expert Matthew Dakers, talks to F&W about what makes a ‘good’ vodka and the latest trends in cocktails
What’s your favourite cocktail?
A dry vodka martini – it was good enough for Sinatra and Dean Martin. The olive can be the most satisfying moment – as Johnny Carson once famously said, “Happiness is... finding two olives in your martini when you’re hungry.”
What is your pet peeve in the cocktail world?
Punctuality. 15 minutes early is on time, 15 minutes late is unacceptable. It’s a lesson I learned in my first bar and I use it in every walk of life.
What can you not travel without?
A toothbrush and a 25/50ml jigger. For everything else I have a credit card.
How can you tell what makes a ‘good’ vodka?
It can be a combination of things, for example how smooth it tastes while still retaining the flavour of grain is one, while the ABV is another: a higher strength can bring out more flavour while a lower strength can show its weaknesses. Then there’s the water: a bottle of vodka is 60% water so the source is very important.
What’s the biggest difference between vodkas from different countries/regions?
It varies, but as I mentioned the water is a big influence, and the grain used can dictate alot too: certain grains will make the vodka more spicy, citrus or sweet etc.
What’s the biggest trend in mixology at the moment?
Depends on where in the world you are. Using local ingredients is and always should be a trend, while so is being able to make cocktails faster and keeping a high standard. Pre-batching and bottling cocktails is also on the up.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
The ‘Cookie Monster Cocktail’ from a bar called Jalou in Newcastle – it looks great and tastes great. Drinking cocktails should be fun.
Dream dinner party guest?
Dame Edna – it wouldn’t be boring and I love to laugh. She would definitely wear the best cocktail dress on the night.
What are your favourite bars at home and abroad?
So many! In Dublin I think Upstairs at Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh is great, while in London there are so many: the LCC, ECC, Dukes, Novikov, MASH, Callooh Callay, Hawksmoor, etc. In Manchester there’s Crazy Pedro’s, while further afield I’d recommend Dry Martini or Creps in Barcelona, Door 74 in Amsterdam, The Little Red Door in Paris, and the Erin Rose in New Orleans does an amazing Frozen Irish Coffee.
Let us in on your top cocktail tip
A chilled glass and a well balanced drink with a smile. You can’t go wrong. Love what you do – if you don’t, then do something else.
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