We wanted to get the lowdown on winter cocktails and who better to ask than Sebastian Reaburn, owner of 1806, Bartender of the Year (2008), winner of Best Cocktail list in the world, and one of the first people on the scene to include the art of molecular mixology in his drinks.
With winter upon us, we’ve moved from BBQs and salads to soups and lamb shanks. Do cocktails also change with the season? What sort of ingredients and spirits do you use more of in the colder months?
Yes they change a lot. People are looking for warming drinks so we start to sell less gin and vodka and more whisky, rum and cognac. And at 1806, many, many, flaming blazers, for which we’ve become a bit of a Melbourne winter destination.
Many people are familiar with Ferran Adria’s molecular gastronomy through his use of culinary foams; can you explain what ‘molecular mixology’ is?
The concept is essentially the same as that of gastronomy. We have a lot less toys and machinery behind the bar, but we do try and play with forms, texture, and expectations. We are running a cocktail special at the moment that serves four cocktails at once, using powders that react once you add alcohol to them. We are also well known for our molecular-style Margarita Custard.
While Australian beer consumption is at its lowest for 60 years, we have noticed the steady rise of wine sales and a more sophisticated cocktail scene. What do you think are the reasons for this trend and how do you see this developing in the future?
Drinking in Melbourne is changing. People are out looking for a great drink, not great volume. There is a movement away from consuming loads of cheap rubbish, and towards sipping a few premium offerings. This is true in cocktails, as much as with beer and wine.
I think that it is fair to say that Melbourne’s drinking population know that drinking to excess is unhealthy, anti-social, and likely to end up on the front page of a tabloid paper. So people are choosing better booze, but less of it.
Many people are little intimidated about making their own cocktails. Can you tell us a little bit about your ‘Make your own cocktail’ course?
We can teach anyone to make great cocktails. Just like with cooking, there are rules and techniques to learn. With our Saturday courses for the general cocktail drinker, we focus on three things:
1. Building blocks of cocktails where we taste a whole range of spirits and demonstrate how to flavour match.
2. Essential skills of the bartender - shaking, stirring, measuring, and pouring.
3. How to balance a cocktail and create your own recipes.
Everyone who does our course has to create their own cocktails from their favourite spirits and liqueurs – with no recipe. And everyone succeeds.
What is your favourite winter tipple?
As the cold moves in, the Blazer has got to be right up there. There is a variation we make that uses dark rum, black chocolate, chocolate liqueur and fire. We pour it burning from hand to hand and create what has to be the ultimate adult hot chocolate. It’s called the Black Blazer, and on a cold night, it is unbeatable.