As the first-ever female bartender to win the 11th Diageo World Class Bartender of the Year cocktail competition, Singapore-based Bannie Kang is quite literally shaking things up.
The Talisker Whisky “Black Box Challenge” – one of the creative challenges in the competition – had her using surprising ingredients and utensils to create her masterpiece in a glass. Having won such a challenge, she is just the right person to tell you what you will need to do at home to create a title-worthy cocktail.
1. Stock your liquor cart with versatile spirits
The most versatile for Bannie are gin and aperitifs such as Campari and Aperol. They are readily available in most liquor stores, can be used for a variety of drinks, and come in a range of prices to suit your budget and needs. Bannie’s personal home favourite is an Aperol Soda, which you can easily turn into a more festive Aperol Spritz with Prosecco. Perfect for warmer months, this simple, refreshing drink has lots of European flair.
2. Get the one utensil to rule them all
The one piece of equipment you should invest in is a blender, says Bannie. It can be used for ice-blended cocktails, which are fun and will surely impress. We’re talking about frozen margaritas, daiquiris and even something as inventive as a coffee cocktail with Baileys. Ice-blendeds are also the way to go if you are fixing drinks for a few people at a time because they don’t have to be made individually. As for other cocktail utensils, Bannie suggests making do with what you probably already have. Use a shot glass instead of buying a jigger. Turn an empty water bottle into a cocktail shaker, and a chopstick can stir just as well as a bar spoon.
3. Watch your measurements
For the perfect cocktail, most bartenders will insist on using a jigger to measure your spirits. However, Bannie says that, with some practice, you can always use a speed pourer instead. While it can be quite intimidating for a novice, the speed pourer is the holy grail for many because nothing else makes pouring look so effortless and cool. Bannie’s simple trick: attach the speed pourer and hold the bottle at a 45-degree angle. Count 1, 2, 3, 4 as you normally would while pouring and you should always get a measure of 45ml.
4. Buy a glass for all occasions
No need to invest in an array of expensive cocktail glasses – that will likely end up on a shelf collecting dust! Bannie recommends a set of good rock glasses because they are ideal all-rounders. You can use them for a variety of cocktails and soft drinks, or as everyday glasses – and even as a mixing glass while you work your magic.
5. Use fresh citrus fruits
If life gives you lemons, make cocktails! Any fresh citrus fruit you might have on hand is a quick and inexpensive way to spruce up any cocktail. Bannie’s tip: Do not squeeze a lemon or an orange all the way to the end as it will add bitter notes that could mess up the flavour profile of the cocktail.
6. Zhuzh up your crowd-pleaser in a glass
With so many spirits and flavour profiles out there, finding a cocktail everyone likes can be tricky. For some cocktail connoisseurs, their favourites cannot be sweet enough, while others prefer something bitter and smoky. As a sure crowd-pleaser, Bannie says, try adding a floral hint by way of edible flowers or flower-infused syrups, which not only adds surprising notes to your cocktail but a visual wow factor, too. Alternatively, she recommends growing your own herbs like rosemary, thyme or mint that are excellent cocktail garnishes, too.