The Paris issue

Our October issue is on sale - the Paris special. Grab your copy for all-things Parisian, plus ultimate French baking recipes and more.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before October 24, 2016 and receive 3 BONUS ISSUES - save 46%.

Gourmet on your iPad

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad.

Master mixologist

Tony Conigliaro pours a mean cocktail. Not only is his London bar, 69 Colebrooke Row, consistently named one of the best in the world, he's also been Heston Blumenthal's go-to guy on matters mixological. Before a drink makes the list at Colebrooke Row, Conigliaro researches it meticulously, testing it in his lab, sometimes for years before it appears on the bar. He shuns the term "molecular mixologist" but is nonetheless a champion of progressive approaches to drink-making. His new book, The Cocktail Lab: Unveiling the Mysteries of Flavor and Aroma in Drink, with Recipes, is a treatise made for tipplers both casual and professional alike.

Conigliaro was in Australia recently to collaborate with Johnnie Walker Red Label whisky, so GT sat down with him over a few drinks to talk mixing, whisky and the art of the good time.

GT: What's the secret to making good drinks at home?
Tony Conigliaro: Just make it really simple, don't use too many ingredients. If you've got guests coming over and you're having a drinks party or a cocktail party, at the end of the day you want to be hosting your party as well as giving them something that's nice. If you could do something that's simple and effective to showcase what the spirit is all about you've the ideal situation.

What ingredients are necessary for the home bar?
Ice is essential in any bar as is having drinks allocated a specific area. There's nothing worse than trying to make drinks in the kitchen and everything is all over the place. When we've done drinks parties at peoples' houses, we've tried to allocate a place, preferably near a sink, and work from there. Make sure the glasses are clean and equipment is at the ready.

What is the bare minimum, equipment wise?
You can make-do mixing drinks in spaghetti jars if you have to. It's an easy thing to do as long as you have a jug or a decanter. You can use what you've got, but having a cocktail shaker and measuring cup is essential because a lot of bartenders measure by eye and that's something not easily done by people at home.

What would be your ultimate drink?
I love whiskey sodas. I know it's so super simple. Soda is really nice because it's got the CO2, which enhances the flavour, softens it, and brings out the spectrum of the flavours. Apart from that, I love Whisky Bugs: whisky, lemon juice, sugar and it's supposed to be ginger ale but I prefer ginger beer.

If you could magically remove any drink from existence what would it be?
Over-complicated drinks. Drinks that have too many ingredients. I'm kind of like the 'anti-snob' of drinks because I like things that are weird and odd; sometimes you can make things that are really great, so I never really discount them. There are drinks that were sometimes given in bars where there are so many ingredients that you don't know what the base ingredient is or where you are in terms of flavour. There's no flow because it's just so complicated. I think complexity in drinks should result in the final drink being simple. It's about putting simple flavours together with expertise.

How do you feel about being called a "molecular mixologist"?
I don't particularly like it because it doesn't really describe what we do, it's very narrow. We choose to use science to make our drinks, but they are not all scientific. I prefer to see them as more 'romantic', in way, because we look at the stories and narratives of drinks, the structures of drinks, and it's about the beauty of those structures and what story we're trying to tell. So I think it's about being creative or making more creative drinks.

Do you make drinks for yourself at home?
Everyone always jokes with me that I never have any ingredients at home; I don't even have a cocktail shaker. You know, when I'm at home, I'll be cooking with a glass of wine and that's' about it. I know it's not much, but work is work and home is home.

When you're not cooking with a glass of wine what's your favourite cocktail and food paring?
I did this great project with Bruno Loubet called The Brainstorm, where we spent six months pairing a cocktail tasting menu with food. When the food menu goes out at The Zetter Townhouse there's cocktails appearing with that and it's quite unexpected. There are dishes that just work so well. My favourite is probably a lobster Bloody Mary, which is literally a Bloody Mary that we pour over a cooked lobster.

Is that your most difficult project to date?
No, that would have to be The Rose. Imagine it as sipping Champagne and walking through an English rose garden. It took two years to perfect. We had to learn how to make a food-grade perfume to make that drink. It was like an obsession because I couldn't get it to work until I'd learnt all the different components and understood how they worked together. It was literally learning how to make perfume and how that structure would work inside a drink. That was a real challenge. By the time I got that to work I fell asleep for six months after that.

How do you handle hangovers?
Miso soup and lots of it. It's my go-to hangover remedy. It just works, it's got all the vitamins and sustenance you need. I always have a big bag of miso paste in my house. Oh, and it's good for you.


Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
Top Drops: October
Sydney’s Baxter Inn makes The World’s 50 Best Bars list
Vaporetto's Italian Stallion
Canberra's new wave of great bars
Top drops: September
Game up your G&Ts with a Distiller’s Strength Gin
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
things to do this autumn

Whether it's foraging for wild mushrooms in a picturesque Victorian forest or watching a film by moonlight in Darwin, we've got you covered with 20 exciting autumn experiences from around Australia.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

Jennifer Hawkins Sesion tequila

Tequila is the new black. At least it is for Jennifer Hawkin...

Australian sour beers

Craft brewing in Australia is hitting a sour note, and that’...

Original Sin's Grande Bellezza

A fresh, bright Italian-accented sundowner.

Short restaurant wine lists

Small is the order of the day in restaurants, with tight win...

Mitch Monaghan, Nespresso

We caught up with Nespresso Australia and New Zealand coffee...

Signature Drink: The Baxter Inn’s Charlestown

Grab the mink and the fedora – this Baxter cocktail means bu...

Game up your G&Ts with a Distiller’s Strength Gin

Is this the year of gin going where no botanicals have gone ...

Signature drinks

Thirty of our favourite drinks from Australia's best bars an...

Hot 100 2015 - Drinks

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

Mover, shaker

The best thing you can take to a party, according to cocktai...

How to improve your wine-tasting ability

Drinking wine is more than a matter of taste, writes Max All...

Best Australian red wines for drinking now

Australians are getting a taste for thirst-quenching reds ma...

Best Australian gins

The local gin craze is in full swing. Max Allen taste-tests ...

The art of the cocktail list

In our inaugural Cocktail List of the Year awards, GT cockta...

The Gin Garden's Southside

Looking for a new summer drink? The search is over.

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.