Tall Tails – A love for Cocktails


Words: Josh @porco_rosso_bar
Photography: Harvey

Josh, bartender at Harrogate’s Italian booze masters Porco Rosso, talks us through the history of cocktails, their Italian/American origins, how classics evolve, and the ethos of a great mixologist.

There has recently been a huge resurgence of interest in cocktails and cocktail culture. The current influx of high end ingredients has really set people’s imaginations on fire. There are producers popping up all over the world distilling some truly excellent products that just weren’t available a few years ago without having to meticulously track them down, especially from abroad. A lot of this has to do with the explosion in demand for gin the last few years, with producers sprouting up all over the place trying to put their own stamp on the original bath tub booze; it’s a fairly easy spirit to manipulate with a whole host of botanicals at your disposal. Since then, everything is seeing a revival and evolution; it’s an exciting time to be a mixologist.

 

Cocktails as we know it wouldn’t be where they are today without Italian bar tenders. During the prohibition, there was a massive influx of Italians into America, leaving their poverty-stricken homeland to seek a new life in the land of opportunity. With them they brought vermouth, amaro and bittering agents like Campari, and blended them with the spirits of the prohibition. This blending was the beginning of many of the classics, and thus giving birth to cocktail culture. The influx of Italians brought the creation of the Manhattan, Boulvardier, Martinez, Rob Roy, and many others, which in turn were the building blocks of all cocktails we know today.

We are now able to completely change the flavour of many of the classic cocktails using the myriad of liqueurs that at one time were practically indistinguishable. At Porco our most beloved is of course the humble negroni, first drunk and named after Count Camillo Negroni in caffe Casoni; whilst he always enjoyed his favourite drink the Americano (equal parts sweet vermouth and Campari and a top of soda), he felt it needed fortifying, added another equal part of gin, sacked off the soda, and bingo! Negroni time was born! It’s a drink equally suited for breakfast lunch and dinner; cocktail perfection.

Whilst many traditionalists stay true to original ingredients and recipes, it is by understanding, respecting and optimising classics that allows cocktails to evolve. The only stipulation we have for a negroni to be called a negroni is for it to be equal parts bitter sweet and dry. Sometimes, such as in the white negroni, we don’t even use Campari, which was able to be sold in the US under prohibition laws as it was deemed “unpleasant” and “medicinal”. Instead, the combination between Italicus Rosolio Di Bergamotto, Luxardo Bitter Bianco and Sipsmiths London dry makes a perfect aperitvo. This is the ethos of great mixology; using the basis of classic cocktail making, integrated with artisan products rarely found anywhere else.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de saint-exupery

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Charlie Bissett, Roland’s

Every weekend our Espresso Martinis are the drink that leaves all the bartenders arms aching. They were originally invented by Dick Bradsell in the 80’s for non other than Kate Moss, who asked for a drink that would “pick me up and fuck me up”. The result was this beautiful and velvety coffee cocktail. We like to think we would do her proud.

 

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Adam Burnett – The Tiki Hideaway

If you were to ask one of our bartenders for a recommendation we will point in the direction of the Zombie. Originally created by the founding father of Tiki, Donn Beach, this piece of tropical deliciousness consists of fruit juices, liqueurs and lashings of various rums. Set alight, the temperature is raised to the Caribbean climate by creating fireballs over the cocktail, and believe me, we get competitive over who can create the biggest and best flames!

 

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Tiago Teixeira – Tattu

As a bartender, I think it’s important to interact with customers, take time to understand what flavours they like so you can recommend the right cocktail, or perhaps encourage them to try something different. We always try to create serves that complement the flavours in our food menu, we also like to be as seasonal as we can with ingredients. One of my favourite cocktails from our winter menu is the Geisha’s Kiss – a warm hit of Sailor Jerry’s spiced rum, blended with flavours of apple and cinnamon that sits perfectly with Chinese food or on its own.

 

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Niall McGloin – The Domino Club

For me, the Martinez is a classic cocktail that still holds a tremendous amount of relevance today. It is a very close relative of the Martini cocktail but with a sweeter and more full-bodied makeup. Combining gin, sweet vermouth, maraschino (cherry) liqueur and bitters, the result can send you into a delightful slumber sat at any bar. The modern recipe has evolved so that the gin now makes up the majority of the liquid in your glass, this will be the case in most bars you go into. However, I personally favor the traditional vermouth heavy recipe which provides more body to the drink…delicious.

Iberica La Bodega