The art of mixing drinks is a complex one.
Trends come and go but aesthetic appeal and showmanship are core ingredients. Who can forget Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown flipping drinks almost as gaudy as their shirts in the 1988 movie Cocktail? Today, though, the drama and creativity involved in creating cocktails is defined by the seasons and a scientific attention to detail.
Nick Rose is one of two Newcastle bartenders who have made it into a “top 100” list of Australian cocktail bartenders in this year’s Diageo World Class cocktail competition. To qualify, he had to balance flavours, challenge traditional methods and tell a great story. His Bundy n’ Colture cocktail ticked all the boxes.
The other contender is Ryan Hawthorne, of Coal and Cedar fame.
Rose, a first-time entrant, has hit the ground running since joining the team at Reserve last month.
“I’ve tried to bring a culinary slant to the drinks menu with elements like burnt-butter syrups, and to keep wine at the forefront with vermouth made from the excess garnishes and wines that would normally go to waste. That doesn’t mean I don’t make a great espresso martini, it’s just that the menu is about fitting in with the food, the wine and the seasons,” he said.
Rose grew up hearing stories from his grandmother about “the good old days of cocktail parties and whisky sours on the train to Sydney”. They stayed with him. He enjoys studying people’s reactions when they try one of his creations.
“I love the way they go from cautious to surprised to delighted. I also love experimenting with ways of introducing unexpected flavours. Why wouldn’t you filter rum through banana bread? I wouldn’t say I’m unique that way but I am trying to bring some of the weirder ideas to Newcastle.”
Rose and Hawthorne are hoping to make it to Diageo’s top 20 showdown in Sydney for the chance to be flown to Berlin to compete against the world’s best bartenders. Rose’s cocktail is called Butter, Tea & The Darien Scheme and is a “seasonal snow-ball fight” that uses liquid nitrogen. You can try it at Reserve until March 24 however only 20 will be made – and you must pre-order one.
As for Hawthorne, what tricks will he have up his sleeve? “I have no idea but it’s safe to say I’m a bit intimidated – he’s one hell of a bartender,” Rose replied.