We're usually a little wary of anything that ends in "-ology," but mixology? Now that has our name all over it. Especially when Bombay Sapphire and GQ Magazine's Most Inspired Bartender of 2010 Jason Asher. He's the mixologist at Sanctuary's Jade Bar, and he's agreed to show us the ropes.
Mixology, according to Asher, is a just fancy term for bartending.
"The reason ['mixologist'] used so much now is because 'bartender' has been bastardized," Asher says. "A barkeep used to know everything, [but now] you don't really need to know anything. All you need to know is that you put two ounces or an ounce-and-a-half of Jack Daniels with Coke when someone asks for Jack and Coke and that makes you a bartender."
And that knowledge, combined with technical skill and creativity, scored him the top spot at this year's Bombay Sapphire and GQ Magazine Most Inspired Bartender competition in Las Vegas and lands him on the cover of a December 2010 special edition GQ (...perhaps in his underwear on top of Pure with a bottle of Bombay Sapphire).
Click through for Asher's winning cocktail recipe, a video demo AND his guide to flexing your mixology muscle at home...
Asher's winning Beet and Yuzu Gimlet (video and recipe follow) is a riff on a Beet and Yuzu Collins he made to pair with a sashimi-style Hamachi Yellowtail dish cooked up by Sanctuary's Elements Executive Chef Beau MacMillan (also of beating-Iron-Chef-Bobby-Flay fame).
"It's this super delicate sashimi dish, so I can't pair it with a big cocktail," says Asher, also a chef himself.
But when it was time for the competition, it was go big or go home: "So we went with a gimlet style, no soda this time. We stuck with about the same recipe and kept it intense, and then we garnished it with watermelon."
The stunning fuchsia cocktail that goes down smooth, sweet and savory at the same time, leaves us with just one question: How the hell do you make a cocktail like this?
Asher's Beet and Yuzu Gimlet
1 oz. Beet juice
¾ oz. Simple Syrup, equal parts sugar and water
½ oz. Yuzu Syrup
1-½ oz. Bombay Sapphire Gin
Using a jigger, measure and pour your beet juice, simple syrup, yuzu syrup and Bombay Sapphire gin in order into a pint glass. Add ice to your glass, and make sure you use good ice cubes - 1-inch or 1-½-inch cubes free of all impurities - so that you don't dilute your drink too much. Fill with ice until overflowing, cover with a Boston shaker, and shake vigorously for 6-7 seconds. Double-strain your cocktail into a chilled martini glass, garnish with three pieces of balled watermelon, and serve!
Sure, Asher's a pro, but we want it straight up: What does it take to make the cut as a home mixologist?
Asher's guide to Home Mixology in five easy steps.
1. Read up. "You have to read Imbibe! by [cocktail historian] David Wondrich," Asher says. "It's just packed with stories and spirit recommendations and all kinds of stuff."
2. Learn the territory. "Everything comes from somewhere," Asher says. "In cooking, you have mother sauces, like hollandaise, when you put tarragon in it, it becomes béarnaise," Asher explains. "[In mixology] we have drink templates that are like mother sauces, and we do small variations on it and those are your small sauces."
3. Follow the recipes. "If a recipe calls for a particular ingredient, it calls for that ingredient; don't substitute," Asher says. "There's a reason why the drink is designed around that spirit, and without that spirit, it's not the drink, it's something else."
4. Gear up.
"Don't go buy the crappy bar kit at the store," Asher stresses, as he lays out the tools that every home mixologist needs:
- Citrus press, lemon/orange
- Jigger, ½-oz./¾-oz.
- Pint glass
- Boston shaker
- Bar spoon
And the supplies you should keep on hand:
- Decent Tequila
- Decent Rum
- Decent Vodka
- Decent Gin
- Decent Bourbon
- Agave Syrup
- Citrus, especially lemon and limes
"You should have one of everything that is to you a) mixable, b) affordable and c) quality," Asher says. "It doesn't have to be $100 a bottle, it could be $15 a bottle."
5. Play around.
Yeah, imagination was the last item on BOTH lists. Use yours, Asher says.
Some of his favorite flavor combinations:
- Blueberry and Tarragon
- Any sort of citrus, especially orange, and Jalapeno
- Beet and Yuzu
- Watermelon or Grapefruit and Basil
- Blood Orange and Fennel - Asher's note: The blood orange and fennel margarita was probably one of the most amazing drinks I've ever made.
- Peaches or Cherries and Thyme