If you’re a newbie to cocktail-making or an aspiring mixologist, then this interview with our expert, Laura Lashley from Seedlip, is for you. Laura is the National Education Manager for Seedlip which is a brand that sells the world’s first distilled non-alcoholic spirits. But prior to that, she had been working for some of the best bartending and hospitality industries around New York. So if you’re looking for someone to guide you through the art of mixology, Laura is exactly the person for the job.
What are the essential ingredients and equipment needed for making cocktails?
So you want to start making cocktails at home, but you don’t have the right equipment or ingredients to make a drink. Laura says that all the essential equipment you need are:
- 2-piece cocktail shaker (preferably metal or tin)
- Hawthorne strainer
- Citrus Juicer
But if you don’t want to invest in all of that, a travel mug with a lid and a measuring spoon will already do the trick.
As for the ingredients, Laura suggests that having some good whiskey, vodka, gin, tequila, or any kind of spirits stocked away in your pantry or fridge is always a good way to start. A bottle of vermouth is another essential, and you should always store it in the fridge right after opening it. If you have a selection of 5 different spirits, vermouth, and the tools mentioned above, then you should have the basics covered. For non-alcoholic drinks, a bottle of Seedlip would be the perfect substitute for your spirits.
Do you need fresh citrus and herbs for making cocktails?
Another important thing to consider when making cocktails is the freshness of your ingredients. Once you already have the foundation of your drink (which are the spirits), you need to build on the flavor and taste. Citrus, cucumbers, berries, and herbs are key to achieving those complex flavors. It is an absolute MUST that your citrus juice is fresh. The pre-packaged citrus juice you can find in the groceries is a big no-no as they are already pasteurized, meaning that it’s been heated up and therefore no longer tastes the same. Laura emphasizes that there is no substitute for real citrus juice, and the same goes for cucumbers. As for herbs, these must also be fresh. However, if you have an excess of herbs (like mint), Laura says you can use them to infuse in your syrup or honey. Frozen or pureed berries and peaches from the store are acceptable as long as you make sure that they are made from 100% real fruit. To make a good cocktail, Laura advises you to stay away from all the artificial flavoring such as corn syrup and food dyes.
How can you make cocktails more appealing to our sense of smell and sight?
“You drink with your eyes and your nose before you drink with your mouth”, says Laura. When you’re drinking a cocktail, you’re also taking in all the aesthetic pieces from it. For example, if the cocktail has a citrus wheel or a sprig of mint as a garnish, not only does it look pretty, but it also adds aroma to the drink which triggers your taste buds even before having a sip. By incorporating citrus and herbs into your presentation, your whole cocktail experience is elevated.
What are other herbs you can use in cocktails aside from mint?
There are a bunch of other herbs that you can easily grow on your windowsill that would make a great addition to your cocktails. Laura is a big fan of using basil. She especially likes using Thai Basil in cocktails because she finds that it brings a lot of sweetness to it. Savory herbs such as dill and marjoram are also great to pair with fruit to give an unexpected balance of flavor to a cocktail. Thyme and rosemary are also good in cocktails but Laura warns you to use them lightly as they can be overpowering. Laura says you can basically use any herb that you cook with because these also translate well into drinks.
How does Seedlip fit into the category of spirits? What is it commonly used as a substitute for?
Seedlip has three different expressions (another way of saying flavors). Seedlip is not mimicking flavors of spirits on the market so it’s not right to say that Seedlip is the non-alcoholic gin or rum. However, there are the same flavors in those products that make mixing with Seedlip a similar experience. For example, Seedlip’s Spice expression has allspice berries, oak bark and cardamom. These earthy flavors would work well as a substitute for whiskey or rum. On the other hand, Seedlip’s Garden expression is herbaceous, fresh, and grassy so this would make it a great substitute for gin.
Are there common building blocks or flavor levers you use when making cocktails?
Anybody can make a cocktail once you understand the foundation of the different families of cocktails. Once you understand how the acidity, sweetness, bitterness, body, and texture of a cocktail work together, it’s pretty simple to make a cocktail of your own. There’s the spirit that serves as the foundation, bitterness that comes from botanical flavors or vermouth, and dilution which comes from the ice melting when you’re stirring or shaking. Laura sets the old fashioned cocktail as an example of being a drink that is easy to make. All you need to do is to find the right ratio of whiskey, bitters, and sugar. For sours, you just need the base spirit, sweetness, and acid. Once you know how to balance flavors to your palate’s liking, you can substitute any ingredients in those flavor profiles and play around with your cocktails.
Garden Eastside Cocktail Recipe
- Seedlip Garden 108: 2 oz (Flavor contains peas, hay, spearmint, rosemary, thyme, and hops)
- Simple Syrup: 3/4 oz
- Fresh Lime Juice: 1/2 oz
- Cucumber Slices; 3
- Mint Leaves: 5
- Ice: Cubed for shaking
- First, roll your lime to get the juices flowing and then use your citrus juicer to get the juice out and into a glass.
- Pour ½ oz of lime juice into the jigger and then into the cocktail shaker.
- Pour ¾ oz of simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water) into the jigger and then into the cocktail shaker. (Make sure you cool your syrup by leaving it in the fridge before putting it into the shaker.)
- Add fresh mint leaves. (You may opt to muddle the mint but Laura prefers to let the ice-shaking do all the work of gently bruising them.)
- Add 2 oz of Seedlip Garden.
- Close the lid of the cocktail shaker and get shaking! Shake until you start to see condensation form outside.
- Pour the mixture into a glass and garnish with a slice of cucumber.
Some Important Notes from Laura:
- The recipe is just a template and you don’t necessarily need to follow it. You can adjust the recipe to your liking, whether you prefer it to be more sweet or more tart.
- If you want to use gin in this recipe, even out the sweet and sour components. So that would mean ¾ oz of syrup and ¾ oz of lime.
- When you’re making a cocktail, add your most expensive ingredient last. That way, if you mess up midway and have to throw something out, you don’t have to waste any expensive spirits.
- The flavor of your simple syrup will also vary depending on the kind of sugar you use. You can also add some herbs to your syrup while it is cooling down so that the herbs will macerate and the syrup will be full of flavor.
- Slapping or tapping your mint before using it releases its essential oils and aroma.
- The purpose of shaking your cocktail is not only to make it cold, but the water from the ice also dilutes it, and the pumping of air creates texture and aeration for the drink.
The biggest takeaway from this conversation with Laura is that cocktails are actually not hard to make as long as you understand all the flavor levers and profiles. Once you have this, you can easily start mixing your own cocktails at home, and all you really need are a few good tools and some fresh ingredients. And if you want the freshest of fresh herbs, then why not just grow your own using our Herb Seed Collection and you can pick them right off of the stem. Oh, and did we mention that the herbs in our Hint of Citrus Bottle Kit go really well with cocktails too? Yup! Just take a look at this Strawberry Daiquiri Recipe and try it out for yourself. The world of mixology awaits!