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Good Taste: Summer's Most Decadent Cocktails

Good Taste: Summer's Most Decadent Cocktails

If you like your seafood seductive and your cocktails risqué, it’s time to make a reservation at Sexy Fish. The A-list favourite occupies a corner of Mayfair’s chic Berkeley Square and its low-lit tables and lavish bar have been frequented by London’s beautiful people since it opened a few years ago. Grace Dent called it her ‘perfect plaice’ and with Annabel’s just across the square, it’s ours too for a swishy dinner and late-night drink. Their Japanese-inspired cuisine and aquatic brunches (currently hosted by Nick Grimshaw) are the stuff of glitterati legend but it’s the recently-launched cocktail menu that’s the draw today. The brainchild of the bar’s director Xavier Landais, here you can whet your whistle with tantalising libations named ‘Scantily Clad Martini’ and reimagined classics like the ‘Rocky Road Old Fashioned’. Head-bartender Georgia Billing talked us through the menu’s liquid delights and much like the bar she tends was full of surprises. She applies the same experimental approach to drinks making as she did to her PHD in nutrition from Cambridge, and the results are as heady as they are expertly executed. While we propped up the unrepentantly opulent bar, Billing shook and stirred her way through the menu, which doubles up as a recipe book so you can slake your thirst at home. Here’s one we made earlier.

Tell us about the new menu

The idea was to eliminate the mystery behind cocktail making by exposing what’s behind a lot of the techniques that bartenders use daily. The menu takes you through the ingredients for each cocktail and exactly how to make them at home. It levels the playing field and makes it more personal, so our guests can have fun making the drinks at home. Xavier (Landais) also wanted the menu to be sustainable so there is little or no citrus in the drinks, we don’t use any lemon or lime. We get citrus into the drinks in other ways – we balance sweetness with bitterness using other ingredients like Verjuice.

What are the inspirations for your cocktails?

It’s about the story. If I’m given a brief to make a cocktail for or about something I’ll look for the story and find something interesting that makes me think of a certain flavour. Sometimes it’s related to memory as well. A lot of your memories are related to taste, there’s a link between the feeling and the flavour. I went on a foraging trip once and the forager told us that what grows together goes together which is something that I try to keep in mind. Seasonality also comes into it. You want the freshest ingredients, the highest quality and the fullest flavours.

What makes the perfect summer cocktail?

Something that isn't too boozy, like an Aperol Spritz which is sparkling and has a bit of soda in it. It’s low in alcohol, bubbly, you can drink a lot of it because it’s not spirit-forward and it’s an aperitif. The aperitif is something that’s an old tradition in Europe that’s becoming a bit more widespread now. They make great summer drinks because they’re long, light and they’re not too alcoholic. They open up your stomach so if you’re drinking at a garden party or at a barbeque they go well with food, which is ideal when you’re drinking in the heat. When I think of summer, I think of heat and warmth and sun and a tall, cold drink with bubbles.

A masterclass in cocktail making

- Try your ingredients before you put them in the drink. Sometimes pineapples can be sweet, other times sour, sometimes they’re not quite ripe. Change the quantities that you’re making the drinks with if you need to. If your pineapples are sweeter than usual, change the amount that you put in, test your lemon and lime because they can have variable acidity. When you’re working with fresh ingredients there can be a lot of variation.

- Think about the balance, there are certain formulas that work. If you’re doing a rum punch for a party, there is a formula: one of sour, two of sweet, three of strong and four of weak, and it’s a good formula that will balance itself out.

- Consider your ice. The quality of your ice is important, it’s one of the main ingredients and goes in to every single drink you make. Whether it’s melting or crushed or in nice big cubes, think about how it will dilute the drink.

- If you can’t taste the ingredient, ask yourself why it’s there. On the other hand, if you’ve got an ingredient that’s overpowering everything else, maybe take some away instead of adding to it.

- Keep trying, and have fun! It goes without saying. And please drink responsibly.

A Tick Tack cocktail at Sexy Fish in Mayfair on the bar with an embroidered Gucci Dionysus handbag

TICK TACK

INGREDIENTS

50ml Grey Goose vodka
20ml Maggie Beer verjuice
15ml pinot noir reduction
10ml Merlet Crème de Melon
Charentais liqueur
1 dash Ms. Better’s Bitters
Green Strawberry Mah Kwan
50ml Sassy Le Cidre Rosé

Pinot noir reduction
500ml pinot noir
250g sugar
2 hibiscus tea bags



PREPARATION

For the pinot noir reduction:
Combine the pinot noir and sugar in a saucepan and simmer at 60 ̊C for 15 minutes. Place both hibiscus tea bags into the reduction and continue to simmer for a further five minutes. Fine strain and leave to cool.

METHOD

Combine all the ingredients except the cidre rosé, shake with ice for 10 seconds and strain into a sling glass filled with ice. Top with cidre rosé and stir gently. Garnish with a biodegradable straw and a Sexy Fish umbrella.

SIREN’S CALL

INGREDIENTS

35ml St Germain elderflower liqueur
20ml Boiron Bergamot purée
15ml mango shrub
5ml Suze
1/3 pipette Ms. Better’s Bitters
Miraculous Foamer
15ml Sassy Le Cidre Poiré

Mango shrub
(Two components) Mango vinegar:
750ml cider vinegar
220g chopped mango
Bee pollen syrup:
700ml Monin sugar syrup
25g bee pollen

A Siren's Call cocktail on the bar at Sexy Fish in Mayfair with a Fendi Kan I Bag



PREPARATION

For the mango shrub (two components)

Mango vinegar:
Combine both ingredients in zip-lock bag or Tupperware container and leave to infuse in the fridge for 24 hours.

Bee pollen syrup:
Blend both ingredients together until the pollen has completely dissolved.

Make up the mango shrub using a ratio of four parts mango vinegar to five parts bee pollen syrup.

METHOD

Add all ingredients except the cidre poiré into a shaker, dry shake (without ice) firmly for 20 seconds, then wet shake (with ice) for a further 10 seconds. Fine strain into a coupette.

A Monkey Collins cocktail with gruyere cheese garnish on the bar at Sexy Fish in London's Mayfair

MONKEY COLLINS

INGREDIENTS
50ml Monkey 47 gin
40ml butternut squash, pineapple & dill cordial
6 dashes Bob’s Coriander bitters
Fever-Tree soda water
Gruyère

Butternut squash, pineapple & dill cordial
400g pineapple
1kg butternut squash
25g fresh dill
500g caster sugar
250ml water
25g citric acid



PREPARATION

For the butternut squash, pineapple & dill cordial:

Slice the pineapple, place under a 180 ̊C grill and cook for approximately three minutes on each side until you have a good char on both sides of every slice. Dice the butternut squash and place all the ingredients except the citric acid into a large saucepan and gently heat to 90 ̊C. Allow to cool and fine strain. Add the citric acid.

METHOD

Fill a collins glass with ice and add the bitters, gin and cordial. Top with soda water, stir gently and garnish with gruyère.