Batched & Bottled – The Future of Cocktails
Who doesn’t like sipping a cocktail in the sun? Everyone right? But who likes spending precious time making the drink when they could be busy enjoying it? We’d bet not many. Well a couple of guys are currently trying to take the headaches and hassle out of the humble cocktail. Two Manchester brothers, Max & Noel Venning are the brains behind the new book Batched & Bottled: Cocktails to Make Ahead. It’s a go-to guide to pre-making your favourite drinks so you can just pour away and get on with your evening. We caught up with the dynamic duo to talk about how we get our cocktail fix with decidedly less mix.
The MALESTROM: Tell us about how you got into the industry?
Max: I was working in bars through uni in Edinburgh. I stuck my degree out but by the last year it was pretty clear to me I wasn’t going to use my Degree (geography). I had the taste for the cocktail industry and carried on through that. Within a year or so of leaving Uni I knew I was in it for the long run.
Noel: I started out in pubs and then went on to run more casual venues that served some cocktails but were high volume venues with a strict eye on the profitability and systems, so we’ve got a good balance of skills.
TM: How have you seen peoples tastes for certain cocktails evolve?
Max: People are more adventurous with food and drink, willing to try more things. If you look at the make up of restaurants and bars in the 90’s compared to now, we can eat food from anywhere in the world now in London and these restaurants are busy. The same goes for cocktails, as it has permeated culture more deeply. People are happy when you suggest something they haven’t tried before.
TM: What are the latest trends?
Max: I think we’re moving away from ‘trends’ as cocktails become part of city culture, but people will always look for some. I guess for us the trend is trying to be more sustainable in how we operate. People are looking for lighter styles of drinks, less ‘challenging’ and more fun.
TM: Gin has been huge for ages now, what’s the next big spirit?
Noel: I think, although its never gone away, bartenders are going back to Vodka. It’s so accessible and can be used as a blank canvas to add flavour.
TM: How has the demand for organic products to be used in drinks affected the market?
Max: I’m not sure it has, organic doesn’t necessarily mean better. The discussion on sustainability has to be much broader. Organic and local by no means guarantee quality or sustainability. At the moment people are just banning straws – but will happily give you a take away plastic cup. Also we have to ask if it is better to have an organic strawberry with a massive footprint, or gm strawberry developed to need less water and less light. I’m not saying either is better but it’s a conversation we should be able to have.
TM: What are you’re top three spirits out there right now?
Fanny Fougerat Cognac – amazing terroir focussed cognac.
Beefeater Gin – Still the best gin, plus the fact it’s the best value for money as well.
Victory Vodka – Launching soon, it has a small amount of green coffee distillate in it, it’s such a fun product to work with.
TM: Tell us about Batching & Bottling drinks?
Noel: It’s a great way to remove the stress of making cocktails, at home or in a bar. If you do the work beforehand you can make drinks faster, with less effort and you can remain engaged in the conversation. We aren’t saying it’s the only way to make drinks, but anything you can do to make your own and your guests lives easier makes sense. You wouldn’t start cooking for your dinner party when your guests arrive, so why do we when it comes to drinks?
TM: Do you see it as the future of the cocktail sector?
Noel: Yes to a certain point. People will always still want to go to a bar and have a margharita made in front of them (we would suggest batching or bottling this), but to drink at home or if you want to run a busy service bar then it helps a hell of a lot. There’s also been a big rise in RTD cocktails, so that market is obviously expanding.
TM: Is it a response to today’s society where everything is speeding up and time seems especially precious?
Max: The value we place on time now has changed dramatically over the last 10-20 years. People live their lives at a million miles an hour and everyone is looking for instant satisfaction, we don’t want to wait. But when we unwind we set a time for it and that has become a valuable commodity. So you want to savour your cocktail but you want it quickly, or you put aside an hour for yoga, but you drive there so you can get back to work. It’s a strange world and we’re in a paradigm where social media and the internet defines every part of our lives, but there is a counter culture growing and people are focussing more on their work/life/connectivity balance. It’s going to be an interesting few years that’s for sure.
TM: Give us three of your best cocktails in the book for sipping in the sunshine…
Noel: Fennel and elderflower Spritz, The French 75,
Max: Lemon and cardomom Gimlet.
Here are The Recipes…
Fennel & Elderflower Fizz
This is perfect for a picnic and really easy to prep the day before. The savoury note from the fennel means this pairs well with light food. Along with the prosecco and a few fronds of fennel to garnish, it makes for a very sophisticated summer tipple.
Elderflower and fennel cordial
– 200g/8oz bulb fennel
– 500ml/20oz elderflower cordial – Belvoir is really good
– Plastic tub or bowl, at least 750ml/30oz
– Coffee filter
– 25ml/1oz elderflower and fennel cordial per serve
– 100ml/4oz prosecco per serving
– Fennel slices and fennel leaves, to garnish
TO MAKE THE ELDERFLOWER AND FENNEL CORDIAL
1. Slice the fennel very thinly – if you have a mandoline use that, otherwise use a sharp knife and go as fine as you can. Keep some of the sliced fennel for garnishing, plus the leaves if they’re there.
2. Place it in the tub, pour the elderflower cordial over, cover with a lid or cling film (plastic wrap) and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. Keep the empty cordial bottle: you will need it later. Alternatively, cook the fennel and cordial sous vide for 30 minutes at 52ºC/126ºF, then allow to cool (see p12).
3. Strain through a coffee filter into the empty cordial bottle (see p12). It will keep in the fridge for up to 1 week.
1. If you’re taking this to a picnic, fill a cool box with ice and put in the prosecco and the cordial.
2. If you’ve saved leaves from the fennel, wrap them in damp kitchen (paper) towel with the fennel slices to keep them fresh, and place them on the ice.
3. To serve, put some ice cubes in each wine glass and add the cordial. Top with prosecco and stir.
4. Add the fennel leaves and slices to garnish.
Although this is quite a detour from the classic French 75 formulation (gin, lemon, sugar, champagne), it’s a great cocktail for a celebration or pre-dinner aperitif; it takes a little patience but is well worth it. We have regular customers who never drink anything else.
– 110ml/4¼oz Star of Bombay gin
– 180ml/7¼oz minerally, dry white wine
– 50ml/2oz Minus 8 Maple Brix Verjus (see Eko Mail introduction, p44)
– 25ml/1oz Minus 8 Red Verjus
– 45ml/1¾oz 2:1 sugar syrup (see p11)
– 1ml/dash orange flower water
– 345ml/13¾oz chilled water
– 30ml/1¼oz fresh, unstrained lemon juice
– 2 jugs, at least 1 litre/40oz
– Coffee filter
– Preferred carbonating method (SodaStream, soda siphon/cream whipper or carbonation rig, see p9)
– Sterilised bottle, at least 1 litre/40oz
1. Combine all the ingredients in one of the jugs, adding the lemon juice last. Don’t stir!
2. Place in the fridge for around 30 minutes.
3. When you go back to the mix you’ll start to notice a cloud-like formation floating to the top. This means it’s ready to strain; pour through the coffee filter and collect the liquid in the other jug (see p12).
4. Put it in the fridge to get it cold.
5. Once cold, carbonate using whichever method suits you (see p9).
6. Pour it carefully (to keep the fizz) into the bottle and seal. Store in the fridge. It will keep for 1 week.
1. Pour into a flute, or over ice in a wine glass if you fancy.
Lemon & Cardamom Gimlet
This involves an ancient method of flavour extraction known as an oleo saccharum, in which sugar pulls oils from citrus. It was used a lot in 19th-century cocktail making. Along with perfumed cardamom, it creates a delicate and easy-drinking gimlet (classically, sweetened lime juice and gin) perfect for a bright evening.
Lemon and cardamom cordial
– 10 lemons
– 5 cardamom pods
– 400g/16oz caster (superfine) sugar
– Wide, shallow bowl
– Cheesecloth or clean tea towel (dish towel)
– Jug, at least 1 litre/40oz
– Sterilised bottle, at least 1 litre/40oz
– 350ml/14oz gin
– 200ml/8oz lemon and cardamom cordial
– 200ml/8oz water
– Sterilised bottle, at least 750ml/30oz
TO MAKE THE LEMON AND CARDAMOM CORDIAL
1. Zest the lemons into the bowl with a fine grater, reserving the fruits.
2. Split the cardamom pods to remove the seeds, then crush them with a pestle and mortar and add to the bowl.
3. Pour over the sugar and muddle together for 5–10 minutes to combine. You will see the sugar turning yellowish.
4. Leave it, covered, for an hour.
5. When infused, juice the lemons then add the juice to the mixture and stir until dissolved.
6. Strain this through the cheesecloth into the jug, then transfer to the bottle and seal. Store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
1. Combine the gin, cordial and water in the bottle, seal and store in the freezer. It keeps for 6 months.
1. Pour to the brim of a chilled cocktail glass.
TIP The cordial is delicious with still or sparkling water. Just mix one part cordial to three parts water over ice in a tall glass.
Batched & Bottled: Cocktails to Make Ahead is out now. Get your copy HERE.